NCAAB

Women's NCAA Tournament: Which Teams Have the Traits to Make a Championship Run?

Brandon Gdula
Brandon Gdula@gdula13
Women's NCAA Tournament: Which Teams Have the Traits to Make a Championship Run?

Often during March, the chalk wins out.

That's especially true in the women's NCAA Tournament when compared to the still-chalky men's tournament.

The lowest seed ever to win a women's NCAA Tournament is the 3 seed (North Carolina in 1994, Tennessee in 1997, and LSU in 2023).

If we take a deeper look, though, which teams have the traits to make this year's Final Four in Cleveland, Ohio?

Who Makes the Women's Final Four?

Over the last 10 women's NCAA Tournaments, 25 of 40 Final Four teams were 1 seeds (62.5%).

Nine more squads were 2 seeds, and in total, 38 of 40 teams (95.0%) were the 4 seed or better.

The two outliers were the 2013 Louisville Cardinals (5 seed) and the 2016 Washington Huskies (7 seed). Both of those teams, however, were better than their historical seed average suggested.

Via Sports-Reference's adjusted net ratings, the 2013 Louisville squad was more equivalent to a historical 3 seed than a 5 seed, and the 2016 Huskies were effectively a 5 seed by overall strength despite earning a 7 seed.

What this basically means is that teams worse than a 5 seed are going to have to buck historical trends just to make the Final Four -- let alone win the NCAA Tournament.

Who Wins the Women's NCAA Tournament?

This one is even more straightforward.

As outlined already, only teams with a 3 seed or better have ever won the women's NCAA Tournament, and while a 3 seed won last year, they were better than a historical 2 seed according to the underlying data.

With a distribution of 31 championships for 1 seeds, 7 for 2 seeds, and 3 for 3 seeds, it's hard to get overly excited about an underdog story in the women's bracket.

Offensive and Defensive Benchmarks

Usually, a team's seed and net rating tells us enough in the women's game to determine which squads can make a real run at the title.

But with a little additional insight, we can narrow things down even more.

Since 2010, there have been 52 Final Four teams.

Of those 52, all had a top-25 adjusted net rating as well as a top-50 adjusted offensive rating and adjusted defensive rating.

A semblance of balance has been required to make the Final Four.

To win it all?

That gets even more selective.

Each of the last 13 champions (since 2010) had a top-6 adjusted net rating, a top-7 adjusted offensive rating, and a top-20 adjusted defensive rating.

Women's NCAA Tournament Teams That Fit

If we look at the Final Four baselines (top-25 overall net rating and a top-50 offense and defense), these teams fit as of March 14th. (Women's NCAA Tournament odds are via FanDuel Sportsbook.)

School
Championship Odds
Adj. ORtg Rank
Adj. DRtg Rank
Adj. Net Rtg Rank
South Carolina-115211
Connecticut+2000432
Texas+2500573
Stanford+20003134
Iowa+5501305
UCLA+2500856
Ohio State+250014107
View Full Table

That's a fairly lengthy list of good overall squads.

But when we narrow it down to try to find the title contenders (let's say a top-10 adjusted net rating, a top-10 adjusted offensive rating, and a top-20 adjusted defensive rating), only six remain.

School
Championship Odds
Adj. ORtg Rank
Adj. DRtg Rank
Adj. Net Rtg Rank
South Carolina-115211
Connecticut+2000432
Texas+2500573
Stanford+20003134
UCLA+2500856
Louisiana State+55010159

With a dominant South Carolina team (-115 odds to win the women's NCAA Tournament) on this list, we could be in line for a chalky March and April. In fact, FanDuel Sportsbook has a market on South Carolina versus the field (-115). That's how good the Gamecocks are.

But if the field is going to pull the collective upset, history says it'll be courtesy of UConn, Texas, Stanford, UCLA, or LSU.

Where is Caitlin Clark and Iowa, you ask? Their 30th-ranked adjusted defense just barely misses the historical cutoff of future champions (a top-20 defense), though they are still a top-five team by adjusted net rating, thanks to the nation's top-ranked offense. At +550, they shouldn't be counted out.

While the odds favor South Carolina, other dominant teams are in the field. That sets us up for some Final Four fireworks.


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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.