NEW YORK (AP) — For the past decade it’s been easy to pick UConn to win the national championship. Four of the past five years you would have been correct if you tabbed the Huskies to win the title. Last year, though, Mississippi State shocked the women’s basketball world by ending UConn’s 111-game winning streak in the Final Four.
Will the Huskies end up back on top this year? Or will someone else be cutting down the nets in Columbus, Ohio?
Here’s one look at what could happen over the next three weeks. While parity is definitely increasing in women’s college basketball, don’t expect too many upsets.
The bracket breakdown (winners in all caps):
(1) UCONN vs. (16) Saint Francis, Pa. — Well, the good news for the NEC champions is they will play in front of a huge crowd. The bad news is they are playing the undefeated Huskies.
(9) QUINNIPIAC vs. (8) Miami — The Bobcats upset the Hurricanes in Miami last season in the NCAAs. Quinnipiac has most of the team back from last season’s Sweet 16 run.
(5) DUKE vs. (12) Belmont — First-year coach Bart Brooks has done an incredible job leading the Bruins to wins in its last 21 games. A motivated Duke squad will end that run.
(4) GEORGIA vs. (13) Mercer — The teams played early in the season and Georgia won by 18. Don’t expect this one to go much differently in the Bears’ first NCAA Tournament appearance.
(6) SOUTH FLORIDA vs. (11) Buffalo — Jose Fernandez’s team felt they deserved a much better seed, potentially hosting the first two rounds. They’ll take it out on Buffalo in the opener.
(3) FLORIDA STATE vs. (14) Little Rock — The Trojans play tremendous defense at the 3-point line, but the problem will be stopping Shakayla Thomas inside.
(7) CALIFORNIA vs. (10) Virginia — Cal coach Lindsey Gottlieb was hired by Joanne Boyle to be an assistant at Richmond before the pair moved to Cal together in 2005. Gottlieb’s team is better than Boyle’s, and the Bears move on.
(2) SOUTH CAROLINA vs. (15) North Carolina A&T — Gamecocks are trying to sell out the opening-round game. They won’t disappoint the fans.
UCONN vs. Quinnipiac — There was a huge amount of support between the two coaches last season when the Bobcats reached the Sweet 16. The Bobcats don’t turn the ball over, but won’t be able to stop the Huskies.
GEORGIA vs Duke — The Blue Devils are missing that third scorer to go with Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell, and the Bulldogs defense will stymie them.
FLORIDA STATE vs. South Florida — If the Bulls can shoot well from 3 they have a chance to pull off the upset. That might be a tall order.
SOUTH CAROLINA vs California — Kristine Anigwe is an extremely talented post player. Unfortunately for the Bears, A’ja Wilson is better.
UCONN vs. Georgia — Huskies forward Gabby Williams can guard virtually anyone on the court with her speed and athleticism. She’ll make her presence felt.
SOUTH CAROLINA vs. Florida State — Big-time players play well in big-time games and A’ja Wilson is the best player on the court.
UCONN vs. South Carolina — These teams played in February at South Carolina and UConn came away with a 25-point win. A’ja Wilson’s amazing career will come to an end.
1. NOTRE DAME vs. (16) Cal State Northridge — The Matadors played competitive NCAA games against South Carolina in 2014 and Stanford in 2015. They won’t be able to put up as good a fight against the Irish.
(8) SOUTH DAKOTA STATE vs. (9) Villanova — The Jackrabbits are led by Macy Miller and are one of the best mid-majors in the country. Villanova started off the season hot, but struggled down the stretch.
(5) DEPAUL vs. (12) Oklahoma — The scoreboard operator is always kept busy when these two play. DePaul came away with a 111-108 overtime victory earlier this season. Look for the Blue Demons to win again.
(4) TEXAS A&M vs. (13) Drake — The Bulldogs have a balanced offense with a deep bench, but doesn’t have enough to overcome the Aggies at home.
(6) LSU vs. (11) Central Michigan — The Chippewas are talented, but just not going to be able to contain Ayana Mitchell.
(3) OHIO STATE vs. (14) George Washington — The Buckeyes hope to return to Columbus for the Final Four. Kelsey Mitchell gets them off to a good start.
(7) GREEN BAY vs. (10) Minnesota — The Phoenix shut teams down with stellar defense and the Gophers will have trouble scoring.
(2) OREGON vs. (15) Seattle — The Redhawks are playing in their first NCAA Tournament. The Ducks will make it a quick trip.
NOTRE DAME vs. South Dakota State — The Irish will get a scare at home before pulling away late from the Jackrabbits.
DEPAUL vs. Texas A&M — The Blue Demons can win this game if they can stay hot from 3-point land. That will happen.
OHIO STATE vs LSU — Mitchell will move into second on the NCAA all-time scoring list and advance to Spokane.
OREGON vs Green Bay — The high-octane Ducks have too many offensive weapons for the Phoenix.
NOTRE DAME vs. DePaul — The Irish beat the Blue Demons at home in late December thanks to Jessica Shepard’s huge game. DePaul still has no answer for her.
