It’s been pretty easy to pick UConn to win the title the last few years. While the path may be more difficult this season, the result will be the same. The question is what will happen in the other 57 games in the women’s bracket that may not be so obvious.
Here’s one look at what could happen over the next three weeks:
The bracket breakdown (winners in all caps):
(1) UCONN vs. (16) Albany — The Great Danes have dominated the America East, winning the title six straight years. First-year coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee has picked up where Katie Abrahamson-Henderson left off before she left for UCF. The problem is they are facing a team that has won 107 consecutive games.
(8) SYRACUSE vs. (9) Iowa State — The Orange probably were seeded a little too low and will play with a chip on their shoulder. Quentin Hillsman’s team won’t follow up its incredible tournament run last year with a first-round exit.
(12) PENN vs. (5) Texas A&M — The Quakers have tournament experience, a talented front court and play solid defense. That usually is enough to get a victory in the NCAAs.
(4) UCLA vs. (13) Boise State — The Broncos are riding a 10-game winning streak. The problem is they didn’t face a team like the Bruins in that run.
(6) WEST VIRGINIA vs. (11) Elon — The Mountaineers pulled off an amazing feat in the Big 12 Tournament beating the top three teams. Tynice Martin had a conference tournament to remember and she should stay hot against a very talented Elon team.
(3) MARYLAND vs. (14) Bucknell — The Terps are tough to beat at home. Throw in the extra chip on their shoulder for being underseeded in their mind.
(10) OREGON vs. (7) Temple — The Owls are back in the tournament for the first time since 2011. No one has more wins as a double-digit seed then Kelly Graves when he coach Gonzaga. He’ll continue that magic with the Ducks.
(2) DUKE vs. (15) Hampton — Not many teams have gone from unranked to Top 10 in the poll. The Blue Devils did just that. After missing the tournament last year for the first time since 1994, Duke is ready to make a run.
UCONN vs. Syracuse — The last time these two former Big East rivals met, it was for the national championship. UConn rolled to that victory and should do so again.
UCLA vs. Penn — The Bruins guards are just too good to lose at home to Penn.
MARYLAND vs West Virginia — Destiny Slocum is one of the most talented freshmen in the country. She’ll be the difference in this physical matchup.
DUKE vs. Oregon — Lexie Brown against Sabrina Ionescu should be an entertaining point guard matchup. Brown has enough of a supporting cast to beat the Ducks.
UCONN vs. Ucla — The Bruins haven’t advanced beyond the third round of the NCAAs since 1999. To see that streak end they’ll have to pull off a monumental upset.
MARYLAND vs. Duke — So Lexie Brown left Maryland to go to Duke after leading the Terps to consecutive Final Fours. Just another motivation for Brenda Frese’s squad to keep playing.
UCONN vs. Maryland — These teams met in December in Maryland and UConn won by six with a sick Katie Lou Samuelson. She’s healthy now and the Huskies are playing in Connecticut. Look for a similar outcome.
OKLAHOMA CITY REGIONAL
(1) BAYLOR vs. (16) Texas Southern — The Lady Bears have a bad taste in their mouth after losing in Big 12 title game. They’ll feel better after an easy first-round win.
(9) CALIFORNIA vs. (8) Lsu — Questions abound whether Cal should have even made the tournament. Kristine Anigwe is the best player on the court and she’ll get the Bears out of the first round.
(5) TENNESSEE vs. (5) Dayton — Honestly, the Lady Vols could lose in the first round and it wouldn’t be a shock. They also could make a run to their first Final Four since 2008.
(4) LOUISVILLE vs. (13) Chattanooga — The Mocs are making their 15th trip to the NCAA Tournament and are 1-14 since 1989. The teams met in November and the Cardinals won by 16. Look for a repeat.
(11) GONZAGA vs. (6) Oklahoma — The Zags are 3-0 in the first round as an 11-seed. They’ll keep that trend going with most likely the Washington crowd getting behind them.
(3) WASHINGTON vs. (14) Montana State — The Huskies will start their march to a second-straight Final Four.
(7) DEPAUL vs. (10) Northern Iowa — This might be one of the highest-scoring games in the opening round. Doug Bruno’s squad loves to put points on the board and they’ll advance.
(2) MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. (15) Troy — The Bulldogs are having their best season ever and should have no trouble in the opening round.
BAYLOR vs California — The Lady Bears are just too big and too deep and that will cause trouble for Lindsay Gottlieb’s young Cal squad.
TENNESSEE vs. Louisville — This might be the best game of the second round. The problem for the Cardinals is they have no one who can match up with Mercedes Russell inside.
WASHINGTON vs. Gonzaga — There will be a huge crowd for this game as the Huskies fans will get one final chance to see Kelsey Plum play at home. She’ll put on another show.
MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. DEPAUL — This will be a tempo game with the Blue Demons’ offense against the Bulldogs’ defense. Defense usually wins.
TENNESSEE vs. Baylor — Kim Mulkey said it would be a major disappointment not to play in Dallas in the Final Four. Unfortunately, the Lady Vols have the size and speed to match the Lady Bears.
WASHINGTON vs Mississippi State — The Huskies have one of the best players in the tournament in Plum and she’ll carry them past the Bulldogs.
