The undefeated and protecting nationwide champion South Carolina Gamecocks journey a 38-game profitable streak into March Insanity. ESPN analytics give the Gamecocks a 46.4% likelihood to win the identify.
The UConn Huskies — which misplaced to the Gamecocks within the NCAA identify sport a yr in the past and are a No. 2 seed at the different facet of the bracket this season — have the following easiest odds at 11.2%. The highest-seeded Stanford Cardinal and Indiana Hoosiers each are available in at 7.1%, and fellow No. 1 seeded Virginia Tech Hokies are subsequent at 5.3%.
We have already damaged down the 68-team box by means of area. We have named the easiest avid gamers within the bracket. Now, ESPN’s Charlie Creme, Alexa Philippou and M.A. Voepel assess the real championship contenders, whether or not any person has a shot at dethroning South Carolina and sign up for a handful of ESPN analysts in making Ultimate 4 and championship predictions.
If South Carolina does not run the desk for its moment consecutive identify, which crew will elevate the championship trophy?
Voepel: South Carolina has taken the Tennessee Woman Volunteers‘ position as the most efficient program in what remains to be an overly difficult SEC, even in a down yr conference-wide. For everybody out of doors the UConn fan base, the Huskies are the Michael Myers of ladies’s hoops: You’ll’t eliminate them as they maintain appearing up in an never-ending sequence of sequels. Stanford is company regulation company of faculty sports activities.
I do not believe any person will prevent the Gamecocks from repeating; they’ve too many excellent avid gamers, they play smartly in combination and trainer Crack of dawn Staley has achieved a very good activity getting them to center of attention utterly at the job handy.
But when somebody goes to knock them off, it could be Stanford within the nationwide semifinals or UConn within the nationwide championship sport. That is simply in line with the reality the ones two groups performed the Gamecocks as shut as they did all over the common season: The Cardinal misplaced by means of 5 in additional time in November, and the Huskies by means of 4 in February. We will be able to’t be sure that both Stanford or UConn will achieve the Ultimate 4; that is particularly the case for the Cardinal. But when they do, the Cardinal and the Huskies no less than know from enjoy what it’s going to take to overcome the Gamecocks in the event that they face off once more.
Philippou: After South Carolina, I feel it is between Indiana and UConn. Regardless of dropping two in their previous 3 video games, the Hoosiers had been probably the most constant crew now not positioned in Columbia, is powerful on each ends of the ground and manages to supply each big name energy in Mackenzie Holmes and but improbable stability with Grace Berger, Sydney Parrish, Yarden Garzon, Sara Scalia and Chloe Moore-McNeil. Whilst some level to Indiana’s loss of intensity as a flaw, I will’t see that being a big deciding issue given the whole thing else the Hoosiers have going for them. (And I’m going to elaborate at the Huskies just a little decrease.)
Creme: Choosing the No. 2 total to have the most efficient shot at knocking off the No. 1 is not in particular ingenious, however I firmly consider that Indiana has the most efficient likelihood of thrashing South Carolina. It is going to take the best night time and the Gamecocks now not taking part in at their top, but when that occurs Indiana has sufficient within the arsenal to head the gap. The Hoosiers transfer and shoot the ball smartly and feature stability and enjoy to no less than offensively tackle South Carolina if the 2 meet within the championship sport.
Virginia Tech’s NCAA match preview
Charlie Creme breaks down his forecast for Virginia Tech’s NCAA match possibilities.
Which No. 1 seed would be the first to lose?
Creme: Whilst I just like the matchups in entrance of Stanford within the first 3 rounds of the Seattle 4 Regional, I’ve some issues in regards to the Cardinal. They have got had sufficient moments and even complete video games of deficient offense — see: 47 issues towards USC or 5 issues within the first quarter towards Colorado — to wonder whether Stanford can put 4 excellent performances in combination to succeed in the Ultimate 4. If the Cardinal get to an Elite 8, can it outscore the second-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes?
Philippou: The Cardinal are patently skilled in March and may just flip issues round within the coming weeks, however the way in which they concluded the common season and their fresh offensive problems are worrisome. And whilst I do not believe it is most probably, the reality Virginia Tech hasn’t performed within the later rounds of the NCAA match in just about 25 years makes me wonder whether there is a second when the Hokies have an off night time and the stress catches as much as them. They do not have the very best trail, both, with attainable matchups towards the South Dakota State Jackrabbits or USC Trojans and most probably both Tennessee or the Iowa State Cyclones.
Voepel: As Alexa discussed, Virginia Tech is by means of some distance the least skilled program of the No. 1 seeds with regards to lengthy NCAA match runs: South Carolina and Stanford gained the ultimate two titles and Indiana went to the Elite 8 two years in the past. In line with that, the Hokies appear probably the most susceptible. However in addition they have gained 11 video games in a row and are taking part in very with a bit of luck.
Identify a crew this is considerably underrated.
