Four teams have entered their tickets to the eighth elite of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. And for the first time in March, a No.1 seed was knocked out, as NC State comes home. As Chalk stood in the River Walk Regional to stage a showdown between No.1 seed UConn and second seed Baylor, upheaval reigned at the Mercado, where fourth seed Indiana and Arizona, third seed, will make their first appearance in the Elite. Eight.
With four more games scheduled for Sunday, which teams will join the Huskies, Lady Bears, Hoosiers and Wildcats? Is Oregon ripe for an upheaval against second-seeded Louisville? What’s next for Iowa and Caitlin Clark, who were ousted by the Huskies and Christyn Williams’ career day? And we get a jump on what to expect at the Baylor-UConn Regional Finals on Monday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN / ESPN App).
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One game went into overtime. Two resulted in upheaval. Which team impressed you the most on Saturday?
Flexible: That’s a boring answer, but I have to tell UConn. Juniors Christyn Williams, Evina Westbrook and Olivia Nelson-Ododa really looked and played like top class men and leaders. Aaliyah Edwards was such a dominant inside presence for the Huskies, going 9 of 11 from the field for 18 points. And her freshman Paige Bueckers played a very controlled game, understanding how everyone around her was playing as well. She hasn’t tried to do too much or force things, and she has shown a lot of playmaking maturity which has been the case throughout her first college season.
Arizona also stood out. The Wildcats are known for their defense, and they completed what Troy and the State of Iowa were close but couldn’t quite do.
But with the defense keeping Texas A&M at 59 points, the Wildcats also did a decent job offensively. They took control with a 24-14 third quarter. Aari McDonald was brilliant with 31 points, but everyone around her did their part as well.
Crème: Even with a 1-2 record on Saturday, the Big Ten remained impressive. Michigan took Baylor, who was one of the most dominant teams in the NCAA tournament, in overtime. The Wolverines trailed by 12 late in the second quarter but didn’t fade. Baylor owns teams at 31.7% shooting; Michigan made 46%. The Wolverines continued to find open looks against a generally locked-in defense. One or two more stops on defense and the Wolverines could have pulled the stunner off.
Indiana entered the Sweet 16 with little fanfare. Now the Hoosiers are the first team to release a No.1 seed. Their 73-70 victory over NC State exemplified everything they’ve been all season – balanced, disciplined, smart, serious. All five starters scored in double digits. They only returned the ball nine times (compared to 17 for NC State). Indiana had more rebounds and had more points in the paint than a larger Wolfpack team.
In control of the game for most of the second half with a lead as large as 13 in the fourth quarter, Indiana let NC State come back into the game late. The lead is reduced to two, but senior starters Nicole Hillary-Cardano and Ali Patberg made the necessary free throws in the final 21 seconds to place Indiana in the program’s first Elite Eight.
In November, Iowa was nowhere to be found in the preseason rankings. With the return of the bulk of the roster – including Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano – where will Iowa start 2021-2022?
Flexible: The Hawkeyes can certainly build from this; they hung on for much of Saturday’s game against UConn, but the Huskies had too many offensive weapons and too much defense.
Caitlin Clark, originally from Iowa, took her time making her decision in college. She could have gone to many places, but the chance to do something big for a program about two hours from her hometown was important to her.
“The reason I came to Iowa is that I wanted to do something special,” Clark said. “I think more and more people are starting to follow this path. I think that’s important, especially being my home state, that’s where I wanted to go. I know I am in the right place. This season was really special.
“I think for this team it’s only from here. So I know a lot of little girls dream of going to all these bluebloods, but I think playing for your home state is really something special. … There was a real belief that we were going to make the Final Four someday. We didn’t say we were going to do this in my first year here. ”
Crème: The beauty of watching a season evolve and take its own life is a team like Iowa. Most people thought Clark would be a freshman, but Iowa wasn’t ranked in the preseason largely because Kathleen Doyle and Makenzie Meyer’s departures seemed too big to fill. Clark changed that. She gave the game a new star and the Hawkeyes an immediate base.
