The NCAA Women’s Tournament bracket is set, and with it comes the conversations about likely Cinderella teams and bracket busters. 

From Creighton upsetting Iowa, to Princeton, Villanova and Florida Gulf Coast ruining brackets across the country last year, the tournament is guaranteed to have surprises. Of the 68 teams that heard their names called on Selection Sunday, these four have the greatest potential to bust some brackets.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame features on this list for the fact that they could bust some brackets simply by losing early. While they’ve dominated at times this season, the Fighting Irish fell in their second ACC tournament game to Louisville 64-38 without star sophomore Olivia Miles. 

Miles is a question mark for the tournament, as she remains out indefinitely with a knee injury. Without their starting point guard, the Fighting Irish could find themselves fighting hard just to remain in the field.


UNLV won the Mountain West tournament championship to help secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. But their 31-2 record would have had them in the tournament anyway. After losing in the first round of last year’s tournament to No. 4 seed Arizona, this year’s team is riding a 22-game winning streak into March Madness and has strong upset potential.

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Iowa State

Propelled by star guard Ashley Joens, Iowa State took down No. 1 seed Texas in the Big 12 tournament final to secure their automatic bid and win their first Big 12 tournament title since 2001. The Cyclones enter the NCAA Tournament on a hot streak, having won 10 of their last 11 games, including over No. 14 Oklahoma and No. 15 Texas in the regular season.


Winners of the Ivy League tournament, Princeton is a dark horse heading into the tournament. They nearly beat No. 2 seed UConn on Dec. 8, losing by just five points. And while that UConn team was significantly depleted by injuries to its starting lineup, the Tigers kept it close thanks to three players finishing in double-digit scoring.

As conference tournaments wind down and Selection Sunday approaches, plenty of teams are sitting on the bubble and awaiting their NCAA Tournament fate.

Of the 68-teams in the tournament field, 36 teams will receive at-large bids. And with the growing parity across women’s college basketball, more than one talented team will be left without a spot.

Bubble teams are scattered across conferences, from Kansas in the Big 12 to St. John’s in the Big East, from Oregon in the Pac-12 to Georgia in the SEC. Here are four more hopefuls whose fates hang in the balance heading into the final weekend of conference tournament championships.

Princeton (21-5)

The No. 1 seed in the Ivy League tournament, Princeton is listed as the Last Team In according to ESPN’s bracketology. If the Tigers make the Saturday’s championship game, they should lock up an at-large bid. But if they lose in Friday’s semifinal before that, they will remain on the bubble and could be waiting out the fates of other teams to determine whether or not they’ll keep playing in March.

Purdue (19-10)

The Boilermakers finished seventh in a stacked Big Ten this year, which puts them on the outskirts of the NCAA Tournament field. Also in the conversation from the Big Ten is Nebraska (16-14). Their conference credentials could help them sneak in — or their losses relative to some of the other bubble teams could hurt their chances, even if those losses came against quality opponents.

Abbey Ellis and Purdue are waiting to learn their NCAA Tournament fate. (Alex Martin/USA TODAY NETWORK)

West Virginia (19-11)

If Princeton or Columbia falls in the semifinals of the Ivy League tournament, West Virginia could make the case to take that spot in the NCAA Tournament, even after a crushing last-second loss to Oklahoma State in Friday’s Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals.

Arkansas (21-12)

The Razorbacks won their first SEC Tournament game but ran into eventual champion South Carolina in the quarterfinals. While they’re looking pretty good as a bubble team, they likely would need some help from other conference tournaments in order to make their third consecutive March Madness appearance.

Conference tournament upsets are wreaking havoc on the margins of the NCAA Tournament ahead of Selection Sunday.

Portland swooped in to steal a bid with its upset of No. 16 Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference final, while South Florida’s loss to Wichita State in the American Athletic quarterfinals means another team from that conference will snag a spot. With Gonzaga and South Florida as clear at-large selections, the other teams on the bubble should be sweating.

Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and St. John’s are among the teams in the running for the last at-large berths. With conference tournaments ongoing through the weekend, here are the tournaments and the teams the bubble hopefuls need to watch.

Conference USA

Middle Tennessee State sits at No. 25 in the AP poll. The Blue Raiders (25-4) are a lock as an at-large bid if they do not win their conference’s automatic bid. They’ll start their quest for the title with a quarterfinal matchup against Charlotte at 12 p.m. ET Thursday. If they lose, that will be another space off the board for bubble teams.

Ivy League

Princeton and Columbia are both in the running for NCAA Tournament berths heading into the Ivy League tournament. If all goes to plan, the first- and second-seeded teams will meet in the championship game at 5 p.m. ET Saturday, and then both should hear their names called on Selection Sunday.

If Penn or Harvard manages an upset in Friday’s semifinal round, the loser could find themselves out of the tournament field. Or, if Princeton and Columbia manage to stay in the field of 68, that would burst another team’s bubble.

Mountain West

The Runnin’ Rebels have streaked to a 30-2 record overall and a perfect 18-0 record in the Mountain West. They have looked unstoppable against conference competition — but if they run into a wall against Wyoming in the championship game at 10 p.m. ET Wednesday, that would spell trouble for the teams vying for one of the final spots.

Indiana survived a scare Monday night, narrowly beating Princeton 56-55 to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.

Senior guard Grace Berger scored the go-ahead layup with 28.2 seconds remaining for the No. 3 seed Hoosiers. She led all scorers with 15 points and seven rebounds.

A steal by Ali Patberg and free throws by Aleksa Gulbe a few minutes later secured Indiana’s Round of 32 win over 11th-seeded Princeton.

The Hoosiers shot 51.2 percent on field goals and 33.3 percent from 3-point range, while the Tigers shot 33.9 percent on field goals and 29.4 percent from beyond the arc. But the Tigers flourished defensively, forcing 17 turnovers and scoring 18 points off turnovers to the Hoosiers’ seven.

“I think we showed the national stage that we can compete with anyone,” coach Carla Berube said. “We have very talented players who work really hard, play together, play for each other and have a lot of fun. I think it’s a great recipe to show everyone out there Princeton basketball and the Ivy League is really great.”

Down 39-29 at halftime, Princeton erased the deficit and took a 50-49 lead with five minutes left in the game. The Tigers were led by Julia Cunningham and Grace Stone, who each had 15 points. From there, it was a back-and-forth battle until Berger broke the tie.

After the buzzer sounded, players made their way to the student section to celebrate.

“I asked coach [Teri Moren] if we could go thank them and when I got there, I said, ‘Screw it, I’m just going up there with them,'” said Mackenzie Holmes, who had 10 points and eight rebounds on the night. “I just wanted them to know we appreciated them being here and thank them for showing up.”

The Hoosiers now advance to take on UConn, which narrowly avoided a loss of its own, at 2 p.m. ET Saturday for a spot in the Elite Eight.