Creme: Whilst I am selecting UConn to return out of Seattle 3, the Ohio State Buckeyes may well be the crew to wreck the birthday party. The No. 3 seed began the season 19-0 in large part with out Jacy Sheldon. Now she is again and their more youthful avid gamers, specifically freshman Cotie McMahon, proved they had been as much as the problem within the Giant Ten. Ohio State’s urgent taste may give any crew bother, particularly if you have not observed it. The Louisville Cardinals struggled mightily with it previous this season, and the LSU Tigers wilted below the Ohio State stress in ultimate yr’s moment around.
UNC’s NCAA match preview
Charlie Creme breaks down his forecast for North Carolina’s NCAA match possibilities.
Philippou: Ohio State is a deadly 3-seed for the entire causes Charlie mentioned, however I will’t consider the Buckeyes’ attainable second-round matchup can be towards the 6-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels. That should not be going down this early within the match!
Voepel: I would possibly not say No. 5 seed Iowa State was once significantly underseeded. On the other hand, within the ladies’s bracket, the variation between a 4- and 5-seed is gigantic since the peak 4 in every area get to host. The choice committee obviously made its top-16 choices earlier than the Giant 12 match identify sport was once even performed Sunday. The committee did not appear to remember the Cyclones beat the Texas Longhorns — in addition to fellow NCAA match groups the Baylor Bears within the quarterfinals and Oklahoma Sooners within the semifinals — by means of double digits.
If there’s one constant inconsistency in regards to the committee a lot of these years, it is that they contradict themselves so much on how necessary convention tournaments are. They even do it in the similar segment of the bracket, pointing to 1 crew’s convention match luck as necessary, whilst necessarily pushing aside any other crew’s luck.
UConn’s NCAA match preview
Charlie Creme breaks down his forecast for UConn’s NCAA match possibilities.
Out of doors of the No. 1 seeds, what different crew has the most efficient shot of profitable all of it?
Philippou: UConn. The Huskies have had a rocky season however it has simplest made them come in combination greater than ever towards their not unusual function of profitable a championship. They have grew to become issues round after their disappointing February and are getting the most efficient out of Dorka Juhasz and Aaliyah Edwards, and powerful put up play hasn’t essentially been a energy the previous few tournaments. With enjoy in high-pressure scenarios entering play, and the conceivable transcendence of Azzi Fudd, I am selecting UConn because the non-No. 1-seed that has the most efficient shot at profitable all of it — and in reality, the second-favorite to chop down the nets.
Voepel: A program that has 11 NCAA titles and has been to the Ultimate 4 yearly since 2008 will proceed to be a danger to win all of it until one thing significantly adjustments. However since Charlie and Alexa have UConn lined, let us take a look at Iowa.
The Hawkeyes will also be an offensive powerhouse like few groups we will be able to ever see within the match. And whilst they’re a greater defensive crew this season when it comes to getting stops once they actually want them, it is nonetheless about scoring for them. Can their offense raise them the entire technique to a identify? That will probably be difficult; UConn nonetheless turns out the in all probability of the No. 2 seeds to succeed. But when the Hawkeyes do it, it’s going to be with a actually thrilling emblem of basketball.
Iowa’s NCAA match preview
Charlie Creme breaks down his forecast for Iowa’s NCAA match possibilities.
Are we shortchanging the opposite No. 2 seeds? The Maryland Terrapins are a previous nationwide champion, however that is 17 years within the rearview reflect. Curiously sufficient, the yr the Terps gained all of it — 2006 — they beat this yr’s different No. 2 seed, the Utah Utes, within the Elite 8. Maryland and Utah each may well be Elite 8 groups this yr, however it does not appear most probably they’re going to be in Dallas.
Creme: We nonetheless have no idea precisely what UConn will seem like with Fudd’s complete go back. She eased again into the lineup within the Giant East match however did not produce a lot. That would possibly have now not been the most efficient indicator given the timing. If it is the rest just like the model of the Huskies that beat Texas, the NC State Wolfpack, the Duke Blue Devils and Iowa in succession in November, UConn is a Ultimate 4 crew. With out Fudd, the Huskies remained aggressive with South Carolina in February, so they’re any other crew that may be able to upend the heavy favorites.
Ultimate 4 selections
LSU’s NCAA match preview
Charlie Creme breaks down his forecast for LSU’s NCAA match possibilities.
Andrea Adelson: South Carolina (champion), LSU, UConn, Iowa
Charlie Creme: South Carolina (champion), Indiana, UConn, Iowa
Aja Ellison: South Carolina (champion), Indiana, Virginia Tech, Iowa
Kelly Gramlich: South Carolina (champion), Indiana, Virginia Tech, Iowa
Doug Kezirian: South Carolina (champion), Indiana, Virginia Tech, Iowa
Kevin Pelton: South Carolina (champion), Indiana, UConn, Iowa
Alexa Philippou: South Carolina (champion), Indiana, UConn, Iowa
Roy Philpott: South Carolina (champion), Utah, Virginia Tech, Iowa
Steffi Sorensen: South Carolina (champion), Indiana, UConn, Iowa
Christy Thomaskutty: South Carolina (champion), Indiana, UConn, Stanford
M.A. Voepel: South Carolina (champion), Indiana, UConn, Iowa
Stephanie White: South Carolina (champion), Indiana, Virginia Tech, Iowa