College basketball is extremely competitive. Yet, for many high school-aged fans or players, a good basketball team is vital to the overall college experience. That’s why College Values Online has researched the U.S. colleges and universities with the best women’s basketball teams.
To come up with the best schools for women’s collegiate basketball, our editors began by compiling a list of the best teams as ranked by the NCAA and the most competitive conferences, including the Big Ten, the ACC, the SEC, and the Pac-12, to name but a few. Then we narrowed down our (long!) list of best colleges for women’s basketball based on such factors as NCAA Tournament appearances, tournament wins, conference title wins, and notable alumnae.
Baylor University is home to the Lady Bears, one of the Big 12’s most successful women’s basketball teams. Currently led by coach Kim Mulkey, this best college for women’s basketball has 18 appearances in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve even won the whole tournament three times, most recently in 2019. Quite a few successful alumnae have come from Baylor’s women’s basketball program, including Chloe Jackson, Sophia Young, and the great Brittney Griner.
DePaul University’s women’s basketball team has been led by head coach Doug Bruno for a whopping 30 seasons! During this time, the Blue Demons have made 24 appearances to the NCAA Tournament, including in every year since 2003. Of those 24 appearances, the women’s basketball team has made it as far as the Sweet Sixteen four times, most recently in 2016. They’re also a major powerhouse within the Big East Conference, and have been named Conference Regular Season Champions a total of five times (2014-2018).
Durham, North Carolina
Duke University’s women’s basketball team has been a powerhouse since the 1990s. The Blue Devils have claimed countless major victories over the years, including eight conference tournament wins and 12 conference regular season champion titles. They’ve made 24 NCAA Tournament appearances, making it to the Sweet Sixteen 17 times, the Elite Eight 11 times, and the Final Four four times. They’ve been crowned NCAA Tournament Runner-Up twice. Some of Duke’s notable alumnae include Mistie Bass, Alana Beard, Lindsey Harding, and Krystal Thomas, to name but a few.
Elon, North Carolina
Elon University, located in Elon, North Carolina, competes as part of the Colonial Athletic Association. Led by head coach Charlotte Smith, the Elon Phoenix were named regular season champions for their conference in 2017, then went on to become conference tournament champions in both 2017 and 2018. The team has also made two NCAA Tournament appearances, most recently in 2018.
Florida State University
Florida State University’s women’s basketball team has been led by head coach Sue Semrau for 22 seasons, and they’ve enjoyed the success that can only come with such stability. The Seminoles, who compete as part of the Atlantic Coast Conference, have appeared in 18 NCAA Tournaments. They have made it as far as the Elite Eight three times, most recently in 2017. Over the years, this best college for women’s basketball has sent 15 of its players to the WNBA Draft, including Natasha Howard, Britany Miller, Cierra Bravard, and Jacinta Monroe, to name but a few.
George Washington University
We can add women’s basketball to the list of things at which George Washington University excels. Since joining the Atlantic 10 Conference in 1983, the George Washington Colonials have won the regular season title an impressive 15 different times. On top of that, the women have made 18 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, making it as far as the Second Round 13 times, the Sweet Sixteen four times, and the Elite Eight once.
Gonzaga University in Washington state is known as a big basketball school, and its women’s basketball team is no exception. The Bulldogs compete in Division I of the West Coast Conference, where they’ve been a force with which to be reckoned since their first season in 1987. Indeed, they were named Conference Regular Season Champions as early as 1988 — a feat they’ve repeated 14 more times over the years! Of 11 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, Gonzaga has advanced to the Round of the 32 six times, the Sweet Sixteen four times, and the Elite Eight once.
Iowa State University
Iowa State University is home to the Cyclones women’s basketball team. As part of the Big 12 Conference, Iowa State competes against a number of big powerhouse schools. And yet, the team consistently manages to rank amongst the best colleges for women’s basketball. The Cyclones have made 18 NCAA Tournament appearances since the tournament’s inception, and have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight five times and twice, respectively.
The Marquette University women’s basketball team have been competing since the 1975-76 season, during which time they finished with an overall record of 12-4. More than four decades later, the Golden Eagles remain a well-oiled machine of a team. Marquette competes as part of the Big East Conference. They have been named Conference Regular Season Champions the last two years in a row (2018 and 2019), and even won the Big East Conference tournament as recently as 2017. The Golden Eagles have also made it to the NCAA Tournament a total of 12 times, and in 2018 and 2019 (just two of six total times) made it as far as the Second Round.
