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NCAA Women’s Tournament 2024: Dark horse championship contenders to watch in March Madness, including Colorado

It’s officially win-or-go-home time in women’s college basketball. While some teams are obvious favorites to win the 2024 NCAA Women’s Tournament — hello, undefeated South Carolina — there are several under-the-radar contenders across the field. 

No seed lower than No. 3 has ever won the tournament, but that doesn’t mean lower seeds have not made deep runs. March is all about upsets, so it’s only right that we look at some of the potential dark horses that could be busting brackets en route to a national title. 

Here are three dark horse contenders for the 2024 NCAA Women’s Tournament

No. 5 Colorado

The Buffaloes made it to the Sweet 16 last year after not having made it past the first round since 2002. They carried that momentum into 2023-24 by knocking off LSU in the season-opener and becoming one of the nation’s top-ranked teams early on. 

After beating the reigning national champs, the Buffs won all but one of their games by double digits through mid-January. Colorado did go 2-6 down the stretch, but it could be argued this is more of a statement of the Pac-12’s strength rather than the team losing its touch. 

The Buffs have four starters averaging at least nine points per game, and Aaronette Vonleh leads the way with 14.1 points per game. Meanwhile, Frida Formann makes Colorado a dangerous team from distance, as she is making over 2.5 3-pointers per game at a 42.7% clip — 17th best in the nation. 

No. 7 Ole Miss

This is another team that made it to the Sweet 16 last season after upsetting No. 1 seed Stanford. Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin is a rising star in the industry and she is in the middle of proving it on a national stage. Ole Miss had a strong non-conference schedule that is helping the Rebels arrive to the NCAA Women’s Tournament battle-tested. 

This season, the Rebels beat several tournament teams and clearly gained momentum down the stretch. Ole Miss rode a seven-game winning streak into the SEC Women’s Tournament semifinals, where the team lost 75-67 to LSU. That eight-point loss is actually promising considering LSU is playing its best basketball right now, as illustrated by the Tigers owning the nation’s third-best scoring margin (24.2).

Ole Miss is a top-20 rebounding team, and its offense is decently spread out with three consistent double-digit scorers in Madison Scott, Marquesa Davis and Kennedy Todd-Williams. Snudda Collins is also a valuable contributor with 9.6 points per contest. 

No. 9 Florida State

Unlike the other two teams on this list, FSU has not won a game in the NCAA Women’s Tournament since 2019. Last year, however, the team wasn’t 100% healthy when they lost to Georgia in the first round. The Seminoles had to compete without leading scorer Ta’Niya Latson, but she is ready to dance now. The sophomore guard is  averaging 21.3 points, which ranks 135th nationally. 

Defense could be an issue as Florida State is allowing 71.2 points per game, but its offense has potential to do some damage. Besides Latson, the Seminoles have three other double-digit scorers, including Makayla Timpson, who averages a double-double of 14.1 points and 10 rebounds per game. 

The Seminoles were ranked in the AP Top 25 in 12 weeks this season, and they are fresh off their first ACC Women’s Tournament semifinal appearance since 2020. The Seminoles proved they cannot be overlooked when they took Notre Dame to overtime on Feb. 11 and lost by only four points. After that, the Seminoles won six of their next seven games before falling to NC State in the ACC Women’s Tournament. 

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