2021 NCAA women's tournament: Printable bracket, key players


The 64 teams that will participate in this year’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament were revealed on Selection Monday. 

This year, due to the Ivy League canceling its 2020-21 men's and women's basketball seasons, there are 31 automatic bids and 33 at-large bids that will compete for the national title. 

This year’s No. 1 seeds are N.C. State, South Carolina, Stanford and UConn, with Stanford being named as the top overall seed. 

To download a printable 2021 March Madness bracket, click here.

After March Madness was canceled last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s field will compete in Texas beginning Sunday, March 21. 

The tournament will be held at a single site to limit travel and the potential spread of COVID-19. Instead of dividing the teams into four regions across the country, they will all be in one state for this year’s madness. However, the tournament’s format will remain the same. 

Since every team is playing in Texas this year, the selection committee did not have to take geography into account when making the 64-team bracket. Instead, the committee used the S-curve, which ranks each of the 64 teams in a snaking pattern. Essentially, the goal of the S-curve is to reward higher seeds with easier matchups as they advance in the tournament. 

When will the NCAA Tournament take place?

The tournament’s first and second rounds will take place between Sunday, March 21, and Wednesday, March 24.

That will be followed by the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight the following week. The Sweet Sixteen will be played on March 27 and 28, while the Elite Eight will occur on March 29 and 30.

The Final Four will take place on Friday, April 2, culminating in the 2021 NCAA Championship Game, which will take place on Sunday, April 4.

Can fans buy March Madness tickets?

The NCAA is allowing fans to attend beginning with the Sweet Sixteen, up to 17% capacity. For the first and second rounds, only the team travel parties plus six guests will be allowed in the arena.

Who won automatic bids to the 2021 NCAA tournament?

The 31 teams that won their conference tournaments received automatic bids, as always, to this year’s NCAA Tournament:

Atlantic Sun: FGCU

ACC: NC State

America East: Stony Brook

American: South Florida

Atlantic 10: VCU

Big 12: Baylor

Big East: UConn

Big Sky: Idaho State

Big South: High Point

Big Ten: Maryland

Big West: UC Davis

Colonial: Drexel

Conference USA: Middle Tennessee

Horizon League: Wright State

MAAC: Marist

MEAC: North Carolina A&T

Mid-American: Central Michigan

Missouri Valley: Bradley

Mountain West: Wyoming

NEC: Mount St. Mary’s

OVC: Belmont

Pac-12 : Stanford

Patriot League: Lehigh

SEC: South Carolina

SoCon: Mercer

Southland: Stephen F. Austin

Summit: South Dakota

Sun Belt: Troy

SWAC: Jackson State

WAC: Utah Valley

WCC: Gonzaga

Who received at-large bids?

The other 33 teams were given at-large bids, as the selection committee deemed them as the next 33 best teams to compete for a national title. 

Some notable teams that received at-large bids include:

Louisville (23-3, 14-2 ACC): The Cardinals came as close to winning their conference tournament as anyone in the country. They completed a stellar regular season as the top team in the ACC, but they came up short against NC State in the ACC Championship Game after the Wolfpack hit a game-winner in the final seconds. Louisville was given a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a first-round matchup against Marist looming.

Arizona (16-5, 13-4 Pac-12): Arizona was unable to win its conference tournament, but it picked up a No. 3 seed in this year’s tournament. The Wildcats are led by Aari McDonald, who was Pac-12 Player of the Year and was named the Pac-12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year. The Wildcats will take on Stony Brook in the first round.

Texas A&M (23-2, 13-1 SEC): The Aggies cruised through the regular season, winning the SEC regular-season crown after big wins over South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and others. Texas A&M was upset by Georgia in the semifinal of the SEC Tournament, though, losing 74-68. The Aggies were awarded a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will play Troy in the first round.

Missouri State (21-2, 16-0 MVC): Missouri State pulled out of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament due to a positive COVID-19 test from its opponent, Bradley, but it still received an at-large bid. The Lady Bears went undefeated in MVC play and were the No. 21 team in the country coming into the tournament. They received a No. 5 seed and will face UC Davis in the first round.

Who was left out of the bracket? 

While some teams were able to play themselves off the bubble and into the tournament, other teams had the bubble burst on them on Selection Monday.

Houston, DePaul, Notre Dame and Oklahoma were the first four teams out of the tournament. However, they will be potential replacements for teams from multi-bid conferences in the field of 64 if they are unable to play due to positive COVID-19 tests.

How will replacement teams be decided if they are necessary? 

The NCAA announced its contingency plans in case teams are forced to withdraw from the tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Replacement teams will be announced before the tournament begins, and every single-bid conference can replace their automatic qualifier with a pre-approved replacement team. Other than that, replacement teams will be chosen from the pool of teams that were being considered for an at-large bid.

While standby teams will be in place, the NCAA has decided that they will only join the tournament within 48 hours after the announcement of the field, and will not be able to after that.

Who are the favorites to win the NCAA women’s basketball tournament?

UConn (24-1, 18-0 Big East): In UConn’s much-anticipated return to the Big East, the Huskies went undefeated, with their only non-conference loss coming on Jan. 28, by three points to Arkansas. On a team with no seniors and only three juniors, freshman superstar Paige Bueckers led the way.

The Huskies will be without head coach Geno Auriemma for at least the team’s first NCAA Tournament game after he tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. Auriemma is isolating at his home and currently does not have any symptoms. He said he has not had contact with any other team member since March 12 and all of the team’s Tier I personnel have tested negative for COVID-19.

Stanford (25-2, 19-2 Pac-12): Stanford was unable to play home games for nine weeks during the season due to COVID-19 regulations in Santa Clara County. Coach Tara VanDerveer helped the Cardinal rebound to finish first in the Pac-12 for the first time since 2014. The team followed that up with the program’s 14th Pac-12 tournament championship.

NC State (20-2, 12-2 ACC): The Wolfpack had two of the best wins of the year, defeating both Louisville and South Carolina when each team was ranked No. 1. NC State comes into the NCAA tournament off its second straight ACC tournament championship.

Texas A&M (23-2, 13-1 SEC): The Aggies captured their first SEC regular-season championship with a Feb. 28 victory over perennial contender South Carolina. The final AP poll of the year ranked Texas A&M No. 2, its highest ranking ever.

South Carolina (22-4, 14-2 SEC): After finishing second in the SEC regular season, the Gamecocks won their sixth SEC tournament championship in the past seven years. 

Who are the best players in this year’s March Madness?

Paige Bueckers, UConn: Bueckers, the No. 1 ranked player in her class, lived up to the hype in her freshman season, averaging 19.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game while shooting 53.9% from the field and 47.4% from 3. ESPN named her the 2020-21 Player of the Year in addition to Freshman of the Year.

Elissa Cunane, NC State: As a junior, Cunane averaged a team-high 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game despite missing a month after testing positive for COVID-19.

Rhyne Howard, Kentucky: In her senior season, Howard improved on every aspect of her all-around game, averaging 22.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.3 steals and 4.1 assists per game. She was the SEC Player of the Year for the second straight year.

NaLyssa Smith, Baylor: Smith led Baylor to the team’s 11th straight Big 12 regular-season championship. The 6-foot-2 forward nearly averaged a double-double with 18.1 points (on 54.3% shooting) and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Meredith Day, Logan Reardon and Peter Dewey contributed to this story.

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