Mississippi State University
The Mississippi State University women’s basketball team competes as part of the competitive Southeastern Conference in Division I of the NCAA. Led by head coach Vic Schaefer, currently in his 7th season coaching, the Bulldogs have made 11 NCAA Tournament appearances, including in every year since 2015. The women were tournament runners-up in both 2017 and 2018. In 2017, Mississippi State blew the basketball world away when they ended University of Connecticut’s 111 game winning streak during the Final Four game of the NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University’s women’s basketball team has always been competitive, but in recent years, the team has really proven themselves as a force with which to be reckoned. Much of this has to do with the leadership of Wes Moore, who took over the role of head coach in 2013. Since then, the Wolfpack Women have made four NCAA Tournament appearances, most recently in 2019. They’ve reached the Sweet Sixteen the past two years in a row.
Northwestern University is home to the Wildcats, a top-ranked women’s collegiate basketball team. The Wildcats compete as part of the Big Ten Conference of the NCAA. They’ve made 10 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, and made it as far as the Second Round a total of four times. The team is currently coached by Joe McKeown, who boasts an overall coaching record of 111-110 (as of 2019).
The Ohio State University
The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio is well known for its sports teams, and the Ohio State women’s basketball team is no exception. The Buckeyes compete as part of the ultra-competitive Big Ten, and have won 12 Big Ten titles — the most of any other school in the conference. Additionally, the team has made an impressive 24 NCAA Tournament appearances, most recently in 2018. Many successful basketball players got their start as a Buckeye, including Katie Smith, Jantel Lavender, Jessica Davenport, and Samantha Prahalis, to name but a few.
Quinnipiac University is home to the women’s basketball team known as the Bobcats. The women of Quinnipiac have competed in Division I since 1998, first as part of the Northeast Conference and currently with the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). The Bobcats have made three NCAA Tournament appearances, the most recent of which occurred in 2017 when they made it as far as the Sweet Sixteen. However, Quinnipiac enjoys great success within the MAAC, and have been named Conference Regular Season Champions every year since 2014.
Rice University is home to the Rice Owls women’s basketball team. Coached by Tina Langley, the Owls compete in Division I of Conference USA of the NCAA. As such, Rice’s women’s basketball team is eligible to appear in the NCAA Tournament, which they’ve done three times (most recently in 2019). The team has also been named Conference Regular Season Champions twice, with their latest crowning occurring in 2019.
Coached by the legendary Tara VanDerveer, the Stanford University women’s basketball team are always a force with which to be reckoned. The Cardinal compete as part of the Pac-12 Conference — an ultra-competitive conference that the team has won a number of times (including every year between 2001-2014!). Stanford have been crowned NCAA Tournament Champions twice in 33 years, but make an appearance just about every year.
Syracuse, New York
Syracuse University’s women’s basketball team competes in the NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference. The team, known as the Orange, have been led by head coach Quentin Hillsman for over a decade, and have experienced success. The Orange have made 11 total appearances to the NCAA Tournament, including in every year since 2013. Of those appearances, they made it to the Second Round six times, and in 2016 even went as far as to be named the tournament’s Runner-Up.
University of Connecticut
Even those who don’t know much about women’s college basketball know that University of Connecticut is a total powerhouse. The Huskies consistently compete for the NCAA Division I National Championship, and have even won the national title a whopping 11 times. That’s more than any other women’s basketball program in the nation! Because of this success, UConn is considered a pipeline into the WNBA and the world of coaching. Interestingly, of the six American women who have earned the “Triple Crown plus one” — that is, an NCAA national title, a WNBA title, a World Championship, and an Olympic gold medal — four are graduates of University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball program (Sue Bird, Kara Wolters, Swin Cash, and Diana Taurasi).
University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa
University of Iowa’s women’s basketball team is known as the Hawkeyes. The women compete as part of the Big Ten Conference and Division I of the NCAA. Head coach Lisa Bluder has led the team for nearly two decades, during which time the Hawkeyes have made a whopping 15 NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2019, the team made it as far as the Elite Eight.
University of Louisville
Though they don’t get nearly as much attention as the men’s team, the University of Louisville women’s basketball team is almost always ranked near the top of the current NCAA standings, making it one of the best colleges for women’s basketball. Led by head coach Jeff Walz, the Cardinals are a powerhouse of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Indeed, the team has won the title of conference regular season champs six times over the years, including in both 2018 and 2019. Additionally, the Cardinals have made 22 NCAA Tournament appearances, including in every year since 2011. They have progressed as far as Tournament Runner-up twice, and to the Final Four three times, most recently in 2018.
