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This has been a highly competitive women's college basketball season, and it's looking like the 2024 NCAA Women's Tournament will not disappoint. To maximize the fun, print out a bracket to see if you can predict all the wild upsets, buzzer-beaters and overtime thrillers that are sure to come. 

LSU is trying to defend its national title, but the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks are trying to take back the trophy they won in 2022. Meanwhile, Iowa star Caitlin Clark is looking to continue her historic season by taking the Hawkeyes back to the championship game.

We could have a title game rematch as LSU and Iowa could potentially meet in the Elite Eight, which would certainly be must-watch television. 

But nobody, not even South Carolina, has anything guaranteed. UConn is the most successful program in women's college basketball history, and Paige Bueckers  -- who missed last season with a torn ACL-- was built for March. Teams from the Pac-12 conference will also be motivated to compete as they dance together one more time before conference realignment.

Let's take a closer look at the top storylines to follow during the 2024 NCAA Women's Tournament:

LSU aiming to go back-to-back

The Tigers were doubted and overlooked last season, with several voices pointing to their lack of non-conference schedule strength. LSU was on a mission to prove everyone wrong, and the Tigers did so by winning the NCAA Tournament. Angel Reese, a transfer from Maryland, rose to stardom after leading the team in scoring and rebounding while recording 34-double-doubles -- which set an NCAA single-season record. 

Reese is back for another title run, and her team was actually expected to be stronger than last year's in the preseason because of the addition of former Louisville star Hailey Van Lith and the nation's top freshman class. It didn't start out as smoothly as expected, as the Tigers were stunned by Colorado in their season-opener and had significant locker room drama in November. However, it seems things are now clicking for the Tigers, and they could be peaking at the right time. While they lost the SEC championship to South Carolina, LSU closed the regular season strong and put up an impressive fight in the title game.

Only three programs have been able to win the NCAA Women's Tournament in consecutive seasons. Could Kim Mulkey's Tigers become the fourth?

Here are the teams who've won consecutive national titles so far:

  • USC: 1983-84
  • Tennessee: 1996-98, 2007-08
  • UConn: 2002-04, 2009-10, 2013-16

Can South Carolina finish undefeated?

The Gamecocks are entering the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed for the third consecutive year as a result of their perfect 32-0 record. Not every performance has been flawless, but South Carolina has found ways to win while head coach Dawn Staley demands discipline.

The Gamecocks have the best scoring margin in the nation thanks to their suffocating defense and evenly-distributed offense. Staley has a very deep team -- so deep, in fact, that seven players average over eight points per game, and at least five Gamecocks have reached double figures in 17 games this season.

South Carolina is looking even better than last season when they had two-time Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Aliyah Boston. They have what it takes to make a title run, and now it's just about executing.  However, not losing a single game is a tough thing to do. Only nine programs have ever won the NCAA Women's Tournament with a perfect record, and it hasn't happened since UConn did it in 2016.

Here are the teams who have achieved perfect seasons:

  • 1985-86 Texas (34-0)
  • 1994-95 UConn (35-0)
  • 1997-98 Tennessee (39-0)
  • 2001-02 UConn (39-0)
  • 2008-09 UConn (39-0)
  • 2009-10 UConn (39-0)
  • 2011-12 Baylor (40-0)
  • 2013-14 UConn (40-0)
  • 2015-16 UConn (38-0)

Caitlin Clark's historic season continues

The Iowa native has been a fantastic player her entire college career, but last year she truly established herself as a superstar. Clark amassed historic numbers during the NCAA Women's Tournament while guiding the Hawkeyes to their first NCAA championship game. Clark broke several records in college basketball overall, not just the women's side. These included the most points in a single NCAA tournament (191) and becoming the first player in tournament history to have a 40-point triple-double. 

This season, Clark became the NCAA Division I all-time leading scorer after surpassing LSU legend Pete Maravich's 3,667 career points. A huge part of Clark's success has come from her ability to shoot from distance. This season, she also broke the single-season NCAA D-I 3-point record formerly held by Stephen Curry. 

Clark is entering the tournament with 3, 771 career points and will continue to add to her record as she wraps up her last college basketball season. The Hawkeyes are looking to return to the title game, and Clark will aim to finish the job this time around.

Can UConn overcome its injuries?

UConn is the most successful program in women's college basketball history with 11 national titles. The Huskies were expected to be one of the top teams in the nation once again this year with Paige Bueckers returning from a torn ACL. Bueckers was expected to shine alongside Azzi Fudd and Aaliyah Edwards, but Fudd suffered a season-ending injury in November, and the injury bug would eventually leave UConn with a rotation of only seven players.  

UConn's season-ending injuries:

  • Azzi Fudd --  medial meniscal tear and ACL tear
  • Jana El Alfy -- Achilles
  • Aubrey Griffin -- torn ACL
  • Ayanna Patterson -- knee
  • Caroline Ducharme -- head/neck
  • Amari DeBerry -- concussion

For the Huskies to succeed despite their health concerns, Bueckers will need to put even more of the offensive burden on her shoulders. Even Dawn Staley pointed out UConn will benefit from Bueckers playing more aggressively on offense.

The Pac-12's final stand

The Pac-12 as we know it is disappearing with 10 of the current 12 teams joining other conferences next season. USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb had a full-circle moment after the Trojans won the conference tournament against Stanford. That victory secured the Trojans a No. 1 seed. 

It's truly a shame to see the conference as we know it come to end, but the Pac-12 is saying goodbye by reminding everyone of the excellence that will be lost. Six Pac-12 teams have been ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for most of the season, and seven teams will be participating in the NCAA Women's Tournament. For the first time in Pac-12 history, three teams are seeded No. 2 or better.

Here are the Pac-12 teams going dancing along with their seedings:

  • USC (No. 1 seed in Portland Regional 3)
  • UCLA (No. 2 seed in Albany Regional 2)
  • Stanford (No. 2 seed in Portland Regional 4)
  • Oregon State (No. 3 seed in Albany Regional 1)
  • Colorado (No. 5 seed in Albany Regional 2)
  • Utah (No. 5 seed in Portland Regional 4)
  • Arizona (First Four, No. 11 seed in Portland Regional 3)

Freshmen rising to stardom

While most eyes will deservingly be on established stars like Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese and Paige Bueckers, several freshman phenoms will begin to steal the spotlight. 

USC freshman JuJu Watkins is the nation's second-leading scorer behind Clark. Watkins is on track to be the next D-I all-time scoring leader if she chooses to stay four years in college. The Trojans had a breakout season in 2022-23, but Watkins has taken the team to a whole new level.

Hannah Hidalgo has also been outstanding for Notre Dame by establishing herself as a dominant force on both ends of the court. Meanwhile, Madison Booker took on a huge role for Texas when star point guard Rori Harmon suffered a season-ending injury. Booker, a traditional forward who was pressed into increased point guard duties, has led the Longhorns to their first No. 1 seed since 2004.

Here is a closer look look at women's college basketball's top five freshmen this season.