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Autumn Johnson | November 24, 2020

The 2021 women's NCAA bracket, predicted opening week

The 2021 women's NCAA bracket, predicted opening week

One day stands between the anticipation of women's basketball and the Nov. 25 tip off. I'm here with my way-early predictions for the 2021 NCAA women's basketball tournament bracket. I based these predictions on what I saw last season, top returners, transfers, preseason conference favorites and more.

Here is my first bracket for this season. I'll revisit these all season long and make additional, revised picks several more times before we get to March Madness.

Autumn Johnson's 2021 Bracket Prediction

And here's my bracket in table format: 

Autumn Johnson's preseason 2021 NCAA women's basketball tournament bracket
SEED CINCINNATI ALBANY SPOKANE AUSTIN
1 South Carolina UConn Stanford Baylor
16 Jackson State Mount St. Mary's UT Martin Bethune-Cookman
         
8 Kansas State Marquette Tennessee North Carolina
9 Southern California Arizona State Duke LSU
         
5 Notre Dame DePaul Northwestern Oregon State
12 Bucknell James Madison Central Michigan Boston College
         
4 Iowa State Texas A&M Arkansas Maryland
13 SFA Utah Valley South Dakota Fresno State
         
6 Gonzaga Missouri State Ohio State Syracuse
11 South Florida FGCU Mercer Middle Tennessee
         
3 Indiana UCLA Kentucky Oregon
14 Manhattan Maine Troy  VCU
         
7 South Dakota Texas Florida State Michigan
10 West Virginia Virginia Tech Georgia Rutgers
         
2 NC State Arizona Louisville Mississippi State
15 UC Davis Campbell Idaho IUPUI

South Carolina, UConn, Stanford and Baylor are my No. 1 seeds

These are my picks right now for the top seeds. All teams brought back an experienced core and three finished in the AP poll's top four last season — all except Stanford, which finished No. 7.

The Cardinal are expected to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, and that's credit to bringing back a team with depth. However, South Carolina can say the same. Aaliyah Boston, Zia Cooke and Brea Beal were a key part of the Gamecocks' success in securing the SEC title while holding a 26-game winning streak. Naismith Coach of the Year Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks will look to continue that momentum entering the 2020-21 season.

As for UConn, the Huskies brought in a top recruiting class of six newcomers, including the No. 1 recruit in the country Paige Bueckers. They will join the Huskies' Big 3 — Christyn Williams, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Evina Westbrook. Once the Huskies find chemistry, this will be a tough team to beat that will dance their way to the Final Four. 

A QUICK GUIDE: Here's at least 1 thing to know about every team in the women's college basketball AP top 25

Baylor's success in March will be determined in part by whether or not Naismith Defensive Player of the Year DiDi Richards returns to the starting lineup after a spinal cord injury suffered in a scary practice collision with Moon Ursin. NaLyssa Smith, Queen Egbo and Stanford graduate transfer DiJonai Carrington will all be looked at to step up in Richards' absence. 

NC State, Arizona, Louisville and Mississippi State are my No. 2 seeds. Two ACC teams are featured in this group, but I believe Louisville will secure the conference title over NC State. Mississippi State on the other hand, will give South Carolina its biggest challenge in the SEC. 

Last four in 

  1. Georgia
  2. Virginia Tech
  3. West Virginia
  4. Boston College

First four out 

I go a little beyond the field of 64 to make some predictions on the bubble for the 2021 NCAA women's basketball tournament. 

  1. Georgia Tech
  2. Alabama
  3. Colorado
  4. Texas Tech

My automatic-qualifiers

 
Conference Automatic qualifier
America East Maine
American Athletic South Florida
Atlantic 10 VCU
ACC Louisville
ASUN Florida Gulf Coast
Big 12 Baylor
Big East UConn
Big Sky Idaho
Big South Campbell
Big Ten Indiana
Big West UC Davis
Colonial Athletic Association James Madison
Conference USA Middle Tennessee
Horizon  IUPUI
Ivy  Will not player winter season*
MAAC Manhattan
Mid-American Central Michigan
MEAC Bethune-Cookman
Missouri Valley Missouri State
Mountain West Fresno State
Northeast Mount St. Mary's
Ohio Valley UT Martin
Pac 12 Stanford
Patriot Bucknell
SEC South Carolina
Southern Mercer
Southland Stephen F. Austin
SWAC Jackson State
Summitt League South Dakota
Sun Belt  Troy
West Coast  Gonzaga
Western Athletic Conference Utah Valley

*The Ivy League announced it would not player winter sports earlier this season. I added an extra at-large bid to make up the field of 64.

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