TENNESSEE vs Washington — Diamond Deshields vs. Kelsey Plum is a heck of guard matchup. The Lady Vols’ supporting cast is better than the Huskies and they’ll reach the Final Four.
(1) NOTRE DAME vs. (16) Robert Morris — These teams met in the NCAAs in 2014 and the Irish won easily. The NEC will be left still looking for its first NCAA win.
(8) GREEN BAY vs. (9) Purdue — Boilermakers coach Sharon Versyp announced she had breast cancer last week. Purdue made a memorable run in the Big Ten Tournament, unfortunately the Phoenix stand in the way.
(5) OHIO STATE vs. (12) Western Kentucky — Buckeyes forward Stephanie Mavunga has been out with a foot injury. She could return for the NCAAs. They’ll need her to make a deep run.
(4) KENTUCKY vs. (13) Belmont — The Wildcats had a rough offseason, but coach Matthew Mitchell righted the ship. The reward is potentially four games in Lexington.
(6) N.C. STATE vs. (11) Auburn — Wes Moore has a senior-laden Wolfpack team that is primed to make a run in the NCAAs.
(3) TEXAS vs. (14) Central Arkansas — The Longhorns haven’t looked the same since their double-OT game against Florida State. They still have enough talent to beat the Sugar Bears.
(10) DRAKE vs. (7) Kansas State — The Wildcats hit the Stanford lottery getting to host the first two rounds. They run into a Drake team that has the second-longest winning streak in the country.
(2) STANFORD vs. (15) New Mexico State — The Cardinal will make the trip to Manhattan, Kansas, because of a gymnastics tournament at their home.
NOTRE DAME vs. Green Bay — The Phoenix only lost by four on the Irish’s homecourt in November. Notre Dame has gotten a lot better since.
OHIO STATE vs. Kentucky — Kelsey Mitchell can flat out score. Not sure the Wildcats have a way to stop her.
N.C. STATE vs. Texas — The Wolfpack beat Notre Dame, Florida State, Duke and Louisville this season. Why not add Texas to the list.
STANFORD vs. Drake — Lizzy Wendell is the third-leading active career scorer with over 2,400 points. She’ll see her stellar career come to an end.
NOTRE DAME vs. Ohio State — Brianna Turner will make the difference for the Irish.
STANFORD vs. N.C. State — It’s almost not fair that the Cardinal will have to make a second cross-country flight. Erica McCall will get Stanford to the Elite Eight.
NOTRE DAME vs. Stanford — These teams played last year in Lexington and Stanford came away with a six-point win. The Irish get their revenge.
(1) SOUTH CAROLINA vs. (16) UNC Asheville — The Gamecocks won’t miss a beat without Alaina Coates, who is sidelined for the tournament with an ankle injury.
(8) ARIZONA STATE vs. (9) Michigan State — Tori Jankoska is the Spartans’ star. She will do almost enough to single-handedly beat the Sun Devils. Just will fall a little short.
(12) QUINNIPIAC vs. (5) Marquette — The Golden Eagles won the Big East Tournament at home. Going on the road won’t be as easy for them.
(4) MIAMI vs. (13) Florida Gulf Coast — The two schools have played once in 2010 and the Hurricanes won that by 13. Miami has a size advantage with seven players taller than 6 feet to none for the Eagles, which should be enough to earn the win.
(6) MISSOURI vs. (11) South Florida — Jose Fernandez’s Bulls are tournament veterans. They’ll have to figure out a way to slow down Sophie Cunningham, which might be tough to do.
(3) FLORIDA STATE vs. (14) Western Illinois — The Leathernecks won The Summit League regular-season and tournament titles. They just haven’t faced a team as talented as the Seminoles.
(7) CREIGHTON vs. (10) Toledo — The two coaches are no strangers as Toledo coach Tricia Cullop spent years at Evansville. Bluejays coach Jim Flanery won 12 of the 15 matchups. He’ll keep that trend going.
(2) OREGON STATE vs. (15) Long Beach State — The 49ers are making their first appearance in 25 years. It will be a short one.
SOUTH CAROLINA vs. Arizona State — A’ja Wilson will assert herself on both ends of the court to carry the Gamecocks to the Sweet 16.
MIAMI vs Quinnipiac — Homecourt will be too much for the Bobcats to overcome.
FLORIDA STATE vs Missouri — Sophie Cunningham will give the Seminoles fits, but Leticia Romero will be too much for the Tigers to handle.
OREGON STATE vs. Creighton — This might be closer than people think. Sydney Weise won’t lose her home finale.
SOUTH CAROLINA vs. Miami — Neither team will be too happy flying across country to play this game. The Gamecocks’ guards will be enough to get them through this round.
FLORIDA STATE vs. Oregon State — The Beavers have no answer for Shakalya Thomas.
FLORIDA STATE vs. South Carolina — This is where not having Coates is really going to hurt the Gamecocks as Florida State earns its first Final Four berth in school history.
UCONN vs. Tennessee — About the only top program that UConn hasn’t beat during its unfathomable run of six national championships in the last eight years is Tennessee.
NOTRE DAME vs. Florida State — An ACC team will make the title game for the fourth consecutive season.
UCONN vs. Notre Dame — The win streak will be at 112 games at this point. Here’s a better one: Geno Auriemma is 11-0 in national championship games. Both streaks will continue.