It doesn’t take a lot of skill to pick UConn to win a fourth consecutive national championship.
When filling out the bracket, it was easy to start with the Huskies winning the title and work backward. The question remains, who will meet them in the championship game?
There definitely was a lot more parity in women’s basketball this season, not including the top few teams. Yet looking at the bracket, it’s tough to see too many upsets.
Here’s one look at what could happen during the next three weeks.
The bracket breakdown (winners in all caps):
UConn won’t have to leave the state to get to the Final Four. The Huskies have won 116 of their past 117 games. There are some star players such as Courtney Williams of South Florida and Aerial Powers of Michigan State to watch.
(1) UCONN vs. (16) Robert Morris— If this was a mascot bracket, the Colonials would have a chance against the Huskies. Instead, Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia will finish his career with a loss to UConn. He announced before the season that this would be his last after coaching for 38 years.
(8) SETON HALL vs. (9) Duquesne — The Dukes earned an at-large bid for their first trip to the NCAA Tournament. It should be a high-scoring game with the Pirates, but Seton Hall’s experience will be enough to get through.
(5) MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. (12) Chattanooga — Jim Foster seems to get the Mocs to the tournament every year. They will have trouble scoring against a very tough Mississippi State defense.
(4) MICHIGAN STATE vs. (13) Belmont — The Bruins are back in the NCAAs for the first time since 2007. It will be a quick trip.
(6) SOUTH FLORIDA vs. (11) Colorado State — The Rams have won 28 straight games and are back in the tournament for the first time since 2002. They play stingy defense, but then again that’s nothing new for the Bulls, who faced UConn three times. Williams will get them to the second round.
(3) UCLA vs. (14) Hawaii — It’s been 18 years since the Rainbow Wahine last appeared in the NCAA Tournament. Coach Laura Beeman is well versed with the Bruins, having been an assistant at rival USC. She just doesn’t have enough offense to hang with UCLA.
(10) MISSOURI vs. (7) Brigham Young — Finally an upset in this region. Well, if you can call a 10 seed beating a seven seed a real upset. Missouri had its first 20-win season in a decade and is battle-tested in the SEC. Lexi Rydlach is a great scorer for BYU, but she needs more help for her team to advance.
(2) TEXAS vs. (15) Alabama State — The Hornets are making their second straight appearance in the NCAAs. It’s a tall task to ask them to win at Texas.
UCONN vs. Seton Hall — Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and potentially Morgan Tuck will play their last game in Gampel Pavilion. The trio will make it a memorable one for the Huskies.
MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. Michigan State — The fourth-seeded Spartans should be hosting this game, but Michigan’s high school basketball tournament bumped this to a road game. Should be a great show with Powers and Victoria Vivians. Playing on the road will cost the Spartans.
UCLA vs. South Florida — The Bruins’ balanced offense will prove to be too much for Williams and the Bulls
TEXAS vs. Missouri —Imani Boyette will be too much in the middle for the Tigers to handle.
UCONN vs. Mississippi State — Coach Vic Schaefer is a defensive mastermind. He’s never had to game plan for a team like UConn. The Huskies keep rolling.
UCLA vs. Texas — Jordin Canada and Nirra Fields are going to be too much for the Longhorns to handle.
UCONN vs. Ucla — Quick, who has the second-longest postseason winning streak behind UConn? That’s right it’s the Bruins, who won the WNIT last season. That streak will end and the Huskies will move on to their ninth consecutive Final Four.
Like UConn, Baylor won’t have to leave the state of Texas before reaching the Final Four. The Lady Bears might have to vanquish a few former NCAA thorns to get to Indianapolis.
(1) BAYLOR vs. (16) Idaho — The Vandals have been to the NCAAs in three of the past four years. This will be another quick exit.
(8) ST. JOHN’S vs. (9) Auburn — Terri Williams-Flournoy loves pressure defense and turning the opponent over as Auburn forced 21 turnovers a game. St. John’s backcourt is too good to let that be a problem.
(5) FLORIDA STATE vs. (12) Middle Tennessee — The Blue Raiders have won 16 of their last 17 games behind Brea Edwards. The Seminoles have been inconsistent down the stretch. This could be closer than the seeds would suggest.
(4) TEXAS A&M vs. (13) Missouri State — Kellie Harper has done a great job at Missouri State over the past few seasons since getting hired in 2013. They just don’t have enough talent to upset the Aggies.
