The Stanford Cardinal and Virginia Tech Hokies earned the highly contested final two No. 1 seeds in the 2023 NCAA women's basketball tournament, the bracket for which was revealed exclusively on ESPN as part of Selection Sunday.
On the No. 1 seed line, the Pac-12 regular-season co-champion Cardinal and the ACC tournament champion Hokies join the Big Ten regular-season champion Indiana Hoosiers as well as the top overall seed -- the undefeated, defending national champion South Carolina Gamecocks.
Both Virginia Tech and Indiana earned 1-seeds for the first time in school history. No. 1 seeds have won the championship at 10 straight NCAA tournaments.
With reigning national player of the year Aliyah Boston leading the way, South Carolina -- which hasn't lost a game in over a calendar year -- is six wins from becoming the fourth program to repeat as national champions (joining UConn, Tennessee and Southern California) as well as the fifth to complete an undefeated season (alongside UConn six times, Tennessee, Texas and Baylor).
The final two slots on the 1-seed line were considered fairly open heading into Selection Sunday; according to NCAA women's basketball committee chair Lisa Peterson, the Iowa Hawkeyes and UConn Huskies, which won the Big Ten and Big East tournaments, respectively, also were considered for the spots.
"Virginia Tech is on an 11-game winning streak, and the way that they've played at the end of the season, and then in their conference tournament, was the reason why they ended up on the one line," Peterson said. "They, also like Stanford, had 20 wins in the [NET] top 100."
Though Stanford shockingly dropped two of its last three games in Pac-12 play, the Cardinal's body of work was robust enough to keep them as a 1-seed. In comparison, UConn had 19 wins over the NET top 100, while Iowa had 18.
The Huskies dealt with a slew of injuries this season, most prominently with former No. 1 recruit Azzi Fudd getting sidelined for two lengthy stretches with knee issues. She has only appeared in 12 games this season but returned for the Big East tournament.
"It was a very difficult conversation, and certainly we all are very well aware of the injuries that Connecticut had had," Peterson said. "And while those games may have ended up differently if their lineup had been different, we can't discredit that those ended up being losses. But at the same time, they're a really good team and deserving of where they are on that 2-line."
Iowa suffered four losses through Jan. 1 but has only lost twice since, to Indiana and the Maryland Terrapins.
"Iowa was [in the conversation] as well, and certainly the way that they were playing, that last second shot against Indiana in the regular season and then how they managed themselves throughout the Big Ten tournament, they were definitely a part of the conversation," Petersen said. "In all honesty, it was probably the Iowa-Stanford conversation that was the longest."
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Iowa and UConn now end up on the No. 2 seed line, along with Maryland and the Utah Utes, with Maryland appearing in South Carolina's quadrant, Iowa in Stanford's, Utah in Indiana's and UConn in Virginia Tech's. Powered by national player of the year contender Caitlin Clark, Iowa seeks to advance to the program's first Final Four since 1993 (when it was coached by the legendary C. Vivian Stringer). UConn, which fell in the title game to South Carolina last season, is on a quest to play in a record 15th consecutive Final Four and win the school's 12th national championship, which would be its first since 2016.
Considered a lock as a No. 1 alongside the Gamecocks, the Hoosiers are hoping to build upon the program history they established the past two tournaments, advancing to the Elite Eight in 2021 for the first time, then making the Sweet 16 the year after.
Virginia Tech -- one of the hottest teams in the country entering the tournament -- has never advanced past the Sweet 16, which it last played in in 1999. The Cardinal, who have been to two consecutive Final Fours, are looking to win a fourth national title and second in three years after clinching the 2021 championship in the San Antonio "bubble."
The Hokies and the Hawkeyes both saw the rewards of their stellar recent play, each moving up a seed line since the NCAA women's basketball committee's last early reveal on Feb. 23.
The other teams that will host first- and second-round competition are the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Duke Blue Devils, Ohio State Buckeyes and LSU Tigers (all 3-seeds), along with the UCLA Bruins, Villanova Wildcats, Texas Longhorns and Tennessee Lady Vols (all 4-seeds). The Buckeyes, Bruins, Wildcats, Longhorns and Lady Vols all fell in their conference tournament finals. Tennessee remains the only team that has appeared in every iteration of the NCAA tournament.
"I would say the whole five line, and then Iowa State [which won the Big 12 tournament championship Sunday] basically played their way into that this past week ... there's probably five teams that we were considering on that  line [to host]," Peterson said on the teams in the mix of hosting.
The last four teams out were Columbia, Kansas, UMass and Oregon, according to the NCAA.
UCLA and Tennessee -- which upset Stanford and LSU, respectively, in their league tournaments -- were among the biggest risers since the last early reveal, replacing the Michigan Wolverines and Arizona Wildcats in the top 16. Meanwhile LSU fell from the No. 2 line to the 3-seed line, and Utah from a 1-seed to a 2-seed after bowing out early in conference tournament play.
Four programs will make their NCAA tournament debuts: Saint Louis, Sacramento State, Southeastern Louisiana and Southern Utah. The ACC led the way eight teams earning berths, followed by seven for the SEC, Pac-12 and Big Ten, plus six for the Big 12 and five for the Big East.
The 2023 tournament will feature two regionals, replacing the previous four-site format, with Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games occurring March 24-27 in Greenville, South Carolina, and Seattle. The regionals will be called Greenville 1, Greenville 2, Seattle 3 and Seattle 4.
For the second year, the women's tournament will include 68 teams, with First Four games to be held Wednesday and Thursday at campus host sites. Those matchups are: Sacred Heart vs. Southern (both 16-seeds), Tennessee Tech vs. Monmouth (both 16-seeds), Illinois vs. Mississippi State (both 11-seeds) and Purdue vs. St. John's (both 11-seeds).
First-round competition will take place Friday and Saturday, with second-round games proceeding Sunday and Monday. The Final Four will be held at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on March 31 (national semifinals) and April 2 (national championship game).