Women's bracket hits and misses: Why Stanford is a No. 1 seed

8 months ago 6

8:42 PM ET

  • Charlie CremeESPN.com


      Charlie Creme projects the women's NCAA tournament bracket for ESPN.com.

The South Carolina Gamecocks, Indiana Hoosiers, Virginia Tech Hokies and Stanford Cardinal are the No. 1 seeds in the 2023 women's NCAA tournament bracket.

Nailing down which team would be the final 1-seed was likely one of the most difficult decisions for this season's NCAA women's selection committee. The Gamecocks and Hoosiers were locks, and the Hokies weren't far behind, but three teams -- the UConn Huskies, Iowa Hawkeyes and the Cardinal -- were in the running to join the trio on the top line.

In the NCAA's final reveal on Feb. 23, the committee's top 16 seemed to lean toward recent success over full body of work. At Bracketology headquarters, we wondered whether that trend would continue on Selection Sunday.

Here's a look at why Stanford got the nod for the No. 1 seed, and how the top-16 seeds -- and the right to host early-round games -- came into focus.

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Why Stanford got the final No. 1 seed

Résumé, not recent success, won the night for Stanford. The Cardinal had more wins against the top 50 of the NET than any team in the country expect South Carolina. That key metric and the fact that the Pac-12 was the highest-rated league in the country carried the day for Stanford over UConn and Iowa.

Questions lingered about how Stanford finished the season -- a loss to Utah in the regular-season finale and giving away a comfortable fourth-quarter lead before falling to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals -- but the committee elected to look at the broader picture to reward Stanford.

UConn's résumé is better in a couple of key areas -- top-25 NET wins and strength of schedule -- but the Huskies struggled in a more pronounced way in February than Stanford did. Both teams lost two games that month, but the Cardinal had impressive victories over the UCLA Bruins, Colorado Buffaloes, Arizona Wildcats and Washington State Cougars.

A weary UConn had a tough time surviving the DePaul Blue Demons and Georgetown Hoyas, in addition to suffering losses to the St. John's Red Storm and Marquette Golden Eagles.

It's fair to say that any one of these three teams -- the Cardinal, Hawkeyes and Huskies -- could have been the final No. 1 seed, but Stanford won with its complete body of work.

Which teams are hosting?

How a team fared in its conference tournament seemed to play a big role in how the NCAA selection committee determined the top-16 seeds. The Tennessee Lady Volunteers, who upset the LSU Tigers to reach the SEC tournament championship game a week ago, snuck in as one of the last No. 4 seeds.

We had projected the North Carolina Tar Heels as a host for first- and second-round games, but the Tar Heels ended up a 6-seed. The Tar Heels fell to Duke in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. North Carolina was lower in the NET rankings than Tennessee, but the Tar Heels had twice as many top-25 wins as the Lady Vols, and some of their February losses came with two starters injured. By the time the Tar Heels reached the ACC tournament, they were completely healthy -- yet still went out early.

A good performance in the conference tournament was one common theme among all the other teams in the bracket's top 16. The Villanova Wildcats reached the Big East final. The UCLA Bruins and Texas Longhorns did the same in the Pac-12 and Big 12, respectively. The recent success of teams seemed to be the top factor in seeding the top 16.

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