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Best of 2023: Highlights from a history-making year of NCAA women’s basketball

2023 was a banner year for women’s college basketball. From an all-time 2023 NCAA tournament to a thrilling start to the 2023-24 season, let’s revisit some of the sport’s best moments.

South Carolina v Iowa
The Final Four clash between Iowa and South Carolina was one of many memorable NCAAW moments from 2023.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

We’ve shared our NCAA Women’s basketball wishes for 2024. But before the year officially turns over, let’s revisit the best college basketball moments from a monumental 2023.

Celebrating conference champs

Washington State v UCLA
Washington State’s Bella Murekatete cuts down the net to celebrate the Cougars’ Pac-12 Tournament championship.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

First, it’s our “prerogative to have a little fun” and look back at last March’s conference tournaments, beginning with No. 7-seed Washington State’s run to the Pac-12 Tournament championship—all to the tune of Shaina Twain.

In the Big Ten, the Iowa Hawkeyes and Caitlin Clark presaged their run to the national championship game with a conference tournament title. Their in-state counterparts in the Big 12Iowa State—also claimed conference tournament hardware behind the brilliance of Ashley Joens.

Down South, South Carolina looked like the SEC team most likely to win a national championship, cruising to the program’s seventh SEC Tournament championship. In the ACC, Virginia Tech showed their readiness for the Big Dance, claiming their first conference tournament title.

Up in the Big East, a familiar script played out. Despite an injury-plagued season, UConn added another conference tournament trophy.

Memorable March Madness

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - National Championship
A national championship embrace between LSU’s Angel Reese and Flau’jae Johnson.
Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Before the LSU’s national championship game victory over Iowa gave us the signature women’s college basketball moments of 2023, from record-breaking interest to unnecessary “controversy,” the NCAA Tournament offered an excess of excitement, starting on Selection Sunday, when Stanford, not eventual national runners-up Iowa, received the final No. 1 seed.

Before the tourney tipped, it was easy to imagine one of the four No. 1 seeds—South Carolina, Indiana, Virginia Tech and aforementioned Stanford—winning it all.

However, the inevitably of upsets required a reassessments of the surviving teams’ standing before the Sweet Sixteen, as well as a wider evaluation of the success, or lack thereof, of Power 5 teams.

Eventually, the field was narrowed to four, with two No. 1 seeds—South Carolina and Virginia Tech—a No. 2 seed in Iowa and No. 3-seed LSU composing the Final Four. Although both No. 1 seeds seemed poised to advance to the final, it was, of course, Iowa and LSU who earned the right to compete for the sport’s ultimate prize.

In the national championship game, the Lady Tigers took care of business, with an electric behind-the-arc performance from the unheralded Jasmine Carson, along with the continued excellence of Most Outstanding Player Angel Reese, delivering LSU the program’s first title.

Changes, chaos kick off 2023-24 season

Connecticut v NC State
From unranked to still undefeated, the No. 3 NC State Wolfpack epitomize the upset-filled start to the 2023-24 season.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Ahead of the 2023-24 season, there was tons to be excited about: transfers with conference-tilting talent, a freshman class that’s been even more fabulous than expected, a suite of stellar sophomores and a number of players with a future in the WNBA.

Instantly, that excitement reached another level, with rankings-rocking upsets rolling across the women’s college basketball landscape during the opening week of action. The second week featured more of the same.

Although things have settled down, there’s been plenty of developments worth watching. After LSU’s national title defense got off to a turbulent start, the Lady Tigers appear to have rediscovered their dominance. The same is true at South Carolina, where the Gamecocks are not rebuilding—just remerging as the nation’s best team. At UConn, unfortunately, injuries remain the dominant storyline. And in the midwest, all eyes remain on Caitlin Clark, where a historic exhibition game has been followed by more historic exploits from the Iowa star.