NCAA women's final top 16 bracket reveal: Utah overtakes UConn for final No. 1 seed after Huskies' rough week
Utah moved into a No. 1 seed, replacing UConn in the final NCAA women's tournament selection committee reveal ahead of March Madness. Undefeated South Carolina remains the No. 1 overall seed en route to a repeat title.
The Utes (23-3, 13-3 Pac-12) moved up to the No. 4 in the committee's ranking, joining No. 1 overall South Carolina, No. 2 Indiana and No. 3 Stanford as 1-seeds if the tournament were to start today. Utah was No. 6 overall in the first reveal and heads a region that includes No. 5 LSU, one of the more puzzling teams for the committee to place, No. 12 Ohio State and No. 13 Texas.
Utah was able to move up because UConn, the previous No. 4 overall team, has gone through a rough patch. The Huskies (24-5, 16-2 Big East) lost to South Carolina (four-point margin) and Marquette (seven-point margin) days before the first reveal. They defeated Georgetown by only eight, escaped Creighton by a bucket and toughed it out against Villanova to win by nine. Then on Tuesday, they were upset by St. John's 69-64 in an unimpressive showing. It is the first time since 2013-14 that the program has lost multiple conference games.
UConn dropped to the No. 7 overall team and a 2-seed in Indiana's region. In either bracket, the Huskies will have to travel rather than host regional finals in their backyard in Connecticut or Albany, New York.
LSU (25-1, 13-1 SEC) had the inside track to that final 1-seed when the committee released its first reveal. In the time since, it lost to South Carolina by 24 and won against Ole Miss and Florida.
The Tigers barely played any high-caliber competition in the nonconference, with a strength of schedule ranked 222nd. LSU's most notable win in that stretch was Oregon State (11-16, 3-13 Pac-12). Utah has a 46-point non-con win against Oklahoma and wins against Alabama and Ole Miss.
The SEC is also not the top-to-bottom quality of the other conferences such as the Big Ten or ACC. That has created a conundrum for the committee and is provoking lengthy conversations about where to place them, ESPN commentators said.
"We've never seen a team like that [in a Power 5 conference] be lower than a 2," ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme said. "We've never seen this before, so that's why as a committee they're struggling. I'm struggling."
In a format change beginning this season, there will be two regional sites rather than four. The Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games are at Bon Secours Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, and in Seattle at Climate Pledge Arena. The Final Four will be held March 31 and April 2 in Dallas.
Selection Sunday is March 12 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. Most conferences begin their tournaments next week.
Greenville Regional 1
1. South Carolina (1)
2. Virginia Tech (8)
3. Iowa (9)
4. Michigan (16)
Greenville Regional 2
1. Indiana (2)
2. UConn (7)
3. Notre Dame (10)
4. Arizona (15)
Seattle Regional 3
1. Stanford (3)
2. Maryland (6)
3. Duke (11)
4. Villanova (14)
Seattle Regional 4
1. Utah (4)
2. LSU (5)
3. Ohio State (12)
4. Texas (13)
Who is rising after first reveal?
Virginia Tech made the largest jump, rising five spots to No. 8 overall to become a 2-seed in South Carolina's regional after being a 4-seed in the first reveal. The Hokies added double-digit wins against some of the ACC's best in Florida State, Duke and N.C. State.
Maryland moved up three spots to No. 6 likely because of its dominant win against Iowa earlier in the week. The Terps rained 3s on the Big Ten favorites and quieted Caitlin Clark. That notably moved them out of South Carolina's regional.
Ohio State also moved out of that regional with a rise into the top-16 to No. 12 overall. The Buckeyes were crushed by Indiana but rebounded against Penn State and Michigan. They play Maryland on Friday in their season finale.
Arizona moved into the picture, replacing North Carolina. The Wildcats upset Pac-12 leaders Utah and Colorado last week. The ESPN crew said the committee discussed Colorado and Tennessee as potential top-16 members. Colorado took Stanford to two overtimes in the minutes before the reveal, and Tennessee was in a close one with South Carolina.
Who is falling after first reveal?
Duke swapped spots almost perfectly with ACC foe Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils dropped from No. 8 to No. 11 after the 16-point loss to the Hokies.
Michigan was on the opposite end of Ohio State's rise, falling from No. 11 to the No. 16 spot. It moved them into the South Carolina regional along with Big Ten's Iowa. The Hawkeyes dropped two spots, which could put national player of the year contenders Aliyah Boston (South Carolina) and Clark on a collision course.
What to watch this weekend
No. 7 Maryland (23-5, 14-3 Big Ten) at No. 16 Ohio State (23-5, 12-5), 6 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network
No. 3 Stanford (26-3, 14-2 Pac-12) at No. 8 Utah (23-3, 13-3), 2 p.m. ET Pac-12 Networks
No. 19 Texas (21-7, 12-3 Big 12) at No. 13 Oklahoma (22-4, 12-3), 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+
No. 10 Notre Dame (22-4, 13-3 ACC) at Louisville (20-9, 11-5), 12 p.m. ET on ESPN
No. 22 North Carolina (19-8, 10-6 ACC) at No. 11 Duke (23-4, 13-3), 12 p.m. ET on ACCNX
No. 2 Indiana (26-1, 16-1 Big Ten) at No. 6 Iowa (22-6, 14-3), 2 p.m. ET on ESPN