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NCAA Tournament bracketology: Projecting 2023 teams and seeds

Virginia Tech put itself in the conversation for a No. 1 seed with its ACC Tournament win. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

March Madness is creeping up on us, and every team is fighting to earn its spot in the field. The Selection Show takes place at 8 p.m. ET Sunday. In the meantime, contenders are battling it out in conference tournaments for automatic bids and resume-building wins.

Here’s what I think the 2023 NCAA Tournament bracket should look like if the season ended today.

No. 1 seeds

South Carolina, Indiana, Stanford, Virginia Tech

Undefeated SEC champion and reigning national title winner South Carolina is the de facto overall No. 1 seed.

Next comes Indiana, which — despite losing to Iowa and being on the wrong end of a 24-point comeback by Ohio State — has been consistent all season in a Big Ten conference that challenges teams at every turn. The Hoosiers have done enough to keep a 1-seed. While an argument can be made for Iowa, which took home the Big Ten tournament title, overall body of work gives the edge to Indiana. The Hawkeyes have been on a tear lately, but they have more questionable losses on the season than Indiana (Kansas State, in particular).

Stanford will be the third No. 1 seed despite a few slip-ups this season. The Cardinal’s loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament hurts, but not enough to bump them off the top line. Stanford has a No. 4 NET ranking and solid wins in and out of conference.

Competition for the final No. 1 seed is fierce. Iowa, Utah, Maryland and UConn were all in contention, but Virginia Tech played itself into the top of the bracket thanks to an ACC tournament title and an impressive record against top-ranked opponents.

Aliyah Edwards has been a bright spot for a UConn team beset by multiple injuries. (Matt Krohn/USA TODAY Sports)

No. 2 seeds

UConn, Iowa, Utah, Maryland

Iowa just misses out on a 1-seed, but their Big Ten tournament win makes the Hawkeyes the best of the No. 2s. Meanwhile, Maryland’s overall resume is solid enough to keep a 2-seed despite the Terrapins getting blown out by Iowa in the same tournament. Maryland has some of the best non-conference wins out of this bunch, topping both UConn and Notre Dame (when the Irish were at full strength). That and regular-season success in one of the country’s top conferences helps Maryland’s case.

Utah played itself out of a 1-seed by losing to Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament, but the Utes have done enough during the regular season to stop themselves from dropping even further. Other than that Washington State loss, the Utes lost only to ranked teams while beating stellar conference opponents, including Stanford, Colorado and UCLA.

UConn gets the final 2-seed thanks to strength of schedule. LSU’s loss to Tennessee in the SEC tournament allows the Huskies to keep their spot.

No. 3 seeds

Duke, Notre Dame, LSU, Texas

Two ACC teams find themselves on the 3-seed list, a testament to the conference’s strength. Duke would have been a No. 2 prior to their loss to Virginia Tech on Feb. 16 and close call against Virginia in their next game. They didn’t help their case in the conference tournament, either.

Notre Dame has been struggling without Dara Mabrey and Olivia Miles, and their lopsided loss to Louisville in the ACC tournament is proof of that. Still, overall body of work has to be considered when it comes to seeding. The Irish have great wins over teams such as UConn and Virginia Tech, plus a high NET ranking (8). They may struggle in March Madness without two of their starters, but that has nothing to do with seeding.

Texas is the surprise team on this list, but the Longhorns have crept back into favor in the past month. After a rocky start to the season, during which the Longhorns lost four of their first seven games and fell out of the AP poll, they’ve turned things around. They picked up a statement win over Oklahoma on Jan. 25 and are currently 11th in the NET rankings.

If the Tigers had a better resume heading into the conference tournament, they might have been able to hang onto a higher seed. But with no standout wins on their non-conference slate, LSU has to fall back on their two-loss record, which should give UConn an edge in the fight for a 2-seed. LSU’s consistency despite its weak schedule barely allows them to hang onto a 3-seed.

Villanova's Maddy Siegrist leads all scorers in NCAA Division I this season. (Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

No. 4 seeds

Ohio State, UCLA, Oklahoma, Villanova

Ohio State is the surprise of this group. The Buckeyes started the season looking unbeatable, with an 18-0 record to match, but then as injuries to Madison Greene (out for the season), Jacy Sheldon and Rebeka Mikulasikova plagued the squad, they dropped seven of their last 13 games. But the Buckeyes have some fight left, and they proved it with a monumental win over Indiana in the Big Ten tournament. A 4-seed may seem a bit high, but no one in the 5 and 6 groups has done anything to show they are more worthy than the Buckeyes, who just executed a 24-point comeback over a team projected to be a No. 1 seed.

