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Gary Putnik | | March 27, 2023

Here's how often No. 1 seeds make the women's Final Four

Mississippi State buzzer beater ends UConn's 111-game win streak | 2017 Final Four

Just because a team enters the NCAA DI women’s basketball tournament as one of the four No. 1 seeds doesn’t mean it's guaranteed a spot in the Final Four — just look at Indiana and Stanford going down in the second round in 2023.

But it does help.

The road to the Final Four is never easy. The first DI women’s basketball tournament in 1982 featured 32 teams. The next season, the tournament grew to 36 before reverting back to 32 from 1984-85. That number would continue to rise from 40 to 48 to 64. Starting with the 2022 tournament, 68 teams earn the chance to play for a national championship. A bigger tournament means more games to win.

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While the number of total teams in the tournament has changed over the years, the number of No. 1 seeds has always stayed the same. With four teams at the top of each region of the bracket, that position typically gives each the best possible chance of making the Final Four.

Across all 41 tournaments, there have been a total of 164 No. 1 seeds. Of those, 92 (56.1%) have made the Final Four. The most common amount for top seeds in the Final Four is two: 23 out of 41 tournaments (56%). But there have been at least two No. 1 seeds in 35 out of 41 years — meaning 85 percent of Final Fours have had two, three or all four No. 1 seeds. That happened in 2023, too, as South Carolina and Virginia Tech advanced to the Final Four.

During that time, there have been four instances of all four No. 1 seeds making it to the Final Four. Since 2012, three of the four all-No. 1 seed national semifinals have occurred, meaning it happened just once between 1982 to 2011: 1989, 2012, 2015 and 2018.

There are a couple of teams that have been the dominating force in the sport across the history of DI women’s basketball: UConn and Tennessee. 

The Huskies have made the Final Four as a No. 1 seed 19 times. That means nearly half of all the tournaments (46.3%) have featured a UConn team as a No. 1 seed in the Final Four. Ten of those 19 times have resulted in a national championship for the Huskies.

The Lady Vols have also been impressive, picking up 12 national semifinal appearances as a No. 1 seed. Ten of those years had Tennessee in the national championship game, with seven ending in a national title.

Other than UConn and Tennessee, the team with the third-most Final Four appearances as a No. 1 seed is a tie between Louisiana Tech and Stanford at eight. Notre Dame is close behind with seven. All of Louisiana Tech’s appearances came before 2000. All three of the Cardinal's national titles (1990, 1992, 2021) have come has a top seed.

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