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Breaking down all 7 Pac-12 teams in the 2023 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament

Mar 15, 2023
Photo courtesy Stanford Athletics

Six wins to a title. Experiences of a lifetime. A chance to take a step (or a few) forward for a program. It’s Tournament time.

Seven teams will represent the Pac-12 in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, matching the highest total in league history.

The power and depth of the conference were apparent in the seedings, the conference earning a No. 1 seed for Stanford, a No. 2 seed for Utah, a No. 4 seed for UCLA, a No. 5 seed for Washington State, a No. 6 seed for Colorado, a No. 7 seed for Arizona and a No. 8 seed for USC.

“This never gets old!” said UCLA coach Cori Close. “It’s such a great experience and we don’t take it for granted, especially after COVID and many other challenges. We are ready to compete and fight to play another game. We love that we get to play at home in front of fans and family.  But it’s all about getting better, giving to each other and earning another game. Could not be more pumped to get started."

Let’s break it down for each of the conference teams that punched their tickets to the Tournament.

Stanford (28-5)

  • Seed: 1
  • Region: Seattle 4
  • First Round Opponent: Winner of No. 16 Southern/Sacred Heart play-in game
  • Date/Time/Location/TV: Friday, March 17, 4:30 p.m. PT, Stanford, Calif., ESPN2

Recap: The Cardinal makes its 36th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford will be motivated after falling in the semifinal round of the conference tournament, failing to make the Pac-12 Tournament title game for the first time since 2016. The Cardinal earned its No. 1 seed by tying South Carolina for the most top-50 wins in the country. But with two losses in the last three games heading into the postseason, Stanford will be looking to recapture its mojo at Maples Pavilion, particularly on the offensive end.

Outlook: The Cardinal will overwhelm many teams with its size, depth and length. Its path to the NCAA title will be paved in the paint, led by Cameron Brink. But sooner or later, Stanford will run up against a team that will make it score from the perimeter and it will need Hannah Jump, Brooke Demetre and Talana Lepolo to be able to connect from long distance. Without the ability to stretch, the Cardinal has looked shaky offensively.

Take Note(s): A first-round win will be the 100th NCAA Tournament win in Stanford program history. The Cardinal's 36 NCAA Tournament appearances are the second-most all-time and its 13 No. 1 seeds are the third-most.

Utah (25-4)

  • Seed: 2
  • Region: Greenville 2
  • First Round Opponent: No. 15 Gardner-Webb (29-4)
  • Date/Time/Location/TV: Friday, March 17, 4:30 p.m. PT, Salt Lake City, Utah, ESPNU

Recap: The Utes’ are coming off the best season in school history and have received their highest NCAA seed ever (never higher than a 5 seed), making the bracket for consecutive seasons for the first time since 2008-09. Utah is the fourth highest scoring team in the country (83.5 ppg). 

Outlook: For Utah, the matchups are going to matter. It's hard to see teams early in the tournament being able to stop their potent and efficient offense. But this Utes team isn’t just a bombs-away team from the perimeter. There’s Alissa Pili inside and she needs to stay on the floor for the Utes to go deep. Gardner-Webb is in the tournament for the first time since 2011 and has won a school-record 29 games this season. Big South Player of the Year Jhessyka WIlliams is averaging 19.8 points and 9.4 rebounds this season.

Take Note: The Utes are hosting first and second-round games in the tournament for the second time in program history (2001).

UCLA (25-9)

  • Seed: 4
  • Region: Greenville 1
  • First Round Opponent: No. 13 Sacramento State (25-7)
  • Date/Time/Location/TV: Saturday, March 18, 8:30 p.m. PT, Los Angeles, Calif., ESPN2

Recap: The Bruins, coming off their run to the Pac-12 Tournament title game that included a semifinal upset of Stanford, are back in the tournament brackets after missing out in 2022. Senior Charisma Osborne will lead her team into the NCAA Tournament as she’s done all season as the team’s leading scorer. She is getting strong support from freshman Kiki Rice, named to the All-Pac-12 Tournament team, and redshirt sophomore Emily Bessoir.

Outlook: The opportunity to host for the first time since 2018, which UCLA likely nailed down with its trip to the Pac-12 title game, is huge for the Bruins, a team with a 13-3 record on their home floor this season. A first-round win will send them to a second-round game potentially against Oklahoma, a high-scoring team that will test the Bruins defensively. But first, UCLA will face a Hornets team that won the Big Sky Conference regular season and tournament for the first time in program history. Hornets coach Mark Campbell is a familiar face, having been a lead assistant at both Oregon State and Oregon.

Take Note: With South Carolina looming in the bracket, keep in mind that UCLA went to Columbia and led by double-digits in the first half against the defending national champions before falling 73-64.

Washington State (23-10)

  • Seed: 5
  • Region: Greenville 2
  • First Round Opponent: No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast (32-3)
  • Date/Time/Location/TV: Saturday, March 18, 11:30 a.m. PT, Villanova, Pa., ESPNU

Recap: The Cougars are riding high coming off of their surprise title run in the Pac-12 Tournament, the first-ever Pac-12 title in program history. Now WSU wants to add to the list of “firsts” and win their first NCAA Tournament game in their third straight appearance. Charlisse Leger-Walker is in an offensive groove, averaging 18.6 points a game over the last five games, including a 23-point game in the Pac-12 Tournament finale that led to her being named Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Bella Murekatete scored 21 points in the title game, continuing a run of strong offensive games down the stretch of the season.

