Girish Mahajan (Editor)

NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Sport  Women's Basketball
No. of teams  64
Most recent champion(s)  Connecticut (11th)
Number of teams  64
Founded  1982
Country  NCAA Division I (USA)
Most titles  Connecticut (11)
TV partners  ESPN2, ESPNU
NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament www2picturesgizimbiocomNCAAWomenBasketball
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.


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.

Tournament format

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.

Selection process

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.

Top-ranked teams

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:

  • 1982: Louisiana Tech
  • 1983: USC
  • 1986: Texas
  • 1989: Tennessee
  • 1995: Connecticut
  • 1998: Tennessee
  • 1999: Purdue
  • 2000: Connecticut
  • 2002: Connecticut
  • 2003: Connecticut
  • 2009: Connecticut
  • 2010: Connecticut
  • 2012: Baylor
  • 2014: Connecticut
  • 2015: Connecticut
  • 2016: Connecticut
  • 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.

  • 1985 champion Old Dominion went 15-13 in 1986.
  • #1 seeds

    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:

  • 1989 Auburn, Louisiana Tech, Maryland, Tennessee
  • 2012 Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Stanford
  • 2015 Connecticut, Maryland, Notre Dame, South Carolina
  • The championship game has matched two #1 seeds 12 times:

  • 1983 USC beat Louisiana Tech
  • 1986 Texas beat USC
  • 1989 Tennessee beat Auburn
  • 1991 Tennessee beat Virginia
  • 1995 Connecticut beat Tennessee
  • 2000 Connecticut beat Tennessee
  • 2002 Connecticut beat Oklahoma
  • 2003 Connecticut beat Tennessee
  • 2010 Connecticut beat Stanford
  • 2012 Baylor beat Notre Dame
  • 2014 Connecticut beat Notre Dame
  • 2015 Connecticut beat Notre Dame
  • Three teams have beaten three #1 seeds during the course of a tournament (the largest number of such teams that can be faced):

  • 1987 Tennessee (beat Auburn, Long Beach State, Louisiana Tech)
  • 1988 Louisiana Tech (beat Auburn, Tennessee, Texas)
  • 2005 Baylor (beat LSU, Michigan State, North Carolina)
  • 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:

  • 1986 East #1 seed Virginia lost to #8 seed James Madison
  • 1991 East #1 seed Penn State lost to #8 seed James Madison
  • 1992 Midwest #1 seed Iowa lost to #8 seed Southwest Missouri State
  • High seeds

  • 1999 was the first time in tournament history (since the expansion to 64 teams) that all top seeds (1, 2, 3, and 4 seeds) made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
  • Low seeds

    Lowest seeds to reach each round since the expansion to 64 teams:

  • Second Round: #16 seed
  • Harvard in 1998 (the only #16 seed to beat a #1 seed in either the women's or men's tournament)
  • Regional Semifinals (Sweet Sixteen): #13 seed
  • Texas A&M in 1994
  • Liberty in 2005
  • Marist in 2007
  • Regional Finals (Elite Eight): #11 seed
  • Gonzaga in 2011
  • National Semifinals (Final Four): #9 seed
  • Arkansas in 1998
  • National Finals (Championship Game): #5 seed
  • Louisville in 2013
  • National Champion: #3 seed
  • North Carolina in 1994
  • Tennessee in 1997
  • 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.

  • 2 points: #14 Seed
  • Austin Peay lost to UNC in 2003 (2 points, 72-70)
  • Eastern Michigan lost to Boston College in 2004 (2 points, 58-56)
  • Creighton lost to St. John's in 2012 (2 points, 69-67)
  • Overtime games: #15 Seed
  • UTSA lost to Baylor in 2009 (5 points, 87-82). UTSA is the only #15 seed to take a game into overtime.
  • 1 point: #15 Seed
  • Long Beach State lost to Oregon State in 2017 (1 point, 56-55)
  • First-round games

    Since the expansion to 64 teams in 1994, each seed-pairing has played 96 first-round games overall.

    1. The #1 seed is 95–1 against the #16 seed (.990).
    2. The #2 seed is 96–0 against the #15 seed (1.000).
    3. The #3 seed is 96–0 against the #14 seed (1.000).
    4. The #4 seed is 90–6 against the #13 seed (.938).
    5. The #5 seed is 75-21 against the #12 seed (.781).
    6. The #6 seed is 68–28 against the #11 seed (.708).
    7. The #7 seed is 63-33 against the #10 seed (.656).
    8. The #9 seed is 50–46 against the #8 seed (.521).

