NCAA Softball Tournament: Who Has The Toughest Regional?
The 2023 NCAA Softball Tournament Bracket is set as 64 teams have made the field and will begin play later this week in order to determine which eight teams will make it to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series.
The 16 national seeds were selected on Sunday night and will host Regionals this weekend, with Super Regionals set for next weekend.
Not all regionals are created equal though, as there are certainly some teams with tougher roads to the Super Regionals than others.
We have taken the liberty of ranking each of the regions based on the difficulty for each of the hosting teams, with the first being the easiest and the last being the most difficult.
We calculated the rankings by taking the average of every visiting team’s RPI, to give a difficulty scale of sorts for each host team. To make the difficulty scale more accurate, we capped teams’ RPIs at 100 if they exceeded that number. For example, North Carolina Central’s RPI of 254 greatly skewed the Athens Regional difficulty, so adjusting it back gave us a better representation of the region’s comparative strength.
Each host team will be given a number that represents the adjusted average RPI of the teams it will face in its region. The higher the score, the easier the region is for the host team. Here are the results.
16.) No. 12 Northwestern
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 69.3
The Evanston Regional, hosted by No. 12 seed Northwestern, ranks as the easiest in the tournament. With Miami (81), Kentucky (27), and Eastern Illinois (199) as their competition, the Wildcats have the easiest route to the Super Regionals.
15.) No. 10 LSU
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 68.3
The Baton Rouge Regional comes in with the second-easiest score despite having the toughest non-seeded team in Louisiana (11). Omaha (94) and Prairie View A&M (170) shouldn’t provide much resistance against 10-seed LSU.
14.) No. 8 Duke
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 65.7
Durham is one of the easiest Regionals in the tournament with Campbell (60), Charlotte (37), and George Mason (128) providing No. 8 seed Duke with its first-round competition.
13.) No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 64.3
The Tuscaloosa Regional will have Central Arkansas (16), which had a legitimate claim to a national seed, but outside of that, the competition is pretty lackluster with Long Island (175) and Middle Tennessee (77) in town.
12.) No. 9 Stanford Cardinal
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 60.3
Stanford has a tough draw with Florida (21) coming to town, but Long Beach State (72) and Loyola Marymount (88) don’t exactly move the needle. Stanford or Florida should come out of the region, and that’s a safe bet.
11.) No. 3 Florida State
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 57.7
Florida State has a relatively easy road to the Super Regionals out of Tallahassee with South Carolina (30) and UCF (43) providing a decent challenge, and Marist (158) being the outlier in the group.
10.) No. 1 Oklahoma
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 55.7
The top-ranked Sooners draw Hostra (140) to open up Regional play, but then will face stiffer competition against either California (29) or Missouri (38).
9.) No. 4 Tennessee
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 54.6
The Knoxville Regional has a pair of nearly identical teams when it comes to RPI with Louisville (33) and Indiana (31). However, their first game is against Northern Kentucky (208), who will be greatly outmatched.
8.) No. 11 Arkansas
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 54.6
Arkansas’ adjusted average opponent RPI is the same as SEC opponent Tennessee’s. The Razorbacks will face Harvard (135) and a pair of dangerous teams in Oregon (20) and Notre Dame (44).
7.) No. 6 Oklahoma State
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 54.3
The seventh-most difficult regional is Stillwater, with the Cowgirls’ biggest competition being Wichita State (22), who has beaten them twice in 2023. The Pokes are 2-0 against Nebraska (41) and haven’t played UMBC (141) this season.
6.) No. 7 Washington
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 54.0
The Seattle Regional is the sixth-most difficult in 2023, with Minnesota (26) and McNeese (36) providing tough matchups, and Northern Colorado (211) serving as the easier competition for the Huskies.
5.) No. 14 Georgia
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 52.7
The Athens Regional cracks the top five in difficulty despite having the North Carolina Central (254) in the field. Virginia Tech (24) and Boston (34) should give the Bulldogs all they can handle.
4.) No. 13 Texas
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 51.3
The committee didn’t do Texas any favors, as the Longhorns will host Seton Hall (89), Texas A&M (25), and Texas State (40) in Austin. No wonder Texas didn’t look happy about it.
3.) No. 16 Clemson
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 50.6
The final seed in the tournament, Clemson, will host Auburn (23), Cal State Fullerton (39), and UNC Greensboro in the third-toughest regional in the tournament.
2.) No. 15 Utah
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 43.7
Salt Lake City is the second-hardest regional in the 2023 tournament, with Utah hosting Baylor (18), Ole Miss (35), and Southern Illinois (78) this weekend.
1.) No. 2 UCLA
Adj. Average Opponent RPI: 41.0
The No. 2 overall seed, UCLA, has the toughest road to the Super Regionals according to our metric. Los Angeles will be the host site for San Diego State (32), Liberty (28), and Grand Canyon (63), which is the only regional in the first weekend to have all four teams inside the Top 64.