|Sport Women's Basketball|
No. of teams 64
Most recent champion(s) Connecticut (11th)
Number of teams 64
Country NCAA Division I (USA)
Most titles Connecticut (11)
TV partners ESPN2, ESPNU
|Instances 2018 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament|
The NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament is an annual college basketball tournament for women. Held each April, the Women's Championship was inaugurated in the 1981–82 season. The NCAA tournament was preceded by the AIAW Women's Basketball Tournament, which was held annually from 1972 to 1982. Basketball was one of 12 women's sports added to the NCAA championship program for the 1981-82 school year, as the NCAA engaged in battle with the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women for sole governance of women's collegiate sports. The AIAW continued to conduct its established championship program in the same 12 (and other) sports; however, after a year of dual women's championships, the NCAA prevailed, while the AIAW disbanded.
- Tournament format
- Number of teams and seeding
- Selection process
- NCAA Championship by Conference
- Top ranked teams
- Champions excluded the next year
- 1 seeds
- High seeds
- Low seeds
- Best Performances by 14 15 Seeds
- First round games
- Second round games
- Teams entering the tournament unbeaten
- Home state
- Championship margins
- Same conference championship games
- Result by school and by year
Attendance and interest in the Women's Division I Championship have grown over the years, especially from 2003 to 2016, when the final championship game was moved to the Tuesday following the Monday men's championship game. The women's championship game will be the penultimate overall game of the college basketball season starting 2017. From 1982 to 1990, 1996 to 2002, and from 2017 the Women's Final Four is usually played on the Friday before the Men's Final Four or the hours before the men played on the final Saturday of the tournament. The final was usually played the Sunday afternoon following the Men's Final Four; starting 2017, Sunday evening.
The tournament bracket is made up of champions from each Division I conference, which receive automatic bids. The remaining slots are at-large bids, with teams chosen by an NCAA selection committee. The selection process and tournament seedings are based on several factors, including team rankings, win-loss records and Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) data.
Unlike the men's tournament, there are only 32 at-large bids (since 2014), and no play-in game. The women's tournament, like the men's, is staged in a single elimination format, and is part of the media and public frenzy known colloquially as March Madness or The Big Dance.
All 63 games have been broadcast on television since 2003 on ESPN and ESPN2. Similar to the pre-2011 men's tournament coverage on CBS, local teams are shown on each channel when available, with "whip-around" coverage designed to showcase the most competitive contests in the rest of the country.
A total of 64 teams qualify for the tournament played in March and April. Of these teams, 32 earn automatic bids by winning their respective conference tournaments. Since 2017 the Ivy League conducts their own post-season tournament. The remaining teams are granted "at-large" bids, which are extended by the NCAA Selection Committee. Dr. Marilyn McNeil, vice president/director of athletics at Monmouth University is the current chairwoman. On March 1, 2011, Bowling Green State University's director of intercollegiate athletics, Greg Christopher, was appointed chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee during the 2011–12 academic year.
The tournament is split into four regional tournaments, and each regional has teams seeded from 1 to 16, with the committee ostensibly making every region as comparable to the others as possible. The top-seeded team in each region plays the #16 team, the #2 team plays the #15, etc.
Number of teams, and seeding
The first NCAA women's basketball tournament was held in 1982. The AIAW also held a basketball tournament in 1982, but most of the top teams, including defending AIAW champion Louisiana Tech, decided to participate in the NCAA tournament.
The championship consisted of 32 teams from 1982–1985 (in 1983, 36), 40 teams from 1986–1988, and 48 teams from 1989–1993. Since 1994, 64 teams compete in each tournament.
Prior to 1996, seeding was conducted on a regional basis. The top teams (eight in the 32-, 40-, and 48-team formats, and 16 in the 64-team format) were ranked and seeded on a national basis. The remaining teams were then seeded based on their geographic region. Teams were moved outside of its geographic region only if it was necessary to balance the bracket, or if the proximity of an opponent outside of its region would be comparable and a more competitive game would result. In 1993, all teams except for the top four were explicitly unseeded. The regional seeding resumed in 1994. In 1996, seeds were assigned on a national basis using an "S-Curve" format similar to the process used in selecting the field for the men's tournament.
