With the NCAA women’s tournament bracket now available, the time has come to begin breaking down the marquee matchups and biggest storylines that will steal the spotlight when the tournament tips off March 23.
Last year, all four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final Four. We could see more of the same dominance from the country’s top teams this year with little resistance from lower-seeded teams early in the bracket. Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Stanford are the popular picks, but each team should cruise through the first round of action without any major setbacks.
The first-round matchups we’re most interested in are the games that will yield the most excitement, intrigue and parity. A few high-scoring affairs and overtime games certainly couldn’t hurt, either.
(5) Colorado vs. (12) Kansas
With an 18-13 overall record and an 8-10 mark in the Big 12, the Kansas Jayhawks snuck into the tournament as a No. 12 seed with a difficult first-round matchup. Kansas has the offense to make its contest with Colorado an exciting game, though.
Senior forward Carolyn Davis and senior guard Angel Goodrich lead an offense that ranks No. 31 in the country with a 70.1 points-per-game average. The duo has combined for 29.9 points per contest while also contributing 10.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game.
Colorado ranks No. 104 in scoring offense, but its 65.5 points-per-game average isn’t far behind the Jayhawks’ mark. Senior guard Chucky Jeffry has averaged 13.9 points per game this season, and freshman forward Arielle Roberson is second on the team with a 12.1 average while knocking down 42 percent of her attempts from behind the arc.
The Buffaloes are the better team in this matchup, but don’t be surprised if this one comes down to the wire. Both teams can put up a lot of points, making for a very intriguing matchup in the first round.
(8) Florida State vs. (9) Princeton
There may not be a better first-round matchup to watch in this tournament. Florida State and Princeton have two of the best offenses in the country, and this No. 8 vs. No. 9 pairing won’t be lacking in the scoring department.
The Seminoles are seventh in the nation in scoring average (76.2 points per game), led by senior guard Leonor Rodriguez and redshirt senior guard Alexa Deluzio. The pair have combined for 29.3 points, 4.9 assists and 3.1 steals per game this season.
Florida State has also gotten key contributions from senior forward Chelsea Davis and junior forward Natasha Howard who lead the team in rebounds with 5.4 and 7.6 per game, respectively.
With four starters averaging 13 points or more this season, the Seminoles have the ability to spread their production around and score from anywhere on the court. Princeton boasts the nation’s No. 23 scoring defense, but it will have its hands full against one of the best offensive teams in the country in the first round.
The Seminoles get a lot of production from their top four scorers, but expect the Princeton Tigers to get big contributions from their entire roster. Nine Tigers are averaging five points or better this year, including a 16.9-points-per-game scorer in senior guard Niveen Rasheed.
The Tigers averages 72.2 points per contest, and Florida State won’t be able to do much to slow them down. With the No. 249 scoring defense in the country, expect Florida State to struggle against Princeton’s balanced offensive attack.
(8) Miami vs. (9) Iowa
Pitting an eight seed against a nine seed always makes for an intriguing contest. With similar regular-season success, neither team is an overwhelming favorite to advance to the second round.
Miami and Iowa both got off to hot starts this season, but tough second-half stretches limited each team’s momentum in its conference tournament. The Hawkeyes fell to Nebraska on March 8, negating a three-game win streak down the stretch. Like Iowa, Miami carried a three-game win streak into the final contest of the season, losing a tough matchup against Florida State in the ACC tournament.
Finding some momentum will be key for both teams, but they each have the perfect blend of talent and experience to make a splash in the early rounds of the tournament.
Five 10-plus-point scorers will take the floor in this contest, creating the potential for some big performances between two evenly-matched squads. Miami’s Morgan Stroman and Iowa’s Morgan Johnson will be the two most exciting players to watch in this matchup.
Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game.