By Sam Morris
Sam Morris is from Madison Heights, Michigan, and is an undergraduate student at BGSU majoring in Sports Management. He has a passion for sports writing and journalism. In his free time, he volunteers in the strategic communications department at BGSU at various sporting events and he also performs, writes, and produces his own raps for the music industry club at BGSU.
March 15, 2023
With selection Sunday complete, the field of 68 is set for the Women’s and Men’s March Madness tournaments. I will be specifically focusing on the women’s tournament in this post. I will be explaining why I believe 8 teams in the field could win it all and ultimately predict which one I believe in the most to cut down the nets in Dallas this year. There are many interesting storylines surrounding women’s basketball this season including that the top overall seed South Carolina will attempt to defend their 2022 championship and that Caitlin Clark is on the verge of setting multiple Iowa Hawkeye records. The women’s tournament will play their Sweet 16 and Elite 8 regional games in either Greenville, SC or Seattle, WA depending on what side of the bracket your team is on. The final four will be played at American Airlines Stadium in Dallas, TX. The tournament will start on Thursday, March 16.
2. IOWA HAWKEYES (26-6) (15-3) (BIG10) – Seattle 4 Region
Iowa is the 2 seed in the Seattle 4 region and a big part of that high ranking was their success in the most powerful conference this season in women’s basketball, the Big Ten. Iowa won the Big Ten tournament by beating powerhouse Maryland in the semis and then crushing Ohio State in the championship by a whopping 33 points. Caitlin Clark is the biggest reason why Iowa has a great shot to win the tournament. The 6 foot guard has physical prowess on defense while nearly averaging a triple double on offense averaging 27.0 PPG (3rd in D1), 7.5 RPG, and 8.3 APG (which leads all of D1). Meanwhile, as noted in the intro, Clark has also set multiple records this season at Iowa in number of consecutive 3 pointers made, 3-point shots made in a season, and career assists, while still a Junior. The fact that she can score at such a high average while leading the country in assists speaks to how high-powered this team’s total offense is. Clark’s attention that she receives from opposing defenses has also allowed forward McKenna Warnock to score with ease while creating matchup problems for any opponent in the field. Their biggest challenge will be getting past Stanford who is the top seed in their region and then possibly either a rematch with Maryland or undefeated South Carolina in the final 4.
2. MARYLAND TERAPINS (25-6) (15-3) (BIG 10) – Greenville 1 Region
Although Maryland lost to Iowa in the Big Ten tournament, they did finish 3rd in the Big Ten and beat Iowa once in the regular season. Maryland will have a difficult schedule in the tournament as they could face top seeded South Carolina in the regional final. However, Maryland has the distinction of being the only team in the tournament to face both South Carolina and Iowa, so they will definitely be prepared for either opponent. Similar to Iowa, Maryland’s strength lies in offense as they average 79.0 PPG as a team which ranks 13th in the country. They are led by Diamond Miller, who at 6 foot 3 is one of the tallest and most physical point guards in the country. Miller has been able to keep Clark relatively in check in all 3 games that they’ve matched up as Clark has scored under her average in 2 of the 3 games. Miller, meanwhile scored 26, 16, and 27 against Clark in their 3 matchups which included a 96-68 Maryland blowout win in the regular season. Overall, Maryland has been a top 5 team all year and great on both sides of the court. They most likely would have took Stanford’s spot as a 1 seed had it not been for their collapse down the stretch. If Maryland can get past South Carolina they have a real shot to win it all.
1. SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (32-0) (16-0) (SEC) – Greenville 1 Region
The defending champions led by former coach of the year Dawn Staley are quickly building a dynasty. They are undefeated this season overall and in conference play. They look completely unstoppable and its not hard to see why. Led by 3 time first-team All American 6’5 Center Aaliyah Boston, South Carolina does not let teams score easily. As a team the Gamecocks have led opposing offenses to just 51.1 PPG this season which ironically ranks 4th in the country below their first round matchup 16-seeded Norfolk State. While Norfolk State plays in the MEAC, which has barely any competition, South Carolina is putting up these insane defensive numbers in the SEC with opponents like Tennessee and LSU. When playing then-undefeated LSU and First-team All-American Angel Reese, South Carolina won handedly 88-64, while only giving up 16 points to Reese. Their offense is no joke either, scoring the 7th most PPG in the nation at 81.4. South Carolina has flat out dominated this season by winning 26 out of 32 games this season by over 10 points and should clearly be a favorite to win the tournament.
1. STANFORD CARDINAL (28-5) (15-3) (PAC 12) – Seattle 4 Region
The only team to take South Carolina to OT this year is Stanford, barely losing 76-71. Stanford won the PAC-12 regular season but has struggled down the stretch losing to Utah in the regular season finale and then UCLA in the Pac 12 Semifinals. Despite this, Stanford still got the top seed in the Seattle 4 region with Maryland’s struggles late in the season as well. Stanford is led by Senior SG Haley Jones who nearly averages a double-double and has performed very well in league play. Stanford’s greatest weapon however could be their incredible coaching from Tara Van Derveer whose extensive tournament experience will surely help the Cardinal be ready to go for the tournament despite their recent struggles. In their region, 4 seeded Texas and 3 seeded Duke have both had inconsistent seasons in the Big 12 and ACC so Stanford’s biggest threat to reach the Final 4 will likely be Iowa. Although they have a tough road, it is never wise to pick against the experience of Stanford especially when they have come the closest to beating South Carolina out of the entire field.
2. UCONN HUSKIES (29-5) (18-2) (BIG EAST) – Seattle 3
Geno Auriemma’s two-seeded Huskies had a down year by their dynastic standards, losing 5 games including 2 Big East losses against 9 seed Marquette and 11 seed St. John’s. Although these league losses were uncharacteristic for UCONN they still won the Big East and finished in the AP Top 10 without All-American Paige Bueckers who is out for the season with an ACL injury. Stepping up with Bueckers out has been a combination of forward Aaliyah Edwards and wing Dorka Juhasz. Edwards has stepped up to be the star of the team averaging 16.6 PPG and over 9 RPG. With Edwards drawing opposing defenses at ease, this leaves 6’5 Hungarian forward Dorka Juhasz to be just as dominant with her post game. Juhasz has averaged a double-double with points and rebounds this season and her pick and roll game with guard Lou-Lopez Senechal has been phenomenal this year. With Juhasz and Edwards in the post, UCONN should have no problem getting to the Elite 8 out of the Seattle 3 region and could definitely win the entire tournament. Their biggest challenges in the tournament will likely be top seeded Virginia Tech, and in my opinion, eventually divisional rival Villanova.
2. UTAH UTES (25-4) (15-3) (PAC 12) – Greenville 2
The Utah Utes have been counted out as a fluke many times this season after only being picked to finish 5th in the preseason Pac-12 coaches and media poll. However, the Utes proved doubters wrong as they finished the year as co-PAC-12 regular season champions with Stanford, going 15-3 in the conference. Their regular season record enabled the Utes to gain a 2 seed in March Madness, their best seed in school history. However, Utah ended the season on a sour note losing in the first round of the conference tournament to eventual champion Washington State, who was the 7 seed in the conference tournament and will earn a 5 seed in Utah’s region. Utah could also have to deal with 3 of the 5 first-team All-Americans in their region with the top-seeded Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes, 3 seeded LSU and Angel Reese, and 4-seeded Villanova who is led by Maddy Siegrist. Despite these hardships Utah could face, I still think they could win it all because they have had one of the toughest schedules in terms of S.O.S in all of D1, playing 11 ranked opponents and going 7-4 including a win against Stanford and an astounding 44 point win over 5 seed Oklahoma. Their offense is also ranked 4th in the country, scoring 83.5 PPG, led by forward Alissa Pili who is averaging 20.3 PPG. Utah’s gauntlet of a regular season schedule combined with their ability to play a high-powered offense and tenacious defense are top reasons why I think they could once again prove doubters wrong, and this time instead of winning the conference, win March Madness.
4. VILLANOVA WILDCATS (28-6) (17-3) (BIG EAST) – Greenville 2
Villanova is the lowest seed I have on this list of teams that I believe could win the March Madness, as a 4 seed in the Greenville 2 region. Despite their low ranking, Villanova has had a phenomenal season. Half of their total losses (3) were to fellow powerhouse, UCONN, and Villanova had key victories against tournament teams Creighton and South Florida. Their region will include top seeded Indiana who they could eventually play in the Sweet 16. While Villanova will be an underdog if this game were to take place, I think the Wildcats have the advantage because Indiana has not had an elite defense this season, especially when playing ranked teams. Villanova has the leading scorer in the nation in program career points leader, Maddy Siegrist, as she averages 28.9 PPG which should be a major problem for Indiana and any team Villanova comes across. If Villanova and UCONN were to play each other in the Final 4, it would be very hard for UCONN to win as beating a team 4 times in one season has only been done a few times in college basketball history. Villanova could not only be a bracket buster for people who favor Indiana or UCONN, but I think the Wildcats really have a true shot to win it all and give the University their first Women’s basketball championship in school history.
1. VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (27-4) (14-4) (ACC) – Seattle 3
Virginia Tech went undefeated in their non-conference schedule but 14-4 in the ACC, finishing in third. It seems odd that they were selected as a 1 seed in March Madness with their conference regular season, until you notice how they absolutely dominated teams in the ACC tournament. The Hokies defense swarmed opponents in the conference tournament, giving up just 37 points to 2 seeded Duke, 42 to Miami (FL), and 67 in their championship victory over Louisville. In fact, the Hokies defense hasn’t given up over 70 points since before Valentine’s day, over a month ago. All four of the Hokies losses came before February and they have won 11 straight games including 4 victories over ranked opponents over this streak. There isn’t a team in the field that wants to play against the Hokies defense and particularly against their 6 foot 6 center Elizabeth Kitley who averages a double-double with over 18 PPG and 10 RPG. With Kitley in the frontcourt, the Virginia Tech offense is carried by guard Georgia Amoore who averages over 15 PPG while creating opportunities for Kitley with 5.3 APG, ranking 21st in the country in that stat. Overall, Virginia Tech’s balanced attack on offense and their gritty defense could propel them to an NCAA championship in this tournament.
MY MARCH MADNESS PREDICTION: IOWA
Caitlin Clark, Iowa, Guard
After reviewing all of the teams on this list, I believe Iowa will win the women’s March Madness tournament. In my opinion, Caitlin Clark is an X-factor because of her ability to play make, defend, and score at will. Clark and Iowa’s offense as a whole ranks first in the nation with 87.5 PPG. With such an explosive offense, I don’t see any of the other defenses on this list being able to handle them except for possibly South Carolina. Stanford, the top seed in Iowa’s region, gave up over 80 points to Utah whose offense is worse statistically than Iowa’s. Overall, Stanford hasn’t been as consistent as they would like and for that reason I think Iowa will beat them in the elite 8 to reach the final 4 against South Carolina. If one of the final 4 matchups is Iowa v South Carolina, to me, that will be like the championship because the Hawkeyes and Gamecocks are better on both sides of the ball than Villanova, UCONN, Virginia Tech, and Utah. While South Carolina’s dynasty has a very impressive defense, they have yet to play a team that can score the 3 and dominate in the paint like Iowa can with their Clark-Warnock duo. On the defensive side, while Boston will surely get her fair share of points in the matchup, Warnock’s ability to get blocks and elitely defend in the paint and arc will put pressure on Boston that she hasn’t seen this entire season in the SEC. I think Iowa has enough firepower and hunger to win to knock off the defending champs in the final 4 and will eventually win the tournament against either UCONN or Villanova.
Nice story, Sam!