It’s March, which means it’s time for college sports’ greatest tradition—March Madness. For the first time in basketball history, the women’s tournament is finally sharing the “March Madness” slogan, and with increasing parity in the sport, this year’s tournament is set to be one of the most exciting ones in recent history. Here are eight teams to keep an eye on as tournament play begins, listed from the highest to lowest seed.
1. South Carolina (29-2)
Led by Player of the Year finalist Aliyah Boston, the Gamecocks held the No. 1 spot in the AP poll from the first week of play to the last, and they’re one of the favorites to win it all in Minneapolis. In conjunction with adding the best recruiting class in the country, Carolina returned every player from last year’s Final Four team. It’s their dominance in the post—they have one of the best rebounding margins in the country—and their stellar guard play that makes the Gamecocks downright scary. They’ve demonstrated their prowess all year, going 11-0 against ranked opponents. Their two losses were both competitive single digit upsets by unranked teams, with the most recent one coming in the SEC Tournament Championship to 7-seed Kentucky. Though they don’t have much momentum coming into the tournament, they’ve got the No. 1 overall seed—and something to prove.
2. Stanford (28-3)
Last year’s National Champions want to repeat, and they have the ability to do so. All three of their losses—against Texas, South Florida, and South Carolina—occurred in 2021, and they’ve been trending up since then. They steamrolled their Pac-12 competitors, going undefeated in conference play, and the Cardinals look poised to make a deep run in this year’s tournament. The one caveat is that the Pac-12 was arguably the least competitive conference within the Power Five this season, and Stanford’s regional will potentially require them to take down a number of very dangerous teams, including Texas, to make it to the championship.
3. UConn (25-5)
The Huskies are a perennial powerhouse, but this season has been painfully unprecedented. Seven of their players missed multiple games, including sophomore superstar Paige Bueckers. As a result of this instability, the Huskies lost five games this season. Since Bueckers’ return, however, the Huskies have looked stronger, and they emerged from this season’s trials more well-rounded than they were at the start of the year. Though they haven’t been battle-tested in the same way some of the higher seeds have been, history shows that a UConn team is always one to watch out for.
4. Iowa (23-7)
Why watch Iowa? Caitlin Clark. The sophomore point guard has gone viral this season by making half-court shots akin to Steph Curry. For the women’s game, such consistent long distance shooting is rare, and it’s given the Hawkeyes a major offensive boost. Along with Clark, they have a solid set of players and are entering the Big Dance on a seven-game winning streak. They’re a 2-seed for a reason, and the smart money is on them making it into the Sweet Sixteen at a minimum. There’s also a nice storyline brewing in their regional—in order to make it to the Final Four, they might have to play against South Carolina, which would pit the two Player of the Year frontrunners, Boston and Clark, against each other in an ultimate battle to make it to Minneapolis.
5. Texas (13-5)
Never underestimate a Vic Schaefer squad. His teams play gritty, physical defense and force turnovers at a high rate. They tend to fly under the radar, but freshman point guard Rori Harmon has been on fire recently, and the rest of the team is following her lead. They knocked off Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament and are entering the postseason with bolstered confidence. Even better news for the Longhorns? The 1-seed in their regional is Stanford—a team they’ve already beaten this season.
6. Kentucky (19-11)
The Wildcats are, simply put, a classic Cinderella story, and it makes them worth following. Just weeks ago, they weren’t in the tournament projections at all, having started their season a measly 2-8 in the SEC. But they reversed course, flipped a switch, and inexplicably went on a magical run to win the SEC Championship, knocking off the No. 1, 2, and 3 seeds. Led by possible No. 1 overall WNBA draft pick Rhyne Howard, Kentucky is carrying tremendous momentum heading into the tournament and could absolutely bust a few brackets during the dance. In order to do so, though, they’ll have to defeat Ivy League champ Princeton, and that could be a tall task if the Wildcats aren’t on their A-game.
7. Miami (20-12)
Speaking of Cinderella runs, Miami pulled off a major one. In the ACC Tournament, they beat Louisville and Notre Dame before falling to NC State in the championship. The Hurricanes have not consistently been a top team this season; though they play tough defense, their offense is largely fueled by one player, senior guard Kelsey Marshall. They leveled up in the conference tournament, and they’ll need to keep that hot streak going in order to make a deep run in the tournament.
8. Florida Gulf Coast (29-2)
For the Eagles, Kierstan Bell is the cornerstone. The junior guard leads her team in points, rebounds, and steals. When she gets hot, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Additionally, the entire team shoots almost 33 percent from three-point range, something that can make them difficult to guard. These characteristics make them a threat, as demonstrated by their defeat of LSU this season. Last year, FGCU was a commonly-picked bracket buster, but they failed to live up to expectations. Bell is entering the WNBA draft after this season, and this is her last chance to cut down college nets. Expect her—and her team—to play some incredible basketball in an attempt to make that happen.