Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Time always has a way of sneaking up on you. While it may feel like the college basketball season just started, we’re past the halfway point and are fewer than eight weeks away from having a Women’s NCAA Tournament bracket.

But who will be a part of that 68-team field?

Luckily, we’ll be here with you every week from now until Selection Sunday with the CBS Sports research department’s updated Women’s Bracketology projections.

There’s no better time to start than now as we head into a terrific week of hoops headlined by Thursday’s clash between the nation’s undisputed top team in South Carolina and reigning national champion LSU.

Before we get underway, let’s remember the ground rules. These rankings reflect what our team believes the selection committee would do if the field was chosen today rather than who we think are necessarily the best teams in the country.

Teams are listed in order within a seed line and asterisks represent the team highest-ranked in the NET in each conference, which serve as our automatic bids.

Without further ado, let’s start from the top.

No. 1 seeds

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*South Carolina (17-0, 5-0 SEC): NET 1, SOS 10

Dawn Staley lost all five starters from a team that entered last season’s Women’s NCAA Tournament undefeated and reached the Final Four, and somehow they haven’t missed a beat. With a balanced scoring attack led by double-double machine and defensive stalwart Kamilla Cardoso, the Gamecocks have played just two games that were decided by 15 or fewer points. Thursday’s game at LSU could provide their toughest challenge yet.

*Stanford (17-2, 6-1 Pac-12): NET 4, SOS 11

Tara VanDerveer became the NCAA’s all-time winningest coach, breaking Mike Krzyzewski’s record, with a win over Oregon State on Sunday, but this season is not a simple celebration tour. With five NET top-25 wins to their name (tied with UCLA for the most in the nation), this is a battle-tested title contender looking to avenge a surprise exit in last season’s Round of 32. 

UCLA (15-2, 4-2 Pac-12): NET 7, SOS 3

Speaking of UCLA, the Bruins have a tournament resume nearly identical to that of Stanford, and while they lost in overtime Monday at Utah, there is still little doubt in their position as a No. 1 seed. Leading Division I with a +16.9 rebound margin, the Bruins are a battering ram that doesn’t stop until it gets the job done.

*Iowa (18-2, 7-1 Big Ten): NET 6, SOS 16

Caitlin Clark, Iowa’s #22 who turned 22 Monday, hasn’t slowed down in her takeover of not just women’s basketball, but all of college sports. Now on pace to break Kelsey Plum’s Division I women’s career scoring record in six games (which would be Feb. 15 vs Michigan), Clark’s 31.7 points per game this season is the most since Andrea Congreaves’ 33.0 PPG for Mercer in the 1991-92 season. The Hawkeyes lost in the national championship last season but are more than capable of doing one better this time around.

No. 2 seeds

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*UConn (16-3, 8-0 Big East): NET 3, SOS 2

It’s been another season marred by injuries for UConn, yet the Huskies have recovered from a 4-3 start (all losses coming to current NET top-10 teams) to rattle off 12 straight wins. Outscoring opponents by 34.6 points per game so far in Big East play (no, seriously), the Huskies’ charge has been led by Paige Bueckers, who is back to All-American form after playing just 17 games over the prior two seasons.

Colorado (16-2, 6-1 Pac-12): NET 17, SOS 14

The Buffaloes wasted no time putting themselves on the map this season with a comfortable win over LSU in their season opener. Since then, they’ve done nothing but cement their status as a No. 1 seed contender. Jaylyn Sherrod’s intensity and leadership are as unmistakable as they are captivating, but home fans won’t be able to see it for a while. Colorado begins a rare four-game road trip at Oregon State on Friday.

Kansas State (19-1, 8-0 Big 12): NET 8, SOS 45

One of just three Division I teams with one or fewer losses this season (joining South Carolina and Fairfield), Kansas State’s only blemish thus far came against Iowa, a team they’ve also beaten. That Nov. 16 win in Iowa City remains one of the best wins of the season, but the Wildcats haven’t stopped there. They’ve already taken down both Texas and Baylor, who look to be their closest competition in the Big 12, and have gone 13 straight games without allowing even 60 points.

NC State (16-2, 4-2 ACC): NET 10, SOS 37

The Wolfpack have six players averaging in double figures this season and are looking much more like the teams that earned No. 1 seeds in the 2021 and 2022 Women’s NCAA Tournaments than last year’s 20-12 squad that bowed out in the first round. NC State takes on Clemson and Boston College on the road this week. It’s a pair of games they should win if they don’t look too far ahead. Following those duels, they won’t go two games without playing a team ranked in the AP Poll for the rest of the season.

