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Autumn Johnson | November 7, 2021

2022 NCAA women's basketball bracket: Preseason bracket predictions

The women's NCAA tournament field of 64, predicted before opening night

The road to March Madness begins when women's college basketball tips off on Nov. 9. So it's never too early for bracket predictions. I'm going to break down my first bracket prediction before we tip off the 2021-22 season. 

I created my field of 64 that includes my automatic qualifiers for each conference and then filled in the rest with at-large bids. I took into consideration what I saw last season, returning top players, the impact of players lost, transfers, preseason conference favorites and more. 

Here is a link to my first bracket for this season. I'll revisit my bracket all season long to make additional and revised picks, determining the success or struggles of each team's season. 

And here's my bracket in table format:

Autumn Johnson's preseason 2022 NCAA women's basketball tournament bracket

SEED Region 1 region 2 region 3  region 4 
1 South Carolina  UConn Stanford  Maryland 
16 High Point Stony Brook Mt. St. Mary's Howard
8 FGCU Washington State Northwestern Arkansas 
9 Duke  Ole Miss DePaul  Notre Dame 
5 Ohio State  Oregon State Texas A&M UCLA
12 Princeton Fresno State Dayton Mississippi State 
4 Kentucky Tennessee Georgia Tech  Georgia
13 Troy  Delaware UC Davis Idaho State
6 West Virginia Missouri State Arizona  Florida State
11 LSU South Dakota Charlotte Belmont
3 Iowa  Baylor Iowa State Michigan
14 Lehigh  Mercer Stony Brook SFA
7 Texas Virginia Tech  Michigan State South Florida 
10 Colorado BYU IUPUI Oklahoma 
2 NC State Indiana Louisville Oregon
15 Jackson State SE Louisiana  Marist Central Michigan 

My No. 1 seeds: South Carolina, UConn, Stanford and Maryland

You'll see a trend in my No. 1 seeds. All programs are returning impact players and are stacked with depth, which easily make these programs my top seeds. Out of all four teams, I am projecting South Carolina will take the No. 1 overall seed by the end of March, which was previously owned by Stanford in last year's NCAA tournament. 

South Carolina has been on the brink of a championship with its young Big 3 since 2019. The Gamecocks will bring back their entire Final Four squad, but the new additions makes me believe South Carolina will be a tough team to knock off this season. Coach Dawn Staley had a successful offseason crafting this team, while considering the personnel she already has. Syracuse transfer Kamilla Cardoso will join forces with the Gamecocks, including the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation — once again. Last season, the Gamecocks lost to the eventual champs in a heartbreaker. One point and a missed buzzer-beater stood in the way of South Carolina advancing to the championship game, but I believe this elite group can push them over the hump. 

UConn was another team that made it to the Final Four, featuring star Paige Bueckers. The National, Big East Player and Freshman of the Year helped the Huskies cruise past all of their conference foes, but allowed Arizona's Aari McDonald to go on a rampage to end their hopes of bringing a championship back to Storrs. UConn's head coach Geno Auriemma will have endless depth bringing back the entire Final Four squad, including the No. 1 overall recruit Azzi Fudd. Fudd and Bueckers are coincidentally best friends and already have experience playing with each other during their Team USA days. The Huskies will also add Ohio State transfer Dorka Juhasz, who was the No. 2 rebounder in the Big Ten, to their successful unit. 

Stanford is another team that did not experience drop-off during the offseason. The defending champs are bringing back 12 out of 13 players from the championship squad. Stanford was one of the deepest teams last season, and now the Cardinal will have a roster of 17, which includes graduate transfer Jordan Hamilton from Northwestern. The winningest head coach in college basketball, Tara VanDerveer, will have endless combos to use in her arsenal once again. This will be a fun team to watch, which headlines the 2021 Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament, Haley Jones, who is one of the most versatile players in the country. 

I have Maryland securing the last No. 1 seed. In fact, last season I thought the Terps would make it to the championship round. Instead, Texas outplayed Maryland in one of the biggest upsets of the tournament. The good news is that all starters will return from the No. 1 scoring offense in the country last season, lead by Ashley Owusu. This was a squad in a rebuilding phase last season and over-performed with a group that did not have much experience playing with each other, led by AP Coach of the Year Brenda Frese. Imagine what a year of chemistry will be like for this team!

RANKINGS: Women's basketball rankings: Preseason Power 10 for 2021-22 season

Last four in 

  1. Mississippi State 
  2. Colorado 
  3. Oklahoma 
  4. LSU 

First four out 

Let's go a little beyond the field of 64 to make some predictions on the bubble for the tournament. 

  1. North Carolina 
  2. South Dakota State
  3. Marquette 
  4. Oklahoma State 


The automatic qualifiers

Here are my 32 AQs, based off of who I think will lock in spots by everlasting foes in each respective conference tournament. 

Conference Automatic qualifier
America East Stony Brook
American Athletic South Florida
Atlantic 10 Dayton
ACC NC State
Big 12 Baylor
Big East UConn
Big Sky Idaho State
Big South High Point
Big Ten Maryland
Big West UC Davis
Colonial Athletic Association Delaware
Conference USA Charlotte
Horizon  IUPUI
Ivy Princeton
MAAC Marist
MAC Central Michigan
MEAC Howard
Missouri Valley Missouri State
Mountain West Fresno State
Northeast Mount St. Mary's
Ohio Valley Belmont
Pac-12 Stanford
Patriot Lehigh
SEC South Carolina
Southern Mercer
Southland SE Louisiana
SWAC Jackson State
Summit League South Dakota
Sun Belt  Troy
West Coast  BYU
Western Athletic Conference SFA

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