Let's dance into this year's Women's March Madness tournament
⚙️ How it works
Thanks to a TikTok heard ’round the world and the power of public outrage, the women’s tourney now follows the same format as the men’s.
Sixty-eight Division I (DI) women’s squads heard their names called on Selection Sunday and were ranked one through 68 before being divided into four regions: Greenville 1, Greenville 2, Seattle 3 and Seattle 4, with teams ranked one through four grabbing the No. 1 seeds in each region. Teams ranked five through eight became the No. 2 seeds, and so on.
- That 68 number is a recent increase: The aforementioned March Misogyny fallout brought the First Four play-in games to the women’s side for the first time last year.
- But unlike the men, the women will play the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight at two regional locations — hence, Greenville 1 and 2 and Seattle 3 and 4 — as opposed to the four sites on the men’s side.
Tonight’s First Four matchups will determine the final seeds. After No. 11 seed Mississippi State and No. 16 Sacred Heart clinched their spots in the final 64-team bracket with last night’s wins, St. John’s faces Purdue and Monmouth takes on Tennessee Tech for the remaining 11 and 16 spots tonight at 7 and 9 p.m. ET, respectively.
- And if you’re curious why they battle for the No. 11 and 16 seeds, take it up with the selection committee. The four lowest-ranked automatic bids have the opportunity to snag a No. 16 seed while the four lowest-ranked at-large bids can nab a No. 11 seed.
- Essentially, the committee prioritizes better seeding for at-large squads vs. smaller DI conference champs. Interesting.
Then the official Madness begins in the form of 63 single-elimination matchups (consisting of four 10-minute quarters with a 30-second shot clock) tipping off tomorrow and culminating in the championship game on Sunday, April 2nd. Ball ’til you fall, baby.
1️⃣ The No. 1 seeds
South Carolina (Greenville 1): The No. 1 overall seed for the second straight year, the undefeated reigning champs look poised to repeat. Consensus No. 1 WNBA draft pick Aliyah Boston is still dazzling despite often being triple-teamed, but the Gamecocks’ depth, highlighted by leading scorer Zia Cooke, has been most impressive. Watch out, world.
Indiana (Greenville 2): The Hoosiers earned a No. 1 seed for the first time in program history by dominating the loaded Big Ten conference’s regular season. The veteran leadership of top-10 scorer Mackenzie Holmes and fifth-year Grace Berger will surely help this squad navigate the Madness.
Virginia Tech (Seattle 3): How ’bout them Hokies? Virginia Tech hoisted their first-ever ACC Tournament title earlier this month, earning a No. 1 seed and a prime opportunity to avenge last year’s unexpected first-round exit.
- ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley and her 18.6 points per game lead the way, but keep an eye on ACC tourney breakout star Georgia Amoore. So hot right now.
Stanford (Seattle 4): The 2021 champion Cardinal stumbled down the stretch, losing their regular-season finale and suffering an early exit from the Pac-12 Tournament. That said, they boast plenty of star power — hi, Cameron Brink and top WNBA prospect Haley Jones — not to mention the winningest NCAA women’s coach of all time, Tara VanDerveer.
👊 The contenders
No. 2 Iowa (Seattle 4): Two words: Caitlin. Clark. The Player of the Year favorite lives for big moments and puts up big numbers. Case in point? She notched four triple-doubles this season — one of which came in Iowa’s Big Ten title victory. And with fifth-year Monika Czinano’s veteran presence down low, the Hawkeyes are flying high entering the Madness.
No. 2 UConn (Seattle 3): Last year’s runners-up overcame a myriad of injuries this season — including to superstar Paige Bueckers (pronounced BECK-ers) — to earn a third straight Big East ’ship. With Azzi Fudd back on the floor after missing much of the season with a knee injury, expect more March Magic from these perennial contenders.
No. 3 LSU (Greenville 2): The HC Kim Mulkey–led Tigers’ first loss didn’t come until mid-February, but it’s still TBD how they’ll fare against stronger competition. Nevertheless, transfer student Angel Reese is making history even when down a shoe, and SEC Freshman of the Year Flau’jae Johnson has all sorts of talent.
No. 2 Maryland (Greenville 1): The Terps fully embraced the slow and steady mentality, overcoming early stumbles to finish third in the loaded Big Ten’s regular season. Their biggest star? Expected No. 2 WNBA draft pick Diamond Miller, who’s averaging nearly 20 points per game. Shine bright like a…
🐎 The dark horses
No. 10 Princeton (Greenville 2): The Tigers are no strangers to busting brackets. Last season, they upset always strong Kentucky and nearly knocked off Indiana in the Big Dance. Plus, they’re entering their second straight national tournament with massive momentum — Princeton boasts a 15-game win streak. A Cinderella story…just feels right.
No. 9 South Dakota State (Seattle 3): The reigning women’s National Invitation Tournament champs (aka WNIT, a tourney for squads who don’t make March Madness), the Jackrabbits were perfect in conference play this season. And similar to Princeton, they’re feeling caliente with 21 straight wins.
No. 11 Middle Tennessee (Seattle 4): Despite playing in the not-so-stacked Conference USA, the Lady Raiders still garnered national attention. Perhaps most importantly, this squad is strong on defense, limiting opponents to just under 57 points per game.
No. 5 Washington State (Greenville 2): When Shania Twain is rooting for you, you know you’ve made it. The Cougs’ Cinderella story is already underway after becoming the first-ever No. 7 seed to win the Pac-12 Tournament behind junior Charlisse Leger-Walker’s magical performance. Let’s go, girls.
💪 (More) players to watch
Maddy Siegrist, No. 4 Villanova (Greenville 2): The nation’s leading scorer, Siegrist has been a double-double machine for the Big East Tournament’s runners-up. The Player of the Year candidate already lifted the Wildcats to their best-ever ranking (No. 10), and now she will try to take them to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003. What team?!
Alissa Pili, No. 2 Utah (Greenville 2): Transfer student Pili’s enjoying a breakout first season with the Utes, netting over 20 points per game to earn Pac-12 Player of the Year in the highly competitive conference. That outburst helped transform Utah into Pac-12 regular-season co-champs — a sign of what’s to come on the big stage.
Ashley Joens, No. 5 Iowa State (Seattle 3): Only 14 women’s D1 players have scored 3,000 career points, and Joens is one of them. And she reached the milestone mark while upsetting Oklahoma in the Big 12 Tournament semis en route to the Cyclones’ first conference title since 2001. Batten down the hatches.
Olivia Miles, No. 3 Notre Dame (Greenville 1): The sophomore standout is one of the best passers in the country and the centerpiece of a squad that’s struggled since she suffered a knee injury in their regular-season finale. Her status is still TBD, but if she’s back on the floor, the Irish will certainly put up a real fight.
📺 Tune in
Stock up on snacks, fluff your couch cushions and ready your bracket — the weekend is loaded with non-stop first and second round hoops. It all tips off tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. ET when No. 9 Marquette faces No. 8 South Florida, with all tourney action airing on ESPN networks in the U.S. and TSN networks in Canada. Hoop to it.