basketball-women-d1 flag

Autumn Johnson | January 23, 2022

11 women's basketball dark-horse teams that could shake up March Madness

11 women's basketball teams that could shake up March Madness

We've talked non-stop about my top women's college basketball teams in the nation through my weekly Power 10 rankings, but let's switch things up a bit. Here are 11 dark-horse teams I've seen so far that have flown under the radar and could be a problem come March Madness.

I've listed the teams in alphabetical order: 

Colorado

Yes, the Buffaloes lost two in a row recently, but the Buffaloes went on a 13-game winning streak to be the last unbeaten DI team in the nation until Stanford pumped its brakes by giving them their first blemish of the season. Still, being the final unbeaten doesn't happen by accident. Despite the loss, the No. 10 scoring defense in the nation proved they can go up against the toughest contenders...like the defending national champs. Colorado’s 13-2 start is the program's best record since the 2011-12 season. The Buffaloes recently cracked the AP top 25 for the first time since 2016, too. The Buffaloes are led by fifth-year senior Mya Hollingshed.

LEGACY: Tennessee women's basketball coach Kellie Harper fights to restore 'awe factor,' glory days to storied program

FGCU

The Eagles are picking up right where they left off. Last year, the Eagles produced the No. 7 offense (81.6 ppg) in the country, but this year they are scoring at a higher clip (83.6 ppg) to become a top-5 offense in the nation paced by Kierstan Bell, who is the No. 3 scorer in the country. FGCU is known for its dominance in the ASUN as the defending conference champs remain undefeated in the 2021-22 season against its conference foes. Outside of the ASUN, FGCU has an impressive resume, so far, as the Eagles have taken down LSU and Michigan State.

IUPUI 

IUPUI's record does not reflect how scary this team is and could be come March. IUPUPI has ran across two Big Ten, Sweet 16 contenders and came out with a major upset over ranked Iowa and came close to knocking off Michigan in overtime. Out the other four losses, two comes from forfeits (COVID positive cases), Ball State by single digits and Northern Kentucky by one point. So, don't let this record fool you. The Jags are led by three-time Horizon League Player of the Year Macee Williams.

Missouri

The Tigers are a team who can take you to the wire and force extra time. So far, Missouri has played in three overtime games. In one, Mizzou gave the No. 1 team in the nation, South Carolina, its first and only loss of the season. The other two did not end in the Tigers' favor, but Missouri gave Arkansas, Georgia and ranked LSU a run for their money by falling by single digits. Missouri also came close to upsetting ranked Baylor, but fell by one possession. Overtime experience could be beneficial in March for a team who knows how to execute in late game situations. 

Missouri State

The Bears made back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA tournament, and I have full confidence that this squad make another deep run in March with its Big 3: Jasmine Franklin, Sydney Wilson and Brice Calip. Missouri State is in the top-10 in scoring defense, holding opponents to under 52 points per game. So far, the Bears have taken down Missouri and ranked Virginia Tech. The Bears have fallen against ranked LSU, Oklahoma State and Northern Iowa...but all decided by single digits. 

Nebraska 

Nebraska has one of the most balanced attacks attacks in the nation with the No. 9 scoring offense. This squad is locked and loaded with multiple scoring weapons in every position along with a deep bench. Nebraska is ranked highly nationally in scoring, rebounds, assists, blocked shots and 3-pointers made...yet is unranked. Nebraska opened up the season with a 12-game winning streak and later pulled a major upset over ranked Michigan. Though Nebraska has came up short against Big Ten foes as of late, you cannot count this team out. Don't sleep on the Huskers! 

SUPERLATIVES 🏆: Women's basketball midseason superlatives to start the new year

Oregon 

We took our eyes off of the Ducks for a split second, because this squad was plagued with multiple injuries. Without Oregon's full roster, the Ducks suffered five loses as they were tasked with a tough non-conference schedule and Pac-12 foe Stanford. The downward spiral resulted in Oregon falling out of the polls. But recently, Oregon has returned its key starters and has knocked off ranked teams like Arizona and UConn in back-to-back games. Look out...here come the Ducks! 

Princeton

Welcome back, Princeton. The Ivy League did not compete in the 2020-21 due to a league decision based off of COVID-19 precautions, but so far Princeton has surged back as one the top-40 teams in the NET rankings, beating Villanova, Temple and FGCU in non-conference play. The conference favorites are currently undefeated, led by its scoring duo Abby Meyers and Julia Cunningham. 

Purdue

Head coach Katie Gearlds could be cooking up something special in her first year taking over the helm of her alma mater. Last year, Purdue only won seven games. This season, Purdue has surpassed that with 11 wins, including two ranked wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech. Purdue also came close to knocking off in-state rival Indiana, who went to the Elite 8 last year. Purdue is a team, who has a lot of fight in it and the Boillermakers could be a tough out in March. 

South Dakota 

This is another veteran group who has brought back all of its starters from last year's NCAA tournament team. Opening up the 2021-22 season, the Coyotes were tasked with a tough non-conference slate going up against Oklahoma, South Carolina, Northwestern and Texas A&M. All matchups resulted in loses, but since then South Dakota has been blazing on a 12-game winning streak and is currently undefeated in the Summit League. That's credit to the No. 13 scoring defense in the nation holding its opponents to 53.1 points per game and the chemistry amongst the group. South Dakota's experience together will go a long way in March. 

UCF 

UCF has dominant wins over Arkansas and recently American Athletic foe South Florida. Its only two loses comes from ranked Tennessee and Iowa, but the Knights stuck close in both matchups, only falling by single digits. That's credit to its stifling, lock-down defense which ranks No. 3 in the nation, including top-30 in steals.

You have to see San Jose State's new glow-in-the-dark basketball court

San Jose State's new basketball court at Provident Credit Union Event Center is something to see.
READ MORE

Finalist cities announced for 2027-2031 NCAA Division I Women's Final Fours

Seven cities have been selected by the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee as finalists to host the NCAA Women’s Final Four from 2027 through 2031.
READ MORE

Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer announces retirement after Hall of Fame coaching career

Rutgers women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer announces her retirement after a Hall of Fame career, leaving the game with 1,055 wins and countless lives improved through leadership, mentorship and guidance.
READ MORE

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from NCAA.com and our partners