UCLA was sitting behind both Arizona and Colorado in seeding before it topped Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament, while the Buffs and the Wildcats went down early. The Bruins had a difficult January, dropping games to Arizona, Utah and Colorado, but then bounced back with four wins in a row. Add in the win over the conference’s top team, and UCLA has the resume for a 4-seed.

No. 5 seeds

Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, Louisville

The chaos of the Pac-12 tournament affected Arizona and Colorado in a big way. One win by each team and they might be hosting the first round. Instead, these squads find themselves on the 5-line. The Buffs in particular miss out, as they have been nearly unstoppable at home this season.

Michigan also didn’t help itself in the Big Ten tournament, nor in the games leading up to it. A loss to Ohio State looks better now that the Buckeyes beat Indiana, but Michigan’s resume is no better than any of the 4-seeds and no worse than the 6s.

Louisville’s appearance in the ACC championship game moves the Cardinals from a 6- to a 5-seed.

Florida State guard Ta'Niya Latson is a leading candidate for Freshman of the Year. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

No. 6 seeds

Florida State, North Carolina, Iowa State, Tennessee

The six-seeds are all teams that have gone through struggles and surprises this season. Florida State worked itself into the conversation when they beat North Carolina back in December, and since then, wins over NC State and Duke have only helped their case.

Tennessee struggled mightily out of the gate but settled into a good place as the season progressed. North Carolina has wins worthy of a higher seeding, but their inconsistency — the Tar Heels are 21-10 — keeps them from moving up.

Iowa State has stayed under the radar since Stephanie Soares tore her ACL and took the Cyclones out of national title conversations. Still, they’ve had a solid season, and as the Big 12 tournament begins, they can make a case to move up. For now, a 6-seed is a good spot for this team, which gets a boost by being 12th in the NET.

No. 7 seeds

Gonzaga, NC State, Creighton, Washington State

Of the 7-seeds, Gonzaga is the strongest. The likely WCC champions are 28-3, with quality wins over Tennessee and Louisville. They’ve also taken care of business in conference with just one loss.

NC State earns this position thanks to wins over Iowa and Notre Dame despite struggling overall in the ACC (8-8). The big upsets and a No. 18 ranking in the NET help the Wolfpack’s case.

Washington State is the surprise of this group. Before the Pac-12 tournament, the Cougars were among the last eight or so teams to earn a bid. Now, they not only have secured an automatic bid, they have played themselves up from a 10- or 11-seed and onto the 7-line. Topping Utah, Colorado and UCLA is no easy feat, but the Cougars pulled it off.

Creighton finished third in the Big East behind UConn and Villanova, with a victory over the latter helping the Blue Jays’ resume. They went on to lose a close game to the Wildcats in their conference tournament, but that doesn’t negatively impact the team overall.

USC snapped Stanford's 51-game winning streak against unranked opponents in January. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

No. 8 seeds

Illinois, Baylor, USC, South Florida

Illinois, Baylor and USC are all in the same boat. They’ve had amazing wins as well as head-scratching losses. But each team has enough quality victories to fall into the 8-seed category.

South Florida should lock up a No. 8 seed by winning the AAC but could fall if an upset occurs.

No. 9 seeds

Kansas, Miami, Marquette, Ole Miss

I know teams don’t earn their seeds based on games they almost won, but Ole Miss’ near upset of South Carolina in the regular season is indicative of how good the Rebels can be. They’ve held their own in the SEC with a 9-5 record and have wins over other potential tournament teams in Georgia and Arkansas.

Kansas and Marquette both spent time in the AP Top 25 this season but find themselves unranked at the moment. Miami is in the top half of a stacked ACC, having beaten North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida State, which makes them one of the stronger 9-seeds.

No. 10 seeds

Columbia, Purdue, Middle Tennessee, Alabama

Middle Tennessee is well-respected by AP voters, having been ranked in the Top 25 for the last few weeks. While the Blue Raiders play in Conference USA, which doesn’t earn them any points, they did beat Louisville in December and have been consistent since then.

Another notable 10-seed is Columbia, a potential sleeper in the NCAA Tournament. Led by sharpshooter Abbey Hsu and her 18.2 points per game, the Lions are 24-1 and atop the Ivy League standings.

Jayla Everett and St. John's took down No. 4 UConn late in the regular season. (Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports)

No. 11 seeds

Florida Gulf Coast, St. John’s, Nebraska, Syracuse, Princeton

St. John’s played itself into the tournament by upsetting UConn late in the regular season, and Syracuse, Princeton and Nebraska are all on the bubble.

