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Gary Putnik | | March 10, 2023

These are the most common Elite Eight matchups by seed in women's tournament history

Watch the final 4 minutes of 1998's historic Harvard-Stanford 16-over-1 upset

The NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament made the jump to a 64-team field in 1994. That brought more possible combinations for matchups in the Elite Eight (fourth round). 

Each region of the bracket features 16 teams. Each team has eight possible Elite Eight opponents as half of the region houses seeds Nos. 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12, 13, 16, while the other half has Nos. 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 14, 15. That leaves 128 possible combinations per region. In the last 28 tournaments, we've only seen 12 of those possible 128 matchups.

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Take a look at all the Elite Eight matchup combinations there have been since the tournament expanded to 64 teams.

No. 1 vs. No. 2 50
No. 1 vs. No. 3 26
No. 1 vs. No. 6 7
No. 1 vs. No. 7 4
No. 1 vs. No. 10 2
No. 1 vs. No. 11 1
No. 2 vs. No. 4 7
No. 2 vs. No. 5 2
No. 2 vs. No. 9 1
No. 3 vs. No. 4 8
No. 4 vs. No. 7 2
No. 5 vs. No. 6 2

The two most common matchups have been the No. 1 seed against the No. 2 and No. 1 against the No. 3, totaling 76 of the past 112 Elite Eight games. 

The third most common matchup is No. 3 against No. 4. This makes sense as those are the second-highest seeds in each of its respective part of the region. In 2021, No. 3 Arizona beat No. 4 Indiana and eventually went on to make an appearance in the national title game. There, the Wildcats would fall to No. 1 Stanford, 54-53. 

There have only been three instances of double-digit seeds making it to the regional finals, each time having to face a No. 1 seed. In 2011, No. 11 Gonzaga lost 83-60 to No. 1 Stanford, then in 2017, No. 10 Oregon lost 90-52 to No. 1 UConn. In 2022, No. 10 Creighton fell to No. 1 South Carolina.

NO. 1 SEEDS: Here's how often No. 1 seeds make the Final Four

The lowest seed to ever win in the Elite Eight in a 64-team format was No. 9 Arkansas in 1998. That year, the Razorbacks beat No. 2 Duke 77-72. They went on to face undefeated No. 1 Tennessee in the Final Four. The Lady Vols beat Arkansas 86-58.

In that 1998 season, Tennessee was the lone No. 1 seed in the Elite Eight. That was the only time one No. 1 seed made it to the fourth round. 

But what about when it comes to who goes on to win the championship? More often than not, it's the No. 1 or 2 seeds getting it done. Since 1994, there have only been two non-No. 1 or 2 seeds to win: No. 3 North Carolina (1994), No. 3 Tennessee (1997). 

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