No. 3 seeds

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*Texas (18-2, 5-2 Big 12): NET 2, SOS 44

Texas’ electric centerpiece Rori Harmon was among the nation’s leaders in both assists and steals per game before suffering a season-ending ACL injury during practice just before the end of 2023. A perfect 13-0 before the announcement, the Longhorns have since lost close games to Baylor and Kansas State, but remain highly dangerous. Madison Booker has stepped up in a huge way, averaging 19.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists over the last seven games.

Indiana (16-2, 7-1 Big Ten): NET 11, SOS 28

The Hoosiers have lost only on the road to both Stanford and Iowa this season. While that’s nothing to scoff at, the losses came by a combined 59 points, leaving some concern to how they stack up against serious contenders. Luckily, following their game against Northwestern on Sunday, Indiana will play Maryland, Ohio State and Michigan State in a hugely important three-game stretch.

USC (13-3, 3-3 Pac-12): NET 15, SOS 6

From the moment she stepped on a court this season, freshman JuJu Watkins has been one of the best players in the country. Her USC Trojans have started conference play 3-3, but that’s just life in the best conference in the country, where more than half of teams are in the NET top 25 (they’ve both beaten and lost to UCLA over that span). I could lament conference realignment, but I’ll just tell you to watch as many of these games as possible.

LSU (18-2, 5-1 SEC): NET 12, SOS 89

Like last year, the Tigers had a relatively weak strength of schedule in the nonconference that likely prevents them from a top seed without a win against South Carolina. Yet, this remains one of the most talented teams in the country on paper despite all of the noise surrounding their season. The results they do have still speak for themselves — this is a dangerous group.

No. 4 seeds

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Ohio State (15-3, 6-1 Big Ten): NET 13, SOS 13

Ohio State’s offense looked nearly unstoppable in its overtime win over Iowa on Sunday. It was a career-high 33 points for Cotie McMahon, who hadn’t scored 15 points in a game in over a month. It hasn’t been quite the sophomore season we were expecting from McMahon, but she was downright terrifying in her team’s biggest game of the season, and this type of performance could absolutely flip the script.

Baylor (15-3, 4-3 Big 12): NET 14, SOS 39

Following Monday night’s loss to Kansas State, Baylor has lost three of its last four games, but as of now, the Bears still hold onto a hosting spot in the top 16. They’ll look to snap a two-game road losing streak at Oklahoma State on Sunday in what could be a telling game. Baylor is one of four Division I teams averaging at least 20 assists per game, but have just 12.7 APG in their three defeats.

Utah (14-5, 4-3 Pac-12): NET 5, SOS 5

This time last week, Utah was 0-5 in games against the NET top 50, and while all of those games were close, it was fair to ask if the Utes could put teams away without the unreal shot-making ability of Gianna Kneepkens, who’s out for the year with a foot injury. Since then, Utah has beaten USC by 20 then UCLA with a huge overtime performance. The verdict is in: they’re still here.

*Gonzaga (18-2, 5-0 WCC): NET 16, SOS 51

It may be a down year for the Gonzaga men, but the women are on track for potentially their best NCAA Tournament seed in school history. Yvonne Ejim is one of the most efficient high-volume scorers in the country, and the Truong sisters have all the experience in the world in the backcourt as fifth-year seniors. Gonzaga has already knocked off Stanford and has nine NET top-100 wins. Only five Division I teams have more.

No. 5 seeds

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Louisville (16-3, 5-1 ACC): NET 20, SOS 43

North Carolina (14-5, 6-1 ACC): NET 30, SOS 15

Oregon State (15-3, 4-3 Pac-12): NET 22, SOS 58

*Notre Dame (14-3, 5-2 ACC): NET 9, SOS 65

No. 6 seeds

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Syracuse (16-2, 6-1 ACC): NET 45, SOS 85

Creighton (14-3, 5-2 Big East): NET 25, SOS 22

Michigan State (13-5, 3-4 Big Ten): NET 19, SOS 27

Virginia Tech (14-4, 5-2 ACC): NET 18, SOS 50

No. 7 seeds

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Washington State (14-5, 3-3 Pac-12): NET 21, SOS 42