No. 12 seeds

UNLV, Oklahoma State, St. Louis, South Dakota State, Mississippi State

UNLV is another team that I would hate to match up with in the first round. The Runnin’ Rebels don’t get much love nationally while playing in the Mountain West, but that’s where the eye test comes in. UNLV has Power 5 talent, and if you watch them even once, it’s easy to see why they are a scary opponent.

St. Louis secured an automatic bid with a cinematic win over UMass in its conference final.

No. 13 seeds

Illinois State, Toledo, Green Bay, Long Beach State

Illinois State is fighting with Belmont for an automatic bid in the Missouri Valley, while Toledo is battling it out with Ball State in the Mid-American.

No. 14 seeds

James Madison, Iona, Boston, Drexel

The Boston Terriers are firmly in first place in the Patriot League and are the favorite to win the conference tournament. They went 17-1 in conference play this season.

No. 15 seeds

Albany, Fairleigh Dickinson, Montana State, Gardner-Webb

In the 15-seed group, Montana State stands out as a team with multiple wins over high-level opponents. The Bobcats defeated BYU and South Dakota State early in the season.

No. 16 seeds

Chattanooga / Norfolk State, Jackson State / SE Louisiana, Southern Utah, Tennessee State

All eyes will be on Jackson State this postseason after the Tigers nearly topped LSU in the first round of the 2022 tournament.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

2023 MVP Breanna Stewart Drops 31 Points in Liberty’s Huge Win Over Fever

breanna stewart and jonquel jones of the new york liberty celebrate win over indiana fever
Stewie and the Liberty dominated the court throughout Thursday's Fever home opener. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty dominated Indiana on Thursday night, winning by a whopping 36 points in the Fever's home opener. 

A sold-out crowd of 17,274 was in attendance to watch as star rookie Caitlin Clark finished the 102-66 defeat with nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists. It’s the first time since January 2021 — her freshman season at Iowa — that Clark's been held to single-digit scoring. 

"The physicality is definitely up there... I'm easily pushed off screens," she told reporters after the loss. "The game seems a little fast for me right now. The more I play and the more comfortable I get, it's going to slow down a little bit. It will be easier for me to make reads, see things develop."

The Fever were outscored by a combined margin of 57 points in their first two games — the largest two-game point deficit in WNBA season-opening history, according to @ESPNStatsInfo.

"We've got to get to a level of toughness," Fever coach Christie Sides in her own postgame remarks. "When things are going south on us, we're not stopping the bleeding."

"I have great perspective on everything that happens," Clark added. "It was the same in my college career. There were some moments that were absolutely amazing. And there were some moments I was not happy with how I played and how my team performed. That's just life, that's just basketball."

Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, who herself experienced a rocky rookie season following a much-hyped college career, offered up some insight on the matter.

"In this league, there are tough defenses all centered around not letting you get the ball, trapping, not letting you score," Ionescu said. "There were many factors that played into what was a tough first season for me in the league, but it helps you be able to figure it out. You have to have those experiences."

But it was reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart that truly stole the show, racking up 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks on the night.

"In general, I just wanted to come out more aggressive coming off of last game," Stewart said after putting up the 24th 30-point game in her career.

Stewart she also commended the fans inside Indianapolis's packed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, noting that she hopes that level of support to continue across the WNBA.

"This is how you want every game to be and when it's a sell-out crowd, it gives you a similar playoff atmosphere feel," she said. "People want to be a part of this and the thing now is to continue to sustain it, continue to take the momentum that we have and turn it into something more."

WNBA Commissioner Admits to ‘Faulty’ Charter Rollout

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert at 2024 wnba draft
Cathy Engelbert at the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York. (Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images)

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert admitted to a "faulty rollout" of the new charter travel initiative on Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Ahead of Tuesday's season opener, it was announced that the only teams flying private this week would be Indiana and Minnesota. The announcement came mere days after the league made a new charter flight program for all WNBA teams public. At the time, they said it would be implemented "as soon as we have the planes."

But as two teams out of 12 chartered to their first games of the season, others like the Atlanta Dream and Chicago Sky were forced to fly commercial.

A town hall meeting between Engelbert and the players was held in response to the confusion. Everything from the league's new media rights deal to private travel was covered in the meeting, with players submitting their questions ahead of time. Sky center Elizabeth Williams told Sun-Times reporter Annie Costabile afterwards that cross-country flights were prioritized.

"Flights that are across the country like [the Lynx] going to Seattle, crossing multiple time zones, or flights that usually require a connection, those were the priorities," Williams said. "That’s why New York didn’t go to DC with a charter, but Minny goes to Seattle."

What’s unclear under that metric is that the Atlanta Dream played the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday, which could technically be classified as a cross-country flight. 

