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Autumn Johnson | NCAA.com | November 8, 2022

Way-early March Madness women's bracket predictions for 2023

Preseason March Madness women's bracket predictions

In the spirit of the 2022-23 season tipping off, it's never too early for a bracket prediction. Let’s take a look at how I believe teams will be seeded by the selection committee in March. I created my field of 68 that includes my at-large bids and then filled out the rest with my automatic qualifiers (listed below).

It is worthy to note that many teams have experienced massive turnover in a variety of ways. Some programs lost stars to the transfer portal, graduation or the WNBA, while others have returned strong cores of starters or revamped their roster by either benefiting from the portal or recruiting some first-year, heavy hitters. I took all of this into consideration, including preseason conference favorites and more.

Here is my first bracket of the 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.

Autumn Johnson's first 2023 NCAA women's basketball tournament bracket prediction

SEED Greenville – Quad 1 Seattle – Quad 2 Greenville – Quad 3 Seattle – Quad 4
1 South Carolina Stanford  Tennessee Texas 
16 Albany / Longwood Montana State Howard  Fairleigh Dickinson / Texas A&M 
         
8 Belmont  Miami  Kansas  Gonzaga 
9 Duke  Georgia  Villanova Ole Miss
         
5 Nebraska  Creighton Maryland  Baylor 
12 SFA  Colorado / South Dakota Florida State / Mississippi State UNLV
         
4 LSU Oklahoma Virginia Tech Ohio State 
13 UMass Toledo Jackson State Middle Tennessee
         
6 Arizona Oregon Princeton South Dakota State
11 Alabama Georgia Tech Oregon State  Washington State
         
3 North Carolina Indiana  NC State  Notre Dame
14 Drexel  Youngstown State  Troy Tennessee Tech
         
7 Michigan South Florida UCLA  Utah 
10 DePaul Arkansas  Florida Gulf Coast Florida 
         
2 Iowa State UConn  Iowa Louisville 
15 Manhattan Hawaii  Mercer Hawaii 

No. 1 seeds: South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee and Texas

It's no surprise that South Carolina is featured in my 1-line. In fact, the defending national champions are my No. 1 overall seed and 2023 national champion pick.

If South Carolina can run it back and cut down the net (again) this season, that would make three national titles in seven years. This squad is in perfect condition to do so. Needless to say, what head coach Dawn Staley is building in Columbia is special.

The eventual dynasty could be the first team to go back-to-back since UConn had its four-peat, which ended in 2016. March looks bright for South Carolina, returning National Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Aliyah Boston, who’s now entering her senior campaign. Boston will also have her front court force, Victaria Saxton and Kamilla Cardoso.

But the talent and most importantly experience doesn’t stop there. Although former point guard Destanni Henderson is off to the WNBA, South Carolina can look toward Zia Cooke, Raven Johnson (coming back from injury) and Georgia Tech transfer Kierra Fletcher to fill this role. The Gamecocks also return two-way nightmares Brea Beal and Laeticia Amihere. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I can see more rings, trophies and confetti in South Carolina’s future.

As for my other No. 1 seeds, Stanford loses three starters — Lexi and Lacie Hull, plus Anna Wilson — but the Cardinal still bring in strong veteran leadership, like 2021 MOP Haley Jones and Pac-12 Player of the Year Cameron Brink. Head coach Tara VanDerveer also snags another No. 1 recruit in the country, Lauren Betts. The 6-7 forward will be a dangerous duo with the 6-4 Brink. Literal trees in the paint for Stanford (see what I did there?). This team knows what it take to win a championship. There’s no doubt that the Cardinal have a chip on their shoulder after a disappointing exit in March, falling to UConn by five points in the Final Four.

Speaking of the Final Four, watch out for Tennessee. This team went as far as the Sweet 16 last season, but I believe the Vols are a strong Final Four contender this season. Tennessee lost one of its top scorers in Rae Burrell to the WNBA, but head coach Kellie Harper hit the transfer portal jackpot, securing Rickea Jackson, Jillian Hollingshed, Jasmine Powell and Jasmine Franklin. The Vols look deep, dangerous, long and athletic with their new pieces, including the No. 11 recruit, Justine Pissott. Tons of new faces, but of course familiar faces, like Tennessee’s lead scorer, Jordan Horston, and the nation’s leader in blocks, Tamari Key. If the Vols can remain healthy this season, there’s no question that this team can go far.

Last but not least, we have to talk about Texas. This might be the year the Longhorns get over the hump after making back-to-back Elite Eight appearances. Their last trip was led by Big 12 freshman of the Year, Rori Harmon. Imagine how experience as Texas’ floor general will do for this squad? The sky is the limit in my opinion. The Big 12 defending champs are actually my automatic qualifier over Baylor and Iowa State. We’ll see how that shakes out.

Iowa eye my 1-line as a No. 2 seed

Watch out for the Iowa Hawkeyes. The defending Big Ten champs are looking to make more program history. This squad has the potential of breaking into my one line. The Final Four contender is equipped with the same scoring machines, who produced the second nationally ranked offense, which features the dynamic duo Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano. Also, Clark was the nation’s leader in points, and Czinano led the nation in field goal percentage last season.

The offense and talent is there, but as we all know the iconic motto, defense wins championships. Iowa’s scoring defense was ranked 12th in the Big Ten and 306th in the nation, allowing opponents 70.5 points per game. Iowa was stunned by Creighton in the second round of the 2022 March Madness tournament as they tried to find an answer to Creighton’s scoring threats, including Lauren Jensen’s iconic game-dagger, before falling to the Blue Jays by one possession. I’ll be keeping a look out for Iowa on the defensive end of the floor this season.

Iowa has some strong and early resume-boosting games against non-conference teams, like Belmont, Oregon State, NC State and Iowa State for opportunities to climb to a one seed in my bracket. This will be a fun team to watch this season.

Also on the 2-line, I have Iowa State, UConn and Louisville in this first projection.

Last four in

  1. Colorado
  2. Florida State
  3. South Dakota
  4. Mississippi State

Last four out

  1. Texas A&M
  2. Liberty
  3. Kentucky
  4. Kansas State

The automatic qualifiers

Here are my 32 automatic qualifiers, based off of who I think will lock in spots by becoming the champs of their respective conference tournaments:

CONFERENCE AUTOMATIC QUALIFIER
America East Albany
American Athletic South Florida
Atlantic 10 UMass
ACC Louisville
ASUN Florida Gulf Coast
Big 12 Texas
Big East UConn
Big Sky Montana State
Big South Longwood
Big Ten Iowa
Big West Hawaii
Colonial Athletic Association Drexel
Conference USA Middle Tennessee
Horizon  Youngstown State
Ivy Princeton
MAAC Manhattan
MAC Toledo
MEAC Howard
Missouri Valley Belmont
Mountain West UNLV
Northeast Fairleigh Dickinson
Ohio Valley Tennessee Tech 
Pac-12 Stanford
Patriot Boston University
SEC South Carolina
Southern Mercer 
Southland Texas A&M
SWAC Jackson State
Summit League South Dakota 
Sun Belt  Troy
West Coast  Gonzaga
Western Athletic Conference Stephen F. Austin

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