(6) DEPAUL vs. (11) James Madison — Jazmon Gwathmey might be one of the best players no one outside of Virginia has heard of. She’s the three-time MVP of the CAA Tournament. She won’t be enough to upset the Blue Demons.
(3) LOUISVILLE vs. (14) Central Arkansas — The Sugar Bears, who might have one of the top nicknames in college basketball, are making their first appearance in the NCAAs. It won’t be a long one.
(10) ST. BONAVENTURE vs. (7) Oklahoma State — The Bonnies are having one of the most successful seasons in school history and will continue it with an NCAA Tournament win over the inconsistent Cowgirls.
(2) OREGON STATE vs. (15) Troy — Few teams have had bigger turnarounds over the last few seasons. The year before coach Chanda Rigby was hired the school had two victories. Four years later and they are in the NCAA Tournament. They won’t last long.
BAYLOR vs. St. John’s — The Red Storm have a really talented backcourt. So do the Lady Bears. Coach Kim Mulkey’s team has enough other pieces to ensure victory.
TEXAS A&M vs. Florida State — This game is a toss-up. So much so that looking at my bracket I crossed out FSU to put A&M. The difference will be the home-court advantage for the Aggies.
DEPAUL vs. Louisville— Two former Big East foes square off. DePaul is well-tested this season with games against three of the four No. 1 seeds. Jessica January will be the difference in this one.
OREGON STATE vs. St. Bonaventure — The Beavers are just too talented for the Bonnies.
BAYLOR vs. Texas A&M — These two teams met in Dallas in 2011 — the fourth meeting between the Big 12 rivals that year. The Aggies pulled off the upset. Don’t see it happening this time around.
OREGON STATE vs. DePaul — Center Ruth Hamblin will be the difference-maker for the Beavers as DePaul has no real post player to stop the 6-foor-6 star.
BAYLOR vs. Oregon State — The Lady Bears only had to travel 100 miles from campus and will have strong crowd support to get them to the Final Four.
There are some stellar coaches in this region with Muffet McGraw, Tara VanDerveer, Sherri Coale and Brenda Frese, to name a few. Third-seeded Kentucky benefited the most from the pairings, potentially playing four games on campus.
(1) NOTRE DAME vs. (16) North Carolina A&T — The Aggies haven’t won in two previous trips to the NCAAs. Make that 0-3.
(9) INDIANA vs. (8) Georgia — Coach Joni Taylor got her team back to the NCAAs in her first year. She wishes star Shacobia Barbee was able to play, but the guard went down with a season-ending ankle injury on Feb. 21.
(5) MIAMI vs. (12) South Dakota State — The Jackrabbits hung tough with both Notre Dame and Maryland this season and beat DePaul. This might be one of the best games in the first round, but the Hurricanes will prevail.
(4) STANFORD vs. (13) San Francisco — Jennifer Azzi had a lot of success as a player for VanDerveer. Now she’s starting to have coaching success, too, leading the Dons to the NCAAs for the first time since 1997. Azzi just doesn’t have enough talent to beat the Cardinal.
(6) OKLAHOMA vs. (11) Purdue — Sherri Coale’s team has been up and down this season and the Sooners will get out of the first round.
(3) KENTUCKY vs. (14) UNC Asheville —The Bulldogs’ championship season was a surprise to Big South coaches who projected UNC Asheville to finish eighth out of 11 teams in the conference’s preseason poll. Their second NCAA appearance will be a short one.
(7) WASHINGTON vs. (10) Penn — The Quakers beat Princeton twice by two points to win the Ivy title. They play a solid 2-3 zone, which could be trouble against Kelsey Plum, who is one of the best shooters and scorers in college basketball.
(2) MARYLAND vs. (15) Iona — The Gaels are making their first NCAA appearance and are led by double-double machine Joy Adams. It’s going to be tough for her to get going against Maryland’s bigger front line.
NOTRE DAME vs. Indiana — The Hoosiers won a school record 20 regular-season games under coach Teri Moren. This game will be great for the state of Indiana, but not so much for the Hoosiers.
STANFORD vs. Miami — This hasn’t been a great year by Cardinal standards as they didn’t win the Pac-12 and didn’t make the finals of the conference tournament. They still know how to win at home.
KENTUCKY vs. Oklahoma — A balanced offense and pressure defense will lead the Wildcats to the Sweet 16 and the “long” trip to Rupp Arena.
MARYLAND vs. Washington — Mike Neighbors only practices hard one day a week during the conference season to keep his players fresh for March and April. They will be ready to go against the Terps in what should be a great second-round matchup.
NOTRE DAME vs. Stanford — There aren’t too many coaches better than VanDerveer at defensive game plans. She’ll have her team ready for the Irish. But they won’t have an answer for Brianna Turner.
MARYLAND vs Kentucky — Rupp will be rocking for this game. The Terrapins will be able to handle the Wildcats’ pressure defense and advance to the regional final.
NOTRE DAME vs. Maryland — The Irish have only lost one game to a team not named UConn over the past few years. They will reach the Final Four for a sixth consecutive season.
SIOUX FALLS REGIONAL
This could be the region with the most upsets. Then again, does anyone really consider Tennessee, no matter what its seed, winning games an upset?
(1) SOUTH CAROLINA vs. (16) Jacksonville — The Dolphins are making their first NCAA appearance. Tough task going against the Gamecocks.
(8) GEORGE WASHINGTON vs. (9) Kansas State — Wonder if Jonquel Jones hadn’t injured her shoulder during the season, the Colonials might have gotten a better seed.
(12) ALBANY vs. (5) Florida — Shereesha Richards and her Albany teammates have a lot of NCAA experience. Now they’ll know what it feels like to win a game, pulling off the upset.
(4) SYRACUSE vs. (13) Army — Kelsey Minato has been stellar this season for the Black Knights, who have won 29 games — including 19 straight. They just don’t have enough ball-handling to combat the Syracuse pressure.
(11) PRINCETON vs. (6) West Virginia — The Tigers earned the Ivy League’s first at-large bid and will win a game in the NCAAs for the second straight year.
(3) OHIO STATE vs. (14) Buffalo — The Bulls won the MAC as a No. 8 seed on a last-second floater in OT. No such luck against the Buckeyes.
(7) TENNESSEE vs. (10) Green Bay — It just looks strange seeing a 7 next to the Lady Vols. Then again, they had never been worse than a No. 5 seed. This should be a good game, but the Lady Vols will prevail.
(2) ARIZONA STATE vs. (15) New Mexico State — Both teams like to force a lot of turnovers. The Sun Devils have too much talent for that to be a problem.
SOUTH CAROLINA vs. George Washington — Jonquel Jones can equalize Alaina Coates in the paint. The problem for the Colonials is they have no answer for A’ja Wilson or Tiffany Mitchell.
SYRACUSE vs. Albany — The Orange will show their supremacy in the upstate New York area by beating Albany. If only their fans would show up to support them.
OHIO STATE vs. Princeton — These teams met in December and the Buckeyes won by 20. The Tigers haven’t improved by that many points.
TENNESSEE vs Arizona State — Diamond DeShields has looked rusty this season after sitting out last year because of transfer rules. She’ll get the Lady Vols to the Sweet 16.
SOUTH CAROLINA vs. Syracuse — These teams met in the NCAAs last year and the Gamecocks won by nearly 30 points. This should be closer, but it’s still the same outcome.
OHIO STATE vs. Tennessee — The Lady Vols just haven’t been consistent enough this season. Ohio State is well-tested and Kelsey Mitchell can light up a scoreboard.
SOUTH CAROLINA vs. Ohio State — They opened the season against each other in a thriller the Gamecocks won by eight points. They’ve gotten a lot better since then and will end the Buckeyes’ season.
The four No. 1 seeds have a combined three losses this season. Two of them came against UConn. For the second straight year the top four teams will make it to the national semifinals.
UCONN vs. Baylor — It’s really tough to beat UConn in the NCAAs if you haven’t played them during the regular season. Mulkey was waiting for Stewart and Jefferson to graduate before she would play them. Now she has no choice.
SOUTH CAROLINA vs. Notre Dame — The Gamecocks fell just short against the Irish in the national semifinals last year, losing in the final few seconds. That won’t happen this time.
UCONN vs. South Carolina — Huskies coach Geno Auriemma has never lost in a national championship game. Neither has Stewart. That won’t change, as the Huskies win a record 11th title.