University of Maryland, College Park
College Park, Maryland
As of 2014, the women’s basketball team of University of Maryland has been competing as part of the Big Ten Conference. This was a big step up from the team’s former association with the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Maryland Terrapins have made a whopping 27 NCAA Tournament appearances since 1982, including every year since 2011. The women have reached the Final Four five times, and were even named Tournament Champions in 2006. A number of industry greats call this best college for women’s basketball their alma mater. These include Kristi Toliver, Alyssa Thomas, Tianna Hawkins, and Crystal Langhorne, to name just a few.
University of Miami
Coral Gables, Florida
Aptly nicknamed the Hurricanes, the women’s basketball team at University of Miami is a top-ranked team in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Hurricanes have been named regular season champs of their conference three times, the most recent win of which came in 2011. They have also made a total of 14 trips to the NCAA Tournament, including every year since 2015. They’ve reached the Second Round seven times (most recently in 2019) and the Sweet Sixteen once.
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
The sports teams of University of Michigan tend to be major powerhouses, and the women’s basketball team is no exception. The Wolverines are part of the ultra-competitive Big Ten conference, and have appeared in the NCAA Tournament eight times (most recently in 2018 and 2019). The team is currently coached by Kim Barnes Arico, who is the winningest coach in the history of Michigan’s women’s basketball program.
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana
Coached by the legendary Muffet McGraw, the women’s basketball team of University of Notre Dame is another great powerhouse for the university that is known worldwide for its elite sports programs. The Fighting Irish have made 25 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, and have been named Tournament Champions twice, most recently in 2018. Notre Dame’s women’s basketball program consistently produces Players of the Year, while Muffet McGraw has been named Coach of the Year nearly 20 times during her tenure with the university. Some of University of Notre Dame’s most noteworthy alumnae include Ruth Riley, Skylar Diggins, Kayla McBride, and Arike Ogunbowale, among others.
University of Oregon
University of Oregon’s women’s basketball team consistently ranks amongst the best teams in the nation. Hailing from Eugene, Oregon, the Ducks compete in the Pac-12, one of the most competitive conferences in the country. The team has made 15 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including in 2017, 2018, and 2019. This best college for women’s basketball advanced to the Elite Eight in all three of those years, and even made it as far as the Final Four in 2019.
University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
The women’s basketball team of University of South Carolina has long been a powerhouse in the world of collegiate sports. The Gamecocks have been named regular season champions of the SEC conference four times since 2014, most recently in 2017. They’ve also won the SEC conference tournament championship four times, most recently in 2018. As if that weren’t impressive enough, the women have made 16 NCAA Tournament appearances, including in every year since 2012. They’ve reached the Final Four twice, and won the entire tournament in 2017. Some notable former Gamecocks include A’ja Wilson, Kaela Davis, Alaina Coates, and Allisha Gray, to name but a few.
University fo Tennessee
The “Lady Vols” of University of Tennessee are undoubtedly one of the biggest powerhouses in women’s collegiate sports. Coached by the legendary Pat Summit for more than four decades, the Vols racked up the big wins. They were named Conference Regular Season Champions a whopping 18 times, most recently in 2015. The women have also appeared in every single NCAA Tournament since 1982, and have won the whole thing an incredible eight times (they’ve also been runners-up five times). Countless success stories have come from this amazing team from a best college for women’s basketball, including such players as Kara Lawson, Candace Parker, and Nikki McCray.
University of Texas at Austin
The women’s basketball team of University of Texas at Austin has long been a powerhouse in the world of the sport. As part of the Big 12 Conference, the Longhorns have garnered the title of Conference Regular Season Champions twice. The women have also made a whopping 31 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including in every year since 2015. Many Longhorn alumnae have gone on to play in the Olympics and/or the WNBA, including Brittainey Raven, Carla Cortijo, and Imani Boyette, to name but a few.
University of Virginia
University of Virginia is home to a top-rated women’s basketball team. The Cavaliers compete as part of the Atlantic Coast Conference of the NCAA, and as of 2019, are coached by Tina Thompson, a legendary former WNBA player. Virginia has made 25 NCAA Tournament appearances since 1984, and have made it as far as the Final Four three times.
Vanderbilt University’s Commodores women’s basketball team represent the prestigious university in the Southeastern Conference. The team have won SEC tournament titles six times, the most recent win of which came in 2009. Coached by former WNBA coach Stephanie White, the Commodores have also made 27 NCAA Tournament appearances, making it to the Sweet Sixteen 15 times, the Elite Eight five times, and the Final Four one time. Some of Vanderbilt’s most successful alumnae include Jence Ann Rhoads, Jennifer Risper, Christina Wirth, and Chantelle Anderson, to name but a few.
Latest update: September 2019
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