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:
|SEED||Region 1||region 2||region 3||region 4|
|16||High Point||Stony Brook||Mt. St. Mary's||Howard|
|9||Duke||Ole Miss||DePaul||Notre Dame|
|5||Ohio State||Oregon State||Texas A&M||UCLA|
|12||Princeton||Fresno State||Dayton||Mississippi State|
|13||Troy||Delaware||UC Davis||Idaho State|
|6||West Virginia||Missouri State||Arizona||Florida State|
|7||Texas||Virginia Tech||Michigan State||South Florida|
|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!
Last four in
- Mississippi State
First four out
Let's go a little beyond the field of 64 to make some predictions on the bubble for the tournament.
- North Carolina
- South Dakota State
- 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.
|America East||Stony Brook|
|American Athletic||South Florida|
|Big Sky||Idaho State|
|Big South||High Point|
|Big West||UC Davis|
|Colonial Athletic Association||Delaware|
|Missouri Valley||Missouri State|
|Mountain West||Fresno State|
|Northeast||Mount St. Mary's|
|Summit League||South Dakota|
|Western Athletic Conference||SFA|