OREGON vs. Ohio State — Great guard matchup with Sabrina Ionescu and Kelsey Mitchell. The Ducks supporting cast will be the difference against the Buckeyes.
OREGON vs. Notre Dame — Ducks coach Kelly Graves spent a lot of time in Spokane with Gonzaga. His old fan base will love seeing the Ducks reach their first Final Four.
(1) LOUISVILLE vs. (16) Boise State — The Broncos needed a last-second shot to reach the NCAAs. This one won’t be as close.
(8) MARQUETTE vs (9) Dayton — Great to see the committee respect Dayton’s solid regular season and give the Flyers an at-large bid. Marquette lost in the opening round last year. The Golden Eagles will advance this year.
(5) MISSOURI vs. (12) Florida Gulf Coast — The Eagles love to shoot 3s. They’ll have to hit a bunch to pull off the upset.
(4) STANFORD vs. (13) Gonzaga — The Zags upset the Cardinal last year during the regular season. Stanford won’t let that happen this time.
(6) OREGON STATE vs. (11) Western Kentucky — Great interior matchup between Tashia Brown and Marie Gulich. The Beavers have more supporting Gulich to get the win.
(3) TENNESSEE vs. (14) Liberty — The Lady Vols talented freshmen class will get their first taste of the NCAA Tournament in an easy win over Liberty.
(7) MICHIGAN vs. (10) Northern Colorado — The Bears got off to a wonderful start this season to the season, but the Wolverines are too good to be upset.
(2) BAYLOR vs. (15) Grambling — Shakyla Hill had the game of the year with a quadruple-double that drew the eye of LeBron James. It wasn’t against a team as good as Baylor.
LOUISVILLE vs Marquette — Asia Durr and Myisha Hines-Allen will be too much for the Golden Eagles
STANFORD vs. Missouri — Sophie Cunningham might be the best player on the court. Unfortunately for her it’s the Cardinal’s home court and that will get them to advance in a close one.
TENNESSEE vs Oregon State — Home court will be the difference for the Lady Vols in this tight matchup
BAYLOR vs. Michigan — The Wolverines have a talented post player in Hallie Thome. The problem is that the Lady Bears have two in Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox who will prove to be too much.
LOUISVILLE vs Stanford — The Cardinal head to Lexington for the third straight year. This time they won’t be able to get out of the region.
BAYLOR vs. Tennessee — The Lady Vols have been inconsistent this season and that won’t work against the Lady Bears.
BAYLOR vs. Louisville — Size against speed. And this time Baylor’s size will pull through.
Kansas City Regional
1. MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. (16) Nicholls State —Nicholls State’s first trip to the NCAAs will be a short one.
(8) SYRACUSE vs. (9) Oklahoma State — Tiana Mangakahia led the nation in assists and will have no problem racking up more against the Cowgirls.
(12) PRINCETON vs. (5) Maryland — The Tigers will pull off one of the few upsets in the opening round led by sensational sophomore Bella Alarie.
(4) N.C. STATE vs. (13) Elon — The Phoenix held Drexel to a woeful shooting game in the CAA title game. The Wolfpack won’t have the same issue on their home court.
(6) IOWA vs. (11) Creighton — Two Midwest teams heading out to Los Angeles. Megan Gustafson will be too much for the Bluejays.
(3) UCLA vs. (14) American — Jordin Canada will be too much for the Eagles to handle.
(7) ARIZONA STATE vs. (10) Nebraska — The Sun Devils will win a tournament game for the fifth straight year.
(2) TEXAS vs. (15) Maine — Black Bears coach Amy Vachon knows what it takes to pull off an upset as she was on Maine’s team that beat Stanford in 1999. Her current team won’t be able to do the same.
MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. Syracuse — The Orange will try and shoot their way past the Bulldogs. The problem is they have no answer for Victoria Vivians or Teaira McCowan.
N.C. STATE vs. Princeton — The Tigers would love to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. They’ll fall just short.
UCLA vs. Iowa — Monique Billings vs. Megan Gustafson will be worth the price of admission. The Bruins have too many other offensive weapons.
TEXAS vs. Arizona State — The Sun Devils won’t be able to slow down Ariel Atkins.
MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. N.C. State — Morgan William likes to raise her game late in the tournament. She’ll make her presence felt in this one.
UCLA vs. Texas — This might be one of the best games in the tournament and the Pac-12 team will come out on top.
MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. Ucla — Victoria Vivians will lead the Bulldogs back to the Final Four for the second straight year.
UCONN vs. Oregon — The Ducks’ NCAA run will be ended by the Huskies for two straight years.
MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. Baylor — The Bulldogs have the size to match the Lady Bears. Baylor doesn’t have the guards, with senior Kristy Wallace out with an ACL injury, to equal the Bulldogs.
UCONN vs. Mississippi State — The Bulldogs halted the Huskies’ 111-game winning streak last season. They won’t ruin Geno Auriemma’s perfect 11-0 mark in title games.