On Tuesday, rookie forward Angel Reese shared a photo on her Instagram story lamenting the league's use of commercial flights.

"Just praying that this is one of the last commercial flights the Sky has to fly," Reese posted. The team still has at least three commercial flights awaiting them in the near future.

"Obviously, I think all teams should be able to get chartered," Reese told the Sun-Times. "But I know moving forward... going in the right direction, being able to have some teams [chartering] is cool. Within the next weeks, everybody will be flying charter, which will be really good."

On Thursday, Lindsay Schnell of USAToday Sports confirmed that the league intends to have all teams on charter flights by May 21st.

Brazil Wins Bid for 2027 Women’s World Cup Host

fifa womens world cup trophy on display
The FIFA Women's World Cup trophy on display in Bangkok after Brazil was announced as the 2027 host country. (Thananuwat Srirasant - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Brazil has been named the host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, with FIFA announced early Friday. 

The decision came after a vote at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, with Brazil earning 119 votes to the joint European bid’s 78. 

This will be Brazil’s first time hosting the Women’s World Cup, with the country having hosted the men’s World Cup twice before in 1950 and 2014. It will also be the first Women’s World Cup held in South America. The tournament will follow the same 32-team format as the 2023 WWC in Australia and New Zealand.

Brazil winning the bid was not entirely surprising after FIFA issued a report just last week, stating that the Brazilian bid had pulled ahead as host following technical inspection. After evaluation, Brazil was given a score of 4.0 out of 5, compared to the 3.7 awarded to the Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Brazil ranked higher in a number of key areas, including stadiums, accommodations, fan zones, and transport infrastructure. Though considered to be a frontrunner, the US and Mexico withdrew their joint bid prior to the technical inspection period, saying they would instead focus their efforts on 2031.

On Friday, Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues called it a "victory." 

"We knew we would be celebrating a victory for South American women's soccer and for women," he told reporters. "You can be sure, with no vanity, we will accomplish the best World Cup for women."

"We are working on a transformation, not only for the country but for the continent," added bid team operational manager Valesca Araujo.

Brazil intends to use 10 of the venues utilized at the 2014 men’s World Cup, including holding the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 25th. The CBF's proposal outlines that the 2027 tournament run from June 24th through the end of July. Last summer’s World Cup began at the end of July and concluded on August 19th.

Another notable element of Brazil's newly unveiled plan to grow of the women’s game is that "all [men’s] clubs wishing to take part in high-level national and continental competitions must now provide a structure for a women’s team." While the definition of "structure" was not specifically identified, the country has set targets with CONMEBOL to help increase the number of women’s club teams in the country.

In last week's inspection findings, FIFA noted that selecting Brazil as the next WWC host could "have a tremendous impact on women's football in the region."

Chelsea Eyes Weekend Finale With WSL Title in Sight

chelsea players celebrate win against tottenham in the wsl
Chelsea beat Tottenham on Wednesday, moving to the top of the table in an effort to win departing coach Emma Hayes some silverware. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Chelsea did what they needed to do on Wednesday in order to make Saturday's slate of season-ending WSL fixtures interesting: Beat Tottenham.

The Blues are now number one in the league, with an edge over Manchester City on goal differential thanks to an eight-goal outing against Bristol City last week. 

Yesterday's result tees up a league finale for the books as Chelsea looks to send coach Emma Hayes off with another trophy to add to her cabinet. The Blues will play FA Cup winner Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, while City is away at Aston Villa.

"We will be leaving nothing on the pitch, we will be giving everything and no matter what the result is," Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert said after Wednesday's win. "At least we can look each other in the eye and say we gave everything."

It makes for a thrilling end to Chelsea's Emma Hayes era, as the decorated WSL coach will take over the USWNT in June. And it comes after Hayes all but conceded the title race early this month after Chelsea fell to Liverpool 4-3.

"I think the title is done," Hayes said at the time. "Of course, mathematically, it's not, but I think the title is done. Our job between now and the end of the season is to keep pushing until the end, but I think it will be very difficult.

"We will never give up. But the title is far from us; it's not in our hands. I think City are deserving, their consistency has put them in that position. Of course, we will go to the end, but I don't think the title will be going to us this year."

Be it mind games or Hayes truly thinking her team was that far off, her words lit something in Chelsea. Their following two performances showed the team’s determination to have a shot at some silverware.

As for Saturday's schedule, Hayes believes her team is facing the "tougher of the two games."

"It's a fitting finale for me, being my final game," she told BBC Sport. "As I said to the players if someone gives you a second chance in life, make sure you don't need a third one. We're in the position we want to be in, and we'll give it everything on Saturday no matter what."

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