Women's Sweet 16: BPI says Notre Dame, UConn and Baylor are favorites to win 2019 title

For the first time in a long time, it's not UConn versus the field in the women's NCAA tournament.

According to ESPN's Basketball Power Index (BPI) for women's college basketball, three co-favorites to win the title enter the Sweet 16: Notre Dame (22.5 percent), UConn (21.5 percent) and Baylor (20 percent).

Mississippi State (15 percent) is the only other school with at least a 10 percent chance to cut down the nets in Tampa, Florida.

Last season, UConn entered the NCAA tournament 4.2 points better than any other team, according to BPI. This year, the Huskies are BPI's top-ranked team, but only by a quarter of a point over Notre Dame and just more than one point compared to Baylor.

While UConn would be the BPI favorite against Notre Dame in the Final Four, the Fighting Irish have a slightly better chance to win the title (22.5 percent to 21.5 percent).

That's due to Notre Dame's easier path to Tampa. The Fighting Irish have an 87 percent chance to beat Texas A&M and would have a 71 percent chance to beat Stanford in the Elite Eight. UConn has an 85 percent chance to beat UCLA but just a 64 percent chance in the Elite Eight to knock off top-seeded Louisville, which beat the Huskies 78-69 in Louisville on Jan. 31.

According to BPI, there's a 38 percent chance that UConn and Notre Dame meet in the Final Four, and the Huskies would have a 51 percent chance to win that matchup. If the Huskies face any other team from the Chicago Regional in the national semifinal, they'd have a 75 percent chance to reach the championship game.

Put that all together, and there's a 72 percent chance that either Notre Dame or UConn reaches the title game from the right side of the bracket.

But the team with the best chance to reach the championship game hails from the left side of the bracket. Baylor, the No. 1 seed in the Greensboro Regional, has a 62 percent chance to reach the Final Four and a 38 percent chance to play for the title. The Lady Bears also have the second-best chance to beat the Huskies, at 54 percent.

The most competitive region is out West. Mississippi State has a 55 percent chance to win the Portland Region. Oregon has a 33 percent chance to cut down the nets in its home state and reach the Final Four for the first time in program history.

All about the chalk?

All four 1 seeds reached the Final Four last season, the fourth time that has happened in the first 37 years of the women's NCAA tournament. However, there's just a 7 percent chance that happens this year, according to BPI.

Louisville only has a 30 percent chance to advance out of the Albany Region, which is also home to UConn. Therefore, the most likely foursome in Tampa is Notre Dame, Baylor, UConn and Mississippi State.

According to BPI, there's a 13 percent chance that those are the last four teams standing.

There's a 35 percent chance that at least three No. 1 seeds reach the Final Four. Don't like chalk? BPI says there's a 4 percent chance that none of the top seeds will win their region.

Cinderella runs

Four teams seeded fifth or lower reached the Sweet 16, but BPI doesn't project any of them to stick around much longer. South Dakota State has a 28 percent chance to upset 2-seed Oregon in Portland, while Missouri State (20 percent against Stanford), UCLA (15 percent against UConn) and Arizona State (15 percent against Mississippi State) all have a 1-in-5 or lower chance to reach the Elite Eight.

The top 2 seeds are all favored in their Sweet 16 matchups, according to BPI. No. 3 seed NC State against Iowa is the best chance for an upset. The Wolfpack, who are playing in Greensboro, just 75 miles from campus, have a 43 percent chance to beat the Hawkeyes and reach the Elite Eight for the first time since making a run to the Final Four in 1998.

Pac-12 power

Five of the Pac-12's six NCAA tournament teams reached the Sweet 16. But the road ahead looks rough. Oregon and Stanford are the only teams from the conference projected to reach the Elite Eight, where both could face No. 1 seeds.

The Ducks have a 1-in-3 chance to reach the Final Four, the best for any Pac-12 team. Stanford, at 28 percent, is the only other team from the conference with more than a 10 percent chance to finish its season in Tampa.

Despite being the only conference with more than three teams still in the field, the Pac-12 only has an 11 percent chance to win the title, according to BPI. That's the fifth highest of any conference.

With two 1 seeds, the ACC is the favorite to win the title, with a 30 percent chance according to BPI.


The Women's College Basketball Power Index is an ELO-based measure of team strength designed to predict team performance going forward. Entering the season it assesses each team's predicted strength based on a regressed version of performance in prior seasons. Once games start, each team's rating is adjusted up or down based on game results. Winning a game by more points and/or against a better opponent results in a larger adjustment.

Strength of Record (SOR) is a measure of team accomplishment based on how difficult a team's W-L record is to achieve, derived from opponent's ELO ratings. Game predictions account for opponent strength and site and are used to simulate the season 10,000 times to produce season and tournament projections.