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  • Writer's pictureKyle Flannery

Predicting the Next 5 NCAA Tournament Winners

LSU guard Flau'jae Johnson celebrates the 2023 National Championship

Ron Jenkins/Getty Images


With many conference championships wrapping up this week, college basketball fans across the country are eagerly awaiting March's celebrated tradition: the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. Parity in women's hoops is the highest it's been in recent memory, with a multitude of legitimate contenders vying to end the season as the nation's best team. As we look toward the future of college hoops, we can't help but predict not only this year's March Madness winner, but who will climb to the top of the mountain in each of the next five years.

 

UCLA stars Lauren Betts and Charisma Osborne celebrate on the court

Jessica Hill/AP Photo

2024: UCLA


I strongly believe that this year's champion will come out of the Pac-12. Not only would it be the perfect send-off for the disbanding conference, the Pac-12 also has the strongest teams of any conference in the country. UCLA is the most battle-tested team in the country, and the most balanced team in their conference. Their squad this year gives me flashes of last year's South Carolina team, which had one of the most talented rosters in the history of women's college basketball. Lauren Betts is one of the best post players in the country, and their backcourt of Kiki Rice and Charisma Osborne can match up against some of the best guards in the country. Look for UCLA to bring home some hardware in Osborne's last season with the Bruins before she heads to the WNBA.


UConn stars Paige Bueckers and Nika Muhl celebrate on the court

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2025: UConn


UConn has undoubtedly had the worst luck with injuries in the past two years. They've lost five rotation players to season-ending injuries this year, including stars Azzi Fudd and Aubrey Griffin, both to ACL tears. Freshman phenom Jana El Alfy never had the chance to step foot on the court this season, after tearing her Achilles playing for Egypt in FIBA U19 World Cup. El Alfy averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds per game in that tournament, as she looked like the best U19 player in the world before she went down. With everyone healthy, UConn is the most talented team in the country. With Paige Bueckers announcing her return for one more season with the Huskies, several key pieces returning, and the additions of Naismith All-Americans Allie Ziebell (no. 4 ESPNW) and Morgan Cheli (no. 18 ESPNW) to their incoming freshman class, UConn should be viewed as the odds-on favorite to win the 2025 National Championship.


Duke women's basketball walks off the court

Nat LeDonne/Duke Athletics


2026: Duke


Kara Lawson is a top 3 coach in the country, and she has a young and talented squad. The Blue Devils' top four scorers have eligibility through 2026, and despite their youth, they've given teams in a stacked ACC good battles in 2024. Once Kara Lawson gets her recruits on the roster, specifically Canadian sensation Toby Fournier (no. 9 ESPNW) and Arianna Roberson, (no. 19 ESPNW) Duke will sit atop one of the most balanced conferences in the nation. Lawson has Duke on the trajectory of becoming a college basketball dynasty, and look for their first title of that run to be in 2026.


South Carolina guard Milaysia Fulwiley goes up for a layup

Nell Redmond/AP Photo


2027: South Carolina


Let's be clear. As long as Dawn Staley is at South Carolina, they will be a perennial March contender. Staley has proven that she can lose five starters and still lead a team to an undefeated regular season and SEC conference championship. I particularly like their chances in 2026 for three reasons: Milaysia Fulwiley will be a senior, and one of the best players in college basketball. The SEC will get weaker, especially with LSU's inability to recruit top prospects. LSU only has one top 100 recruit in the class of 2024 in Jada Richard (no. 97 ESPNW) and I don't trust Kim Mulkey to turn that around. Finally, Dawn Staley is a master recruiter. She already has commits from the 2nd and 12th ranked players in the class of 2024, and all signs point to them landing number one Sarah Strong. I can't see a Gamecock national championship drought of more than four years, so I think 2027 is South Carolina's year.


South Carolina Star Kamilla Cardoso goes up for a shot

Karl B. DeBlaker/AP Photo


2028: South Carolina (again)


South Carolina's class of 2024 will be seniors, and they'll be aided by the top recruits Dawn Staley picks up in consequent years. I believe we'll see Staley's 4th title in just over a decade, solidifying her as a top three women's college basketball coach of all time. This repeat would be the first since UConn in 2015 and 2016. Even though the parity of talent will grow across the NCAA within the next five years, South Carolina remains the team to beat in the 2020's.



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