Two-time national champion Baylor is the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, and UConn isn’t among the No. 1 seeds for the first time since 2006.
Baylor (31-1) is joined by defending national champion Notre Dame, Louisville and Mississippi State on the No. 1 seed line. Those three are all repeating as No. 1 seeds from last year.
The women’s bracket was mistakenly shown on ESPNU before it was supposed to be revealed at 7 p.m. ET Monday.
Louisville, which beat UConn during the regular season, is the top seed in the Albany bracket, ahead of the 11-time champion Huskies.
Albany, where Louisville and UConn are seeded 1-2, is the unanimous pick as the hardest region in the women’s bracket.
The NCAA bracket held few surprises, but UConn’s No. 2 seed was the jaw-dropper. It’s the first time since 2006 the Huskies aren’t a 1-seed.
The ACC has eight teams in the field, including No. 1 seeds Notre Dame and Louisville. Tennessee and Central Michigan are also big winners.
Also in the Albany region is Tennessee, which kept alive its streak of being in every NCAA tournament since the event began in 1982. The Lady Vols are No. 11, their lowest seed in tournament history, and will open play against No. 6 UCLA in a first-round game hosted by Maryland, which is the 3-seed in the region.
Tennessee was in some danger of missing the field after a season in which the Lady Vols had a six-game losing streak and fell to the SEC’s worst team, Vanderbilt, at home. But Tennessee did enough to earn an at-large bid, one of seven SEC teams in the field.
UConn (31-2) opens against 15th-seeded Towson. The Huskies were the American Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament champion, and their only losses this season were at Baylor and at Louisville, both No. 1 seeds. The Huskies’ only losses the previous two seasons came in overtime in the Women’s Final Four, after UConn had won four consecutive NCAA titles from 2013 to 2016.
UConn is on a streak of 11 consecutive appearances in the Final Four.
Louisville faces Robert Morris in the opening round. Maryland will meet Radford and fourth-seeded Oregon State, which made its Final Four debut in 2016, faces Boise State.
Joining Baylor in the Greensboro Regional are No. 2 seed Iowa, No. 3 N.C. State and No. 4 South Carolina. Baylor, which opens with Abilene Christian, won the NCAA title in 2012, but the Lady Bears have not returned to the Final Four since then despite being a top seed three times (2013, ’16 and ’17). This season, Baylor won the Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles, and the Lady Bears’ only loss was at Stanford.
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Iowa will meet Mercer, NC State faces Maine and South Carolina will take on Belmont in opening-round games.
South Carolina lost 2018 national college player of the year and WNBA rookie of the year A’ja Wilson from last season but was still the SEC regular-season runner-up to Mississippi State. The Gamecocks won the 2017 national championship and are seeking their third trip to the Final Four.
If seeds hold in Greensboro, it could set up an Elite Eight matchup between Iowa center Megan Gustafson, espnW’s national player of the year and the leading scorer in Division I, and Baylor’s tandem inside of center Kalani Brown and forward Lauren Cox. Iowa has advanced to the Final Four once, in 1993.
The Chicago Regional has nearby Notre Dame — just 90 miles away — as its top team. The Irish won their second NCAA title last season, beating UConn in overtime and Mississippi State, both on buzzer-beating shots from guard Arike Ogunbowale. She’s back to lead Notre Dame, which tied with Louisville for the ACC regular-season title, but then dominated the Cardinals 99-79 in the ACC tournament final.
Notre Dame opens with Bethune-Cookman.
The No. 2 seed in Chicago is Pac-12 tournament champion Stanford, which has recent history with Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament. The Cardinal beat the Irish in the Elite Eight in 2017 and the Sweet 16 in 2016. Stanford faces UC Davis in the first round.
Iowa State, which has never advanced past the Elite Eight, is the No. 3 seed and meets New Mexico State in the first round. Texas A&M, the 2011 national champion, is the No. 4 seed and will take on Wright State. The Aggies on Monday said they will have back sophomore guard Chennedy Carter, the SEC’s leading scorer, for the first round. She missed the SEC tournament with a broken finger.
Mississippi State, which lost in the national championship game the past two years, goes to the Portland Regional as the No. 1 seed after winning the SEC regular-season and tournament titles. The Bulldogs will meet Southern in their opener.
But it could be a tough path for the Bulldogs to make it to their third consecutive Final Four, with local favorite Oregon as the No. 2 seed. The Ducks, led by triple-double sensation Sabrina Ionescu, have lost in the Elite Eight the past two seasons and are seeking the program’s first Final Four trip. Oregon opens with Portland State.
The Ducks are the only one of the top four seeds in the Portland Regional from the Pacific time zone; the No. 3 seed is Syracuse and No. 4 is fellow ACC team Miami. The Orange made their first Final Four appearance in 2016, when they lost in the NCAA final to UConn. Miami is seeking its first trip that far.
Syracuse will meet Fordham, and Miami meets FGCU.
The Final Four matchups will pit the Chicago winner vs. the Albany winner, and the Greensboro winner vs. the Portland winner.
If seeds hold, the Final Four in Tampa would get a third meeting this season of ACC rivals Notre Dame and Louisville. Or it could produce another Notre Dame-UConn matchup. The Irish and Huskies have met in the Final Four seven times, six of them in the past eight years.
On the other side of the bracket, if the No. 1s advance, the Final Four matchup would pit Baylor’s Brown against Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan, both 6-foot-7 senior centers who are expected to be first-round picks in April’s WNBA draft.
The full bracket was revealed Monday at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2, two hours ahead of the scheduled show on ESPN, due to the bracket having been mistakenly shown on ESPNU earlier in the day. ESPN addressed the incident in a statement Monday.
“In working with the NCAA to prepare for tonight’s Women’s Selection Special we received the bracket, similar to years past,” ESPN said. “In the midst of our preparation, the bracket was mistakenly posted on ESPNU. We deeply regret the error and extend our apology to the NCAA and the women’s basketball community. We will conduct a thorough review of our process to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future.”
The NCAA responded to the incident with the following statement:
“An unfortunate technical error by ESPN revealed the 2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship bracket earlier today. We regret the network’s mistake and are working with our partners at ESPN to prevent similar errors in future years. We look forward to collaborating with ESPN to bring fans exciting women’s basketball tournament coverage throughout the remainder of the championship.”