The 2022 NCAA women’s basketball tournament is here! The South Carolina Gamecocks are the No. 1 overall seed as expected, followed by the NC State Wolfpack, Stanford Cardinal and Louisville Cardinals. Here are the quick takeaways from the bracket:
Region of death: Bridgeport
Bridgeport has the No. 2 and No. 5 teams to start the season in No. 2 seed UConn and No. 1 seed NC State, respectively. Five teams came into the season loaded and two of them were the Huskies and Wolfpack. NC State returned everyone and added Rutgers transfer Diamond Johnson, who ended up finishing second on the team in scoring. UConn came in with the hyped up duo of back-to-back No. 1 recruits Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd. While Fudd’s freshman season did not garner the accolades or attention that Bueckers’ debut did, she had some great moments. And now with Bueckers back, you have to put UConn back in the contender mix, though maybe not all the way back up to neck-and-neck with South Carolina as a co-favorite. The fact that this region has a No. 1 seed that could be just as strong as South Carolina and Stanford and probably the most dangerous No. 2 seed makes it deadly.
But it doesn’t stop there. No. 3 seed Indiana made the Elite Eight last year and they came back to win the whole thing. With Mackenzie Holmes back from injury, they have their big three in tact (Grace Berger and Ali Patberg being the other two), and Aleksa Gulbe and Nicole Cardaño-Hillary pretty much make it a big five. Indiana had a late-regular-season collapse, but then went to the Big Ten Tournament championship game. Don’t forget about the Hoosiers.
No. 4 seed Oklahoma has had some pretty high highs this year with two wins over Baylor and a win over Texas. They also had the low of allowing 61 points to Kansas State’s Ayoka Lee, but are a solid 4-seed featuring sharpshooter Taylor Robertson and star Madi Williams.
Now, this may not be a popular pick as far as a scary 5-seed, especially when they’re playing Louisville, but I think Notre Dame has all the talent in the world and it did beat NC State.
That leaves No. 6 seed Kentucky, which I think could be vulnerable to a first round loss to Princeton because of the way it underachieves, but could also make a deep run. The Wildcats are one of only two teams to beat South Carolina and they did it in March, when the Gamecocks were supposed to be peaking. Plus Rhyne Howard and Dre’una Edwards — need I say more?
Bubble of death: College Park (Spokane region)
The No. 4 seed Maryland Terrapins are one of those five teams that came into the season loaded and maybe they have saved their best for the later rounds of this year’s Big Dance, unlike last year when they were the hottest team in country entering the tournament and through the first two round before falling in disappointing fashion to Texas. Maryland, like Indiana, won’t be satisfied without taking home Brenda Frese’s second national championship. But how in the world are they going to even get out of their home stadium, XIFINITY Center, if they’re not playing their absolute best?!
In the first round, the Terps face Delaware star Jasmine Dickey, who dropped 52 in a single game this year. If they advance to the second round it will be either ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley and No. 5 seed Virginia Tech or WNBA prospect Kierstan Bell and No. 12 seed FGCU, a team that was ranked as high as No. 22 this year, which would have made it a 6-seed.
No. 3 seed Iowa State was nearly a No. 2 seed and likely would have been if not for an overtime loss to Texas in the Big 12 Tournament semis. Indiana, a team I already mentioned, is a No. 3 seed that made it to the Elite 8 as a No. 4 seed last year — I think they are dangerous. The ACC has really great No. 5 seeds in this tournament: Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and UNC. No. 9 seed Georgia Tech of course beat UConn and was ranked as high as No. 11 this season, which would have made it a No. 3 seed. I also think Shakira Austin makes Ole Miss a dangerous No. 7 seed.
Louisville barely snuck in as a No. 1 seed because Baylor lost the Big 12 Tournament championship game to Texas. Meanwhile, No. 4 seed Tennessee suffered a bad loss to Auburn this year. The Tigers were 10-18 and 2-14 in the SEC.
First round matchups that stick out
No. 8 seed Miami/No. 9 seed South Florida — The battle of South Florida.
No. 7 seed UCF/No. 10 seed Florida — The battle of Central Florida.
Potential matchups that stick out
No. 1 seed South Carolina/No. 2 seed Iowa (Elite 8) -- Would be a showdown between national Player of the Year candidates Aliyah Boston (Gamecocks) and Caitlin Clark (Hawkeyes).
No. 1 seed Stanford/No. 2 seed Texas (Elite 8) — Texas beat Stanford 61-56 on Nov. 14.
No. 2 seed Texas/No. 4 seed Maryland (Elite 8) — Would be a rematch from last year’s Sweet 16. This time the Terps would be the lower seed, but might again be the favorites.
No. 2 seed Iowa/No. 3 seed Iowa State (Sweet 16) — Would be the battle of Iowa. The Cyclones won this matchup 77-70 on Dec. 8.
No. 3 seed Michigan/No. 4 seed Tennessee (Elite 8) — Would be rematch from last year’s second round.