    Second-round games

    Since the expansion to 64 teams in 1994, the following results have occurred for each pairing:

  • In the 1/16/8/9 bracket:
  • 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.

  • In the 2/15/7/10 bracket:
  • In the 3/14/6/11 bracket:
  • In the 4/13/5/12 bracket:
  • Teams entering the tournament unbeaten

    Of the 17 teams who have entered the tournament unbeaten, 9 went on to win the National Championship.

  • In 1986, Texas entered the tournament 30–0, beat USC for the national title, and ended the season 34–0.
  • In 1990, Louisiana Tech entered the tournament 29–0, but lost in the Final Four to Auburn.
  • In 1992, Vermont entered the tournament 29–0, but lost in the first round to George Washington.
  • In 1993, Vermont entered the tournament 28–0, but lost in the first round to Rutgers.
  • In 1995, Connecticut entered the tournament 29–0, beat Tennessee for the national title, and ended the season 35–0.
  • In 1997, Connecticut entered the tournament 30–0, but lost in the Midwest Regional Final to Tennessee.
  • In 1998, Tennessee (33–0) and Liberty (28–0) both entered the tournament unbeaten; Liberty lost in the first round to Tennessee, which went on to beat Louisiana Tech for the national title and ended the season 39–0.
  • In 2002, 2009, and 2010, Connecticut entered the tournament 33–0, won the national title in each, and ended those seasons 39–0. They respectively beat Oklahoma, Louisville, and Stanford in those championship games.
  • In 2012, Baylor entered the tournament 34–0, beat Notre Dame for the national title, and ended the season 40–0. The Lady Bears became the first team in NCAA college basketball history, for either women or men, to win 40 games in a season. Notably, Louisiana Tech went 40–5 during the 1979-80 season. This was during the AIAW era for women's basketball.
  • In 2014, Connecticut (34–0) and Notre Dame (32–0) both entered the tournament unbeaten; Connecticut beat Notre Dame 79-58 for the national title, ended the season 40-0 and is the 8th team to end the season unbeaten.
  • In 2015, Princeton entered the tournament 30–0, but lost in the second round to Maryland.
  • In 2016, Connecticut entered the tournament 32–0, beat Syracuse for the national title, ending the season 38–0.
  • In 2017, Connecticut enters the tournament at 32–0. Will play UCLA in the East Regional Semifinals, while riding their 109-game winning streak.
  • Home state

    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.

    Championship margins

  • Overtime games in a championship game:
  • Tennessee 70, Virginia 67/OT (1991)
  • Maryland 78, Duke 75/OT (2006)
  • Smallest margin of victory in a championship game: 1 point
  • North Carolina 60, Louisiana Tech 59 (1994)
  • Biggest margin of victory in a championship game: 33 points
  • Connecticut 93, Louisville 60 (2013)
  • Margin of 10 points: Louisiana Tech (1982), Tennessee (1987 & 1989), Purdue (1999), Connecticut (2000, 2002, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016), and Baylor (2012) are teams to win every game in the tournament by 10 points or more on their way to a championship. The 2016 UConn team won every game by more than 20 points.
  • Top 8 largest point differentials accumulated over the entire tournament by tournament champion. Notably, Louisiana Tech's differential is prior to the expansion of 64 teams and the addition of one more round of play.
  • 2016 Connecticut (+239)
  • 2010 Connecticut (+214)
  • 2013 Connecticut (+208)
  • 2015 Connecticut (+197)
  • 2000 Connecticut (+187)
  • 2002 Connecticut (+161)
  • 1982 Louisiana Tech (+158)
  • 2014 Connecticut (+156)
  • Same-conference championship games

    5 championship games have featured two teams from the same conference:

  • 1989 SEC, Tennessee and Auburn
  • 1996 SEC, Tennessee and Georgia
  • 2006 ACC, Maryland and Duke
  • 2009 Big East, Connecticut and Louisville
  • 2013 Big East, Connecticut and Louisville
  • 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:

  • <blank> Not in tournament
  • O Opening Round (only in 1983)
  • 1 First round
  • 2 Second Round
  • S Sweet 16
  • E Elite 8
  • F Final 4
  • R National Runner-up
  • C National Champion
  • References

    NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament Wikipedia