The University of Connecticut will once again come into the Women’s NCAA Tournament as the overwhelming favorite to win the national title. But there are certainly a few schools believing they have a shot at pulling an upset if they run into the Huskies in the tournament.
The UConn women (32-0) will be the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament for the 13th time in the school’s history. The team is undefeated since losing an overtime thriller to Mississippi State in the semifinals of last year’s tournament, and is looking to extend their streak of Final Four appearances to 12 in a row.
UConn has won the title more times than any other team in women’s tournament’s 35-year history — booking 11 championships. They won every year from 2013-2016, but last year missed the Final Four at the hands of Mississippi State, who then went on to lose the title to the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The Huskies’ mission to return to the finals, where they have never lost, open their run against the Saint Francis Red Flash (24-9), the 16 seed that earned a bid by winning the Northeastern Conference. UConn won’t be expected to be challenged much in that matchup, and may not play a competitive game until the Elite Eight, when they could face two-seed South Carolina (26-6) – a team they’ve already beaten by 25 points earlier this season.
Who Can Beat UConn?
The Women’s NCAA Tournament field tends to be a bit top heavy, with only a handful of teams given a realistic shot at winning a championship in any given year. That appears to be the case again this season, where the other No. 1 seeds are likely to present the biggest threats to UConn.
Any discussion has to start with the last team to beat the Huskies. Mississippi State (32-1) enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed in the Kansas City region, and were undefeated themselves before losing to South Carolina (26-6) in the SEC Women’s Tournament final. Despite the loss, the Bulldogs will have every chance of getting back to the title game again behind the strength of junior center and Teaira McCowan, a Naismith College Player of the Year candidate who is averaging 17.7 points and 13.2 rebounds per game.
The Lexington region is led by Louisville (32-2), which is coming into the tournament as a No. 1 seed for the first time in school history. The Cardinals gave UConn one of their toughest games of the year, losing 69-58 to the Huskies in Connecticut. However, Louisville will have to deal with perhaps the toughest region of the bracket, with an Elite Eight matchup with No. 2 seed Baylor (31-1) looming.
Rounding out the usual suspects, Notre Dame (29-3) is the No. 1 seed in the Spokane region. While the Fighting Irish lost a 74-72 heartbreaker to Louisville in the final of the ACC Tournament – the second time the Cardinals got the best of them this season – they are one of the few teams that has been able to hang with UConn this year. Notre Dame had a lead heading into the fourth quarter against the Huskies back in December, though UConn stormed back to win 80-71.
Bubble Bursts for Four Teams
Just as in the men’s tournament, the bubble created its fair share of drama heading into March Madness. There was a little more structure to the bubble here, as the women’s selection committee released a list of the final eight teams under consideration over the weekend, acknowledging that those schools were competing for the final four at-large bids in the tournament.
Ultimately, it was Creighton, Minnesota, Buffalo and Oklahoma that walked away with the final four spots in the field. That meant heartbreak for Purdue, Rutgers, Southern Cal and West Virginia, who emerged as the equivalent to the “first four out” of the men’s NCAA Tournament.