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After months of compelling basketball—filled with moments of individual brilliance, upsets and broken records—the women’s NCAA tournament is here. The bracket, featuring a 68-team field, was unveiled Sunday, officially kicking off March Madness. South Carolina, Indiana, Virginia Tech and Stanford earned the No. 1 seeds, but nothing is promised as potential bracket busters are scattered throughout the competition. With games set for the week ahead, Sports Illustrated has everything you need to know before the tournament’s tip-off.

Meet the No. 1 Seeds

South Carolina

It’s no surprise that the Gamecocks found themselves atop the Greenville 1 region. Dawn Staley’s team enters the tournament as the reigning champs, on the heels of a dominant 32–0 season. The cherry on top: South Carolina clinched an automatic bid, winning the SEC tournament after falling in conference action to Kentucky last year. With star Aliyah Boston—bolstered by a world-class supporting cast in Zia Cooke, Victaria Saxton and Brea Beal—firing on all cylinders, the Gamecocks look unstoppable.

The Gamecocks have experience on their side, with six seniors (Boston, Cooke, Beal, Saxton, Laeticia Amihere, and Olivia Thompson) leading the quest for back-to-back titles. Disciplined on the glass, South Carolina also outrebounded its opponents at a staggering rate, with Kamilla Cardoso and Boston averaging eight and 9.7 rebounds per game, respectively. Cardoso leads a mighty crew off the bench, with the Gamecocks boasting a deep roster—something even top teams have struggled with this season. Factor in South Carolina’s size advantage and unflinching defense, and this team poses a conundrum for almost anyone scouting them.


Indiana’s rise to No. 1 has been thrilling to watch, with the Hoosiers racing to a 26–1 start to the season. Teri Moren’s team began the 2022–23 campaign ranked 11th in the AP preseason poll, slowly climbing the ladder as the Hoosiers built up an impressive resume, including a 16–0 undefeated streak at home. Indiana endured a skid toward the end of the season, dropping two of its last games, including blowing a 20-point lead in the Big Ten semifinals, ultimately falling to Ohio State, 79–75. However, other early exits in conference play by LSU and Utah preserved the Hoosiers’ case for a No. 1 seed.

Tenacious defense has been the name of the game for Indiana, with the Hoosiers boasting the No. 1 defense in the Big Ten, allowing an average of 62.3 points per game. The Hoosiers aren’t too shabby on the other side of the court either, with the Big Ten’s No. 2 offense—second only to Iowa. Four of Indiana’s starters are averaging in the double figures, led by Mackenzie Holmes at 22.3 points per game. When hot, the Hoosiers have a perimeter game capable of punishing even the field’s top teams, but after a disappointing end to a dream season, Indiana will need to regroup heading into the Big Dance.

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Virginia Tech

It’s doubtful that anyone would’ve predicted a No. 1 seed for Virginia Tech at the start of the season, but after clinching an ACC tournament title the Hokies are looking stronger than ever. Virginia Tech hasn’t made it past the second round in its last seven tournament appearances, but this season has been different, with the squad rolling into the Big Dance with an 11-game winning streak. Results against quality opponents like Tennessee, UNC and Duke make up for the Hokies’ weaker schedule compared to their fellow No. 1 seeds.

Kenny Brooks’s team is stingy, with a defense ranked second in the ACC. On the other side of the ball, Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore have spurred VT’s offense, averaging 18.6 and 15.3 points per game, respectively. The Hokies may not be an NCAA tournament mainstay, but that could all change this year.


Stanford is no stranger to deep March Madness runs, taking home the NCAA trophy in 2021 and making a Final Four appearance last year, living up to its No. 1 seed in both tournaments. This season hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Cardinal, though, dropping games against unlikely opponents USC and Washington in an otherwise strong schedule. Like fellow No. 1 seed Indiana, Tara VanDerveer's side also had a less-than-stellar end to the season, losing to No. 8 Utah before being bounced from the Pac-12 tournament by No. 5 seed UCLA.

Despite some disappointing results heading into the tournament, the Cardinal have plenty of upside. Experienced players like Haley Jones, Cameron Brink and Hannah Jump know what it takes to win a national championship, an advantage less than a handful of teams possess. Stanford also poses a domineering presence down low, with Brink second in blocks in Division I basketball, and the Cardinal fifth overall in rebounds per game, averaging 45.55. While Stanford doesn’t have the blemish-free resume that South Carolina has, it would be ill-advised to bet against a group coached by VanDerveer.

The Top No. 2 Seed


The Hawkeyes are on the outside looking in on the top line, losing out on the final No. 1 seed despite a dominant late-season run. Iowa ended its campaign with a compelling four-game winning streak, beating Indiana with a thrilling buzzer beater before taking home the Big Ten tournament title in dominant fashion. Finishing with 26–6 overall and 15–3 in the conference, Iowa is playing some of its best basketball at the right time, building momentum heading into the tournament. The Lisa Bluder–led team also has played one of the top-10 toughest schedules in college basketball, lifting the Hawkeyes to a top seed for the Big Dance.

