The best in women's college basketball is sure to come to the forefront during the 2015 NCAA tournament, with any number of top squads capable of reaching the Final Four in Tampa and dethroning the Connecticut Huskies.
Everyone is looking up at Geno Auriemma's 32-1 crew, but its lone loss indicates that the two-time defending champions are indeed beatable—unlike so many of their previous seasons. All of the fellow No. 1 seeds in Notre Dame, Maryland and South Carolina look poised for deep tournament runs, while overlooked programs will get their chance to spoil the fun for the favorites.
The opening weekend of March Madness will crowd around the men's field of 68, but some of the best postseason action can be found in the ladies' bracket on the ESPN networks over March Madness. Here's a look at everything to know.
2015 NCAA Women's Tournament Bracket
NCAA.com has provided an interactive bracket, which can also be seen below:
NCAA Women's BKB @ncaawbb
Let's the predictions begin! Find #ncaaW interactive & printable brackets here: http://t.co/hf0QyjEgg6 http://t.co/939koV0X1r2015-3-16 23:52:30
Women's Championship Odds
|Odds to Win 2015 NCAA Women's Championship|
|*The Rest of the Field*||25-1|
|Steven Cook's predictions|
Note: Odds devised by author
Teams to Watch
To the surprise of nobody, Connecticut took home the tournament's top overall seed as it positions itself for a third straight championship run and a chance for Auriemma to make history.
The longtime Huskies coach is one title away from hoisting his 10th championship trophy in his career, which would tie him with UCLA men's coach John Wooden for the most all-time. And considering how his team has been able to continue its success over such a long span, it seems inevitable that he'll eventually hold that title all to himself.
The Huskies have been a model of consistency atop the bracket for the last decade, as ESPN Stats and Info noted:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
UConn is 1 seed for 9th straight season, tying Tennessee (1988-96) for longest streak all-time. NCAA women's basketball selections on ESPN2015-3-16 23:05:48
It feels like years ago since UCONN held a paltry 1-1 record on the season following a Nov. 17 overtime loss at Stanford that ended a 47-game winning streak. In fact, had Connecticut pulled out that game, it would be bringing in a 79-game streak into tournament play. That's not a typo.
The star-caliber play of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart simply gives opponents too much to deal with on the defensive end, and their size dooms most of their opponents. While the Huskies have only faced three top-caliber teams—Notre Dame, Duke and South Carolina—since the Stanford loss, they handled all three quite easily.
Like so many of the seasons past, the conversation entering the women's tournament starts and ends with UCONN.
The rebuilding process at South Carolina is officially over for head coach Dawn Staley, and now comes the opportunity for her Gamecocks to prove they can contend on the biggest stage.
The Gamecocks built the momentum needed early on by going unbeaten in nonconference play, logging a big win at Duke before ripping through the SEC slate with a 15-1 record. They even played at UCONN in the middle of conference play, although they were beaten by 25.
But after proving their dominance over fellow SEC giants Tennessee twice this season, they locked down the top seed in nearby Greensboro, North Carolina—which Staley isn't too upset about, per Alyssa Lang of WLTX:
Alyssa Lang @AlyssaLang
Dawn Staley says she's happy to be in Greensboro, because if the team takes care of business, they'll take care of the regional.2015-3-17 00:01:54
A stingy defense is what leads the Gamecocks to victory more than anything else. They give up only 52.6 points per game, which ranks eighth nationally per NCAA.com and marks the only top seed in the Top 25 of the category other than the Huskies.
South Carolina may have the weakest No. 2 seed in Florida State in its region, but a potential Final Four matchup against Notre Dame, Baylor or perhaps Stanford would make for one of the best shows of the tournament.
There have been few NCAA tournament cases in the men's or women's side as perplexing as the one provoked by the Princeton Tigers this season, and the selection committee had a swift answer.
Princeton's sparkling 30-0 record wooed enough folks around the nation to push the Tigers further and further up the rankings, finishing the season ranked No. 13. But the committee apparently wasn't as convinced, pitting Princeton as a No. 8 seed.
CBS Sports' Matt Norlander gave a striking comparison to last season's men's undefeated team:
Matt Norlander @MattNorlander
Imagine what Gregg Marshall would’ve said if Wichita St. got an 8 last year. That just happened to undefeated Princeton in women’s bracket.2015-3-16 23:46:05
The Tigers notched nonconference wins over major-conference foes like Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Michigan and Wake Forest, but that wasn't enough to overcome their weak Ivy League conference slate. Their 13 wins of 25 points or more, however, speak for themselves and prove the considerable gap between them and all of their opponents.
As the eighth-seed in the Spokane region, Princeton won't have to wait long for its chance to prove itself with a potential second-round matchup with top-seeded Maryland.