Outlook: The Cougars come into the tournament with “energy” as WSU coach Kamie Ethridge described it. They have momentum, and now they have both depth and NCAA experience to go with it. But they will be facing a team in Florida Gulf Coast that also knows its way around the NCAA Tournament, having made nine trips to the Tournament since 2012. The Eagles have won 14 straight games coming into the first round and are the nation’s most productive team from beyond the arc, leading the country with 11 3-pointers per game.

Take Note: The Cougars are just the third team from a major conference seeded seventh or worse to win their league’s tournament (No. 9 seed Auburn - 1997 - SEC; No. 7 seed Kentucky - 2022 - SEC).

Colorado (23-8)

  • Seed: 6
  • Region: Seattle 4
  • First Round Opponent: No. 11 Middle Tennessee (28-4)
  • Date/Time/Location/TV: Saturday, March 18, 4 p.m. PT, Durham N.C., ESPNews

Recap: The Buffaloes, putting together their best season since 2012-13 and pulling off  their highest-ever finish in the conference race, will make their first consecutive NCAA appearances since 2001-2004 and want to build off a really strong Pac-12 season in which they were among the league’s most physical and toughest defensive matchups, ranking third in the conference scoring defense at 58.6 points a game and forced nearly 17 turnovers a game. Defense to offense is CU’s favorite way to score, with four players — Quay Miller, Aaronette Vonleh, Frida Formann and Jaylyn Sherrod — all averaging in double digits.

Outlook: Miller will be looking to rebound after a tough Pac-12 Tournament in which she scored just two points in two games, going 0-for-16 from the floor. They will need Miller, as well as Formann to carry the scoring load with Sherrod and sparkplug Kindyll Wetta coming off the bench. MTSU earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with an 82-70 win over Western Kentucky in the Conference USA title game. The Lady Raiders have had two extended winning streaks this season —16 games and now 10 games heading into tournament play.

Take Note: The Buffs have been seeded sixth in three of their last five appearances (also 2003 and 2004). They are 3-3 as a No. 6 seed in tournament history.

Arizona (21-9)

  • Seed:
  • Region: Greenville 1
  • First Round Opponent: No. 10 West Virginia (19-11)
  • Date/Time/Location/TV:  Friday, March 17, 9 a.m., PT College Park, Md., ESPN

Recap: Three straight losses to end the season, two in league play and the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament cost Arizona their chance to host first- and second-round games in McKale Center. Recapturing momentum against the Mountaineers will be the No. 1 focus, with the Wildcats averaging 62 points a game over their last four games. 

Outlook: The Wildcats are making their third straight NCAA appearance under Adia Barnes. This matchup against West Virginia is going to be a huge motivator for senior forward Esmery Martinez, the team's third-leading scorer (10.5) and leading rebounder (8.3), who played her first three seasons for the Mountaineers from 2020-22. Fifth-year seniors Cate Reese and Shaina Pellington will need to be on their offensive games against a WVU team that ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 in scoring defense, allowing just 61 points a game.

Take Note: Arizona enters the tournament with its fifth straight 20-win season.

USC (21-9)

  • Seed: 8
  • Region: Seattle 3
  • First Round Opponent: No. 9 South Dakota State (28-5)
  • Date/Time/Location/TV:  Friday, March 17, 5 p.m., Blacksburg, Va., ESPNews

Recap: The Trojans are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014 and the first time under head coach Lindsay Gottlieb.

Outlook: The Trojans will be looking at a difficult weekend in Blacksburg, facing a tournament-polished South Dakota State team in the opening round. If they win, they will be taking on No. 1 Virginia Tech on their home floor in the second round. But Tech isn’t an experienced high seed in the tournament and if USC buckles down defensively — they are, after all, a top-20 defensive team in the country — they could be a Cinderella candidate for the Sweet 16. South Dakota State won the WNIT last season after missing the NCAA brackets for only the fourth time in the last 15 seasons.

Take Note: USC will be the only player in the brackets outside of South Carolina with a player who won a national championship last year. Senior guard Destiny Littleton lifted the trophy with the Gamecocks a year ago.


Oregon (17-14) vs. North Dakota State (18-11), Friday, 7 p.m. PT, Eugene: This is the Ducks’ first year missing the NCAA Tournament since 2016. Despite a high ranking in the NET, Oregon was hurt by the number of mid-major teams that pulled off surprise conference tournament wins, taking away at-large berths. But this is a team that could find consolation in a really long WNIT run after being tabbed the No. 1 overall seed. Oregon went 3-1 against teams in this year’s WNIT, defeating Arkansas and finishing 2-1 against Washington.

Washington (15-14) vs. San Francisco, Thursday, 7 p.m. PT, Seattle: The Huskies are happy to keep playing, making the program’s first postseason tournament appearance since 2017, as head coach Tina Langley builds the program into a Pac-12 contender.  Langley led Rice to the WNIT title at Rice in 2021 before coming to Washington.