Maryland (12-6, 4-3 Big Ten): NET 27, SOS 4

Duke (12-6, 4-3 ACC): NET 24, SOS 12

West Virginia (16-2, 5-2 Big 12): NET 23, SOS 115

No. 8 seeds

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Marquette (15-3, 4-3 Big East): NET 26, SOS 91

Minnesota (14-4, 4-3 Big Ten): NET 31, SOS 33

*Princeton (14-3, 4-0 Ivy): NET 36, SOS 59

Nebraska (13-6, 5-3 Big Ten): NET 29, SOS 24

No. 9 seeds

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Penn State (13-5, 4-3 Big Ten): NET 28, SOS 29

Florida State (14-6, 5-3 ACC): NET 40, SOS 36

Iowa State (12-5, 6-1 Big 12): NET 38, SOS 47

Vanderbilt (17-3, 4-2 SEC): NET 53, SOS 54

No. 10 seeds

USATSI

*Richmond (17-3, 7-0 Atlantic 10): NET 47, SOS 109

Mississippi State (16-5, 3-3 SEC): NET 33, SOS 99

Texas A&M (14-4, 2-3 SEC): NET 32, SOS 80

*Green Bay (15-4, 8-1 Horizon): NET 34, SOS 142

No. 11 seeds

*UNLV (15-2, 5-1 MWC): NET 39, SOS 213

Miami (Fla.) (12-5, 2-4 ACC): NET 41, SOS 40

Michigan (13-6, 4-3 Big Ten): NET 43, SOS 52

Ole Miss (13-5, 3-2 SEC Conf): NET 55, SOS 66

Washington (12-5, 2-4 Pac-12): NET 42, SOS 61

No. 12 seeds

TCU (14-4, 1-4 Big 12): NET 35, SOS 110

California (13-6, 3-4 Pac-12): NET 58, SOS 20

*Drake (14-4, 7-0 MVC): NET 64, SOS 111

*Middle Tennessee (14-4, 4-0 CUSA): NET 51, SOS 181

*Florida Gulf Coast (15-4, 5-0 ASUN): NET 63, SOS 93

No. 13 seeds

*Toledo (12-4, 5-1 MAC): NET 82, SOS 113

*South Dakota St (13-5, 5-0 Summit): NET 67, SOS 74

*Eastern Washington (15-3, 5-0 Big Sky): NET 68, SOS 237

*North Texas (15-3, 5-1 AAC): NET 77, SOS 249

No. 14 seeds

*Fairfield (15-1, 7-0 MAAC): NET 87, SOS 331

*James Madison (14-5, 6-1 Sun Belt): NET 101, SOS 167

*Stony Brook (15-2, 5-1 CAA): NET 76, SOS 310

*Grand Canyon (16-3, 8-0 WAC): NET 96, SOS 339

No. 15 seeds

*Chattanooga (15-3, 3-0 SoCon): NET 106, SOS 286

*Maine (12-7, 5-0 America East): NET 107, SOS 210

*Jackson State (10-6, 5-0 SWAC): NET 99, SOS 17

*Lamar (11-5, 5-1 Southland): NET 132, SOS 120

No. 16 seeds

*UC Irvine (11-6, 5-2 Big West): NET 116, SOS 317

*Norfolk State (13-5, 2-1 MEAC): NET 134, SOS 264

*Holy Cross (12-5, 6-0 Patriot): NET 120, SOS 283

*Sacred Heart (10-9, 4-1 NEC): NET 252, SOS 322

*High Point (9-9, 4-1 Big South): NET 270, SOS 126

*Tennessee Tech (8-9, 3-3 OVC): NET 212, SOS 307

Last Four In

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Ole Miss (13-5, 3-2 SEC Conf): NET 55, SOS 66

Washington (12-5, 2-4 Pac-12): NET 42, SOS 61

TCU (14-4, 1-4 Big 12): NET 35, SOS 110

California (13-6, 3-4 Pac-12): NET 58, SOS 20

First Four Out

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Tennessee (12-6, 5-1 SEC): NET 57, SOS 18

Alabama (15-6, 2-4 SEC): NET 37, SOS 86

Oklahoma (11-6, 5-1 Big 12): NET 52, SOS 57

Arkansas (14-6, 2-3 SEC): NET 62, SOS 64

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