Caitlin Clark is Iowa’s not-so-secret weapon, with the star guard able to score from virtually anywhere on the court. Averaging 27 points per game, and leading all of D-I with four triple-doubles on the season, Clark is one of the most dangerous players in the field (not to mention a generational talent). After exiting the tournament in the second round last year, Clark & Co. are hungry to show that they are capable of a deep run.

Potential Final Four Spoilers


The Lady Vols are heading into the Big Dance with plenty of momentum after spoiling LSU’s SEC tournament run with a 69–67 win in the semifinals. Yes, that convincing victory was followed up by a rout at the hands of South Carolina, but Tennessee still exited conference play with plenty to be energized by. While the Vols may not have lived up to their No. 5 preseason ranking, Kellie Harper’s group has given top teams like Virginia Tech a scare and could do the same come tournament time.

Ohio State

Like Tennessee, Ohio State played spoiler during conference tournament action, taking out top-ranked Indiana in the Big Ten semifinals. The Buckeyes’ full-court press has caused trouble for teams throughout the season, and can fluster their opposition—especially under the pressure of the Big Dance. With wins over ranked opponents like Tennessee and Michigan—and now Indiana—Ohio State has demonstrated an ability to show up in big games.


While coach Geno Auriemma has expressed skepticism about his team’s tournament outlook, it would be foolish for other teams to rule out UConn. The Huskies, receiving a No. 2 seed, have endured plenty of hardship throughout the year, losing star Paige Bueckers for the entire season with a torn ACL and having Azzi Fudd sidelined for most of the campaign with knee injuries. Fudd, however, is back and has invigorated UConn. With a healthy roster, the Huskies have a shot against almost anyone in the 68-team field.

Must-See Matchups

No. 5 Washington State vs. No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast

This Greenville 2 contest will be one to watch, with Florida Gulf Coast a tough first-round opponent for Washington State to face. The Eagles enter the Big Dance riding a 14-game winning streak, taking the Atlantic Sun tournament title. Can Florida Gulf Coast ride its newfound momentum and spoil the Cougars’ tournament hopes?

No. 6 Colorado vs. No. 11 Middle Tennessee

Middle Tennessee has all the makings of a bracket-buster, entering the tournament with a 10-game winning streak. Boasting a disciplined defensive unit, as well as an energetic offense—with four players averaging in the double figures—the Blue Raiders will be a major first-round test for Colorado.

No. 8 Ole Miss vs. No. 9 Gonzaga

Gonzaga has shown what it's capable of with a gutsy early season win over a solid Tennessee team. While the Bulldogs have had an up-and-down season, they have an opportunity to gain major confidence with a tough first-round matchup against an offensively impressive Ole Miss side. These two teams match up well, with this early tournament game one for the taking.

Players to Watch

Aliyah Boston, South Carolina

The reigning Naismith Trophy winner, Boston led her team to an undefeated season, with her form matching last year’s championship run. The Gamecocks star posted a 56.8 field goal percentage through conference play, despite often being double or triple-teamed. Her presence on the boards is also critical for South Carolina, fueling the team’s discipline on the glass. For all that can be said about Boston on the court, perhaps her most important role is that of seasoned leader, anchoring this stacked Gamecocks roster. As the projected No. 1 pick in this year’s WNBA draft, all eyes will be on Boston to finish off her historic tenure at South Carolina with some more hardware.

Caitlin Clark, Iowa

Nearly everything that can be said about a college hooper has been said about Clark. The game hasn’t seen a shooter like her in a while, with the Hawkeyes guard producing highlight reels game after game. Her 27 points per game average is the second-highest mark in the country, dropping a season-high 45 points against NC State in December. Nearly impossible to stop, Clark poses a threat to just about any opponent—giving her side a chance at a potential deep run.

Angel Reese, LSU

As one of the most explosive players in the country, Angel Reese is a joy to watch. From her signature on-court celebrations to her unrivaled intensity, the LSU sophomore has garnered national attention—and rightfully so. Averaging a double-double with 23.4 points and 15.5 rebounds per game, Reese has led a plucky Tigers team. If Kim Mulkey’s group wants to make a Final Four appearance it will need Reese to show up big as the leader of LSU’s smothering offense.

Azzi Fudd, UConn

UConn is a different team when Fudd is on the court. Out for much of the season with knee injuries, the Huskies struggled without the sophomore guard. Starting only five games, and appearing in 10, Fudd averaged 15.4 points per game behind 48% shooting. Fudd’s return to the rotation comes at exactly the right time, invigorating UConn ahead of the Big Dance. If she can stay healthy, expect Fudd to be critical in the Huskies' quest for their 15th straight Final Four appearance.

Championship Pick 

South Carolina

This year’s national championship is South Carolina’s to lose. No team has come close to the Gamecocks through the regular season, with Staley’s group holding opponents to an average of 51.1 points per game—and that’s against solid competition. As the only undefeated team entering the tournament, and as reigning champions, the Gamecocks simply have too much going for them, putting them head and shoulders above the rest of the field. Barring a major breakdown, and some madness, the Gamecocks are poised to charge to back-to-back titles.