With such a large chunk of the return roster and Clark on the cusp of an All-American mainstay, the Hawkeyes are unlikely to be left out of the preseason rankings next season. In fact, they’re set to be in the top four for next year and will start there during our first off-season Bracketology.
Our panel was split on which team would win the Oregon-Louisville game on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN / ESPN app). What is the key to the match?
Crème: I think a lot of us picked Oregon based on Louisville’s slow starts so far in the NCAA tournament. Ultimately, this has to catch up with the Cardinals, right? Louisville lost 15-12 to Marist and 25-10 to Northwestern after the first quarter. Oregon was able to take a small lead early against Georgia in their second-round game, but they held South Dakota to eight points in the first quarter in the first round.
The first 10 minutes are therefore the key to this confrontation. There is no doubt that Louisville coach Jeff Walz tackled bad play early on with his team. We will now see if the message resonates. Oregon might be too good for the Cardinals to come out of another big hole.
Two transfers will also be key for the Ducks. Sedona Prince, a 6-foot-7 transfer from Texas, appears to have hit her goal in the tournament and handled Georgia’s size well with 22 points. Louisville offers a similar challenge with 6-5 Elizabeth Dixon and 6-3 Olivia Cochran.
Taylor Mikesell, who arrived in Eugene from Maryland, will also play an important role. A great shooter, Mikesell had to handle the ball much later in the season with first-year point guard Te-Hina Paopao with an injured foot. Against the Lady Bulldogs, she scored 11 points, knocked down 2 of 4 3-point attempts and had just three turnovers in 34 minutes.
Louisville All-American Dana Evans didn’t play well in the playoffs, but she’s still a talented defenseman. If Mikesell can deliver a similar game against Evans, Oregon’s chances of advancing seem even better.
Sixth seed Michigan brought Baylor into overtime. What have the Lady Bears learned from the tight call that will help them head to the Elite Eight against UConn, a much-anticipated game since selection on Monday?
Crème: I was surprised that despite needing the extra period, I never felt the Lady Bears were not playing well. They shot 50% on the ground. Aside from a free throw, NaLyssa Smith didn’t miss her 44 minutes of action. Baylor got a larger production from Moon Ursin and DiJonai Carrington. It’s a tribute to Michigan’s performance.
The Wolverines were well prepared and executed their game plan almost to perfection. Leigha Brown (23 points, 7 rebounds) – who has been forced to be away for more than 30 days because of COVID-19 protocols this season – seemed to have reached her peak, and it’s a shame she didn’t more matches to play. play this season. The Wolverines deserve a lot more credit than Baylor deserves to be criticized.
But as the Lady Bears jump into the showdown with UConn, it’s important to note that Baylor was in the domestic top five in every rebound category and led the country by the rebound margin. Dominance was not there against Michigan. While the Lady Bears overtook the Wolverines, they were only 37-32. More importantly, Baylor only had 15 second chance points. This is usually a staple of Lady Bears offense. They didn’t have it to fall back on and it kept Michigan close.
Meanwhile, UConn completely dominated the glass against Iowa, 42-27, allowing the Hawkeyes just seven offensive rebounds. Every game is different and takes on its own unique personality, but the Huskies have the staff, especially with Edwards playing a bigger role (she had her third straight 18-point game against Iowa), to do even more than Michigan on boards. , potentially taking away what would have been seen as a big advantage for Baylor.
When the Lady Bears beat UConn 74-58 a year ago, they topped the rebound numbers 44-26. If Baylor is to become the fourth team to beat the Huskies three in a row in the past 20 years (North Carolina, Notre Dame and Tennessee are the others), finding that swagger on the glass could be a key.
Flexible: As Charlie said, Baylor really didn’t do much wrong – the Michigan-Baylor game was best played by the two teams on Saturday. It was really entertaining, and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey gave Michigan counterpart Kim Barnes Arico a lot of kudos for the Wolverines’ strength and quality of play, pushing Baylor to the overtime buzzer.
Baylor and UConn are so elite in so many categories, including field goal percentage defense and rebounding. Both teams are playing high-level defense, which is why the second chance opportunities could be great as there won’t be many.