The following table summarizes some of the key attributes of the seeding process:
† Some exceptions. Due to venue availability, in some cases, the lower seed hosted, or the game was played at a neutral site.
‡ From 2003-2014, sixteen predetermined sites were selected for first and second round games. Teams were allowed to play at home, if hosting.
Between 2005 and 2008, eight sites were used for first round games.
A special selection committee appointed by the NCAA determines which 64 teams will enter the tournament, and where they will be seeded and placed in the bracket. Because of the automatic bids, only 32 teams (the at-large bids) rely on the selection committee to secure them a spot in the tournament.
NCAA Championship by Conference
Note: Conferences are listed by all champions' affiliations at that time; these do not necessarily match current affiliations.
Since the women's tournament began in 1982, 16 teams have entered the tournament ranked #1 in at least 1 poll and gone on to win the tournament:
Champions excluded the next year
Only once has the reigning champion (the previous year's winner) not made it to the tournament the next year.
Since 1982, at least one #1 seed has made the Final Four every year.
Under Pat Summitt, Tennessee has been seeded #1 a record 21 times. Connecticut, coached by Geno Auriemma, is second with 20 #1 seeds.
All #1 seeds have made it to the Final Four thrice:
The championship game has matched two #1 seeds 12 times:
Three teams have beaten three #1 seeds during the course of a tournament (the largest number of such teams that can be faced):
Prior to the expansion of the tournament to 64 teams, all #1 seeds advanced to the Sweet Sixteen with three exceptions. Notably, the first two times this occurred were at the hands of the same school:
Lowest seeds to reach each round since the expansion to 64 teams:
Best Performances by #14 & #15 Seeds
Unlike in the men's tournament, no #14 seed has beaten a #3 and no #15 seed has beaten a #2 seed, but they have come close.
Since the expansion to 64 teams in 1994, each seed-pairing has played 96 first-round games overall.
- The #1 seed is 95–1 against the #16 seed (.990).
- The #2 seed is 96–0 against the #15 seed (1.000).
- The #3 seed is 96–0 against the #14 seed (1.000).
- The #4 seed is 90–6 against the #13 seed (.938).
- The #5 seed is 75-21 against the #12 seed (.781).
- The #6 seed is 68–28 against the #11 seed (.708).
- The #7 seed is 63-33 against the #10 seed (.656).
- The #9 seed is 50–46 against the #8 seed (.521).
Since the expansion to 64 teams in 1994, the following results have occurred for each pairing:
note: The 3 losses by the #1 seed vs #8/9 were: Duke (vs Michigan St, 2009), Ohio St (vs Boston College, 2006), Texas Tech (vs Notre Dame, 1998).
note: The #9 vs. #16 game was Arkansas over Harvard in 1998.
Teams entering the tournament unbeaten
Of the 17 teams who have entered the tournament unbeaten, 9 went on to win the National Championship.
Only one team has ever played the Final Four on its home court. Two other teams have played the Final Four in their home cities, and seven others have played the Final Four in their home states.
The only team to play on its home court was Texas in 1987, which lost its semifinal game at the Frank Erwin Special Events Center.
Old Dominion enjoyed nearly as large an advantage in 1983 when the Final Four was played at the Norfolk Scope in its home city of Norfolk, Virginia, but also lost its semifinal. The Scope has never been the Lady Monarchs' regular home court. ODU has always used on-campus arenas, first the ODU Fieldhouse and since 2002 the Ted Constant Convocation Center. The following year, USC won the national title at Pauley Pavilion, the home court of its Los Angeles arch-rival UCLA.
Of the other teams to play in their home states, Stanford (1992) won the national title; Notre Dame (2011) lost in the championship game; and Western Kentucky (1986), Penn State (2000), Missouri State (2001), LSU (2004), and Baylor (2010) lost in the semifinals.
Same-conference championship games
5 championship games have featured two teams from the same conference:
Result by school and by year
267 teams have appeared in the NCAA Tournament in at least a year, since 1982 (the initial year that the post-season tournament was under the auspices of the NCAA). The results for all years are shown in this table below.
The code in each cell represents the furthest the team made it in the respective tournament: