Women’s March Madness bracket busters 2024: The best sleeper picks, upset predictions for NCAA Tournament

March Madness is here. And as exciting as the storylines surrounding elite teams are (see: Caitlin Clark), lower seeds are looming.

The question is: Which ones are capable of busting brackets?

In 2023, No. 9 seed Miami made a push to the Elite Eight, while No. 8 seed Mississippi advanced to the second weekend of action before falling in the Sweet Sixteen. Lower-seeded teams from major conferences come into the postseason battle-tested, as they often face some of the nation’s top teams during conference play.

This year, though, a few teams from smaller conferences could make noise after putting together impressive resumes during the regular season. The talent in the women’s game is widespread, and several teams are looking to put their talent on full display to pull off an upset or two.

As the action gets underway, here are some of the potential bracket busters worth watching.

STREAM: Watch 2024 March Madness live with Sling TV

Women’s March Madness sleeper picks, upset predictions

Best bets to reach Sweet 16

No. 9 Princeton (25-4)

As evidenced by its record, Princeton has been one of the nation’s best teams this season. Of the Tigers’ four losses, their biggest margin of defeat was a nine-point loss to Indiana — a No. 4 seed in the 2024 NCAA Tournament — on a neutral floor in Fort Myers, Fla.

The combined deficit of Princeton’s other three losses? Seven points, including a three-point road loss to No. 2 seed UCLA.

It’s no secret that Princeton has a tough draw — it opens with No. 8 seed West Virginia, and the winner will almost certainly face Iowa. But the potential meeting with Princeton is one of the reasons why the Hawkeyes’ path back to the national championship game is viewed as the toughest among the top-seeded teams.

Princeton is led by two seniors: All-Ivy first-team selection Kaitlyn Chen and three-time Ivy League defensive player of the year Ellie Mitchell. As an experienced team, the Tigers have the formula to pull off a few upsets.

No. 11 Middle Tennessee State (29-4)

All of the March momentum is on the side of the Blue Raiders, who enter the NCAA Tournament on a 19-game win streak. Among Middle Tennessee’s most impressive wins is an 11-point win over Tennessee at a neutral site in December.

MTSU is led by Conference USA player of the year Savannah Wheeler. The team also boasts CUSA defensive player of the year Anastasiia Boldyreva, a 6-6 junior who averages 14.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game.

The Blue Raiders draw Louisville in the first round, and the Cardinals enter the tournament having lost three of their last five games. After sneaking by Boston College in the ACC Tournament opener, Louisville lost to eventual tournament champion Notre Dame by nine points.

As the 36th-ranked team in the NET Rankings, Middle Tennessee State measures out as a team capable of competing with powers like Louisville as well as a potential LSU matchup looming in the next round.

MORE: Complete guide to 2024 Women’s NCAA Tournament

No. 13 Fairfield (30-1)

It’s been four months since Fairfield’s lone loss of the season — a three-point defeat at the hands of Vanderbilt in Nashville. After a 1-1 start to the season, the Stags have won 29 games in a row.

Fairfield has learned to win in several ways, most recently punching its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with an overtime win over Niagara in the MAAC Tournament championship game.

Unsurprisingly, the Stags swept its conference honors. The team features MAAC player of the year Janelle Brown, rookie of the year Meghan Anderson and coach of the year Carly Thibault-DuDonis.

Despite its pedigree, Fairfield enters as a No. 13 seed with a tough draw, facing Indiana in Bloomington. The Hoosiers have the benefit of playing at home, but all eyes will be on the availability of Mackenzie Holmes, who was limited in Indiana’s Big Ten Tournament loss with a knee injury.

MORE: Buy tickets to 2024 March Madness games

Bracket busters who could pull off first-round upset

No. 10 UNLV (30-2)

There’s something to be said about 30-win teams. UNLV enters the tournament on a 15-game win streak and hasn’t lost since Jan. 20.

The one rough mark on the Rebels’ resume is a 30-point road loss to Seton Hall, but it also earned blowout wins over Arizona and Oklahoma in early December.

Metrics favor UNLV, which holds a double-digit seed despite coming in at 26th in the NCAA Women’s NET Rankings. For perspective, UNLV’s first-round matchup is Creighton, which ranks just two spots higher.

Should the Rebels make it out of the first round, facing UCLA in Los Angeles is no small task. But UNLV’s nonconference schedule prepared it for such tests.

No. 11 Texas A&M (19-12)

Lower seeds from power conferences are always dangerous.

Texas A&M finished with a 6-10 record in conference play, but the SEC is no slouch. The Aggies stumbled across the finish line with three losses to close the regular season, but they bounced back to get by Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament opener before falling to undefeated South Carolina in the next round.

With an opening game against Nebraska, Texas A&M has a favorable draw and could finally turn a corner after tough tests from conference opponents.

No. 12 Drake (29-5)

Keep an eye on Drake, a 29-win team that’s won 14 games in a row. 

The Bulldogs have an early-season power conference win over Iowa State and took Minnesota to double overtime in early December. Drake can score, too, putting up 90 points against Iowa but allowing 113 points to Caitlin Clark & Co.

Drake has scored 80 or more points in five of its last seven games and could push the pace against Colorado in the opening round.

Other potential bracket busters worth watching

Kara Lawson

(Getty Images)

No. 7 Duke (20-11)

The Blue Devils have the higher seed in their opening-round game. But they could move on to the second round to face an Ohio State team that has looked vulnerable in back-to-back losses ahead of the tournament.

Duke faced tough competition all season in the ACC, and a potential matchup with Ohio State wouldn’t be your typical 2-7 pairing.

No. 11 Arizona (17-15)

The Wildcats are a First Four team, but they have the makeup of a team that could build momentum for a deep run.

Arizona’s 17-15 record may give you pause, but the team is ranked 35th in the NET for a reason. The Wildcats recently pushed USC to the brink twice, and they also earned a big-time road upset over a shorthanded Stanford team.

With a win in the First Four, Arizona would draw No. 6 seed Syracuse. The winner of that game would potentially face a shorthanded Connecticut team in the second round.

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