NCAA Women's Basketball Bracket 2014: 10 Bold Predictions for Tournament
The 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship bracket was announced Monday.
Thirty-two conferences were given automatic bids. The other thirty-two teams were selected as at-large bids.
Five teams will be making their first trip to the tournament: Akron, North Dakota, South Dakota, Winthrop and Wright State.
The first-round games begin on Saturday, March 22.
Here are 10 bold predictions for the upcoming women's tournament that ends up in Nashville on April 8:
All statistics and team information provided by ESPN.com
10. Middle Tennessee's Ebony Rowe Will Become a Household Name
Conference USA basketball fans know who Middle Tennessee's Ebony Rowe is.
The 6'1" senior forward was the conference's player of the year.
She led the Blue Raiders (29-4; 15-1) to their first league title. They have won 11 straight going into the NCAA tournament.
Rowe will need to bring her A-game from the first game against Oregon State on.
There is a good chance that MTSU will get to face No. 1 seed South Carolina in its second-round game.
It is in this game that Rowe will emerge as one of the top players in the tournament.
9. Oklahoma Will Shake off a Substandard Season to Make It to the Third Round
More than a few people think that Oklahoma (18-14; 9-9 Big 12) should just be happy that they were selected for this year's tournament.
After the kind of season that the Sooners had, being included in the field of 64 is unexpected, especially after Sherri Coale's crew lost three of its last four games.
But Coale is a great coach and an excellent motivator. She will have her team ready to not only face DePaul, but possibly get on roll and win a few more games after that.
8. Baylor's Odyssey Sims Will Be the Tournament's High Scorer
Okay, so this isn't the most bold prediction.
But, just because someone puts up a ton of points in the regular season (like Odyssey Sims did this year for the Bears) does not guarantee that she will have the same success in the tournament.
The fact is: Sims was the nation's No. 2 scorer, putting up 28.4 PPG for No. 2 seed Baylor.
Look for her to continue putting up close to 30 a night.
7. Florida Gulf Coast Will Pull off a First-Round Upset by Raining Down Threes
Most college basketball fans were introduced to Florida Gulf Coast University when the school's men's basketball team made a miraculous run to the Sweet 16 in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
The women's team from FGCU is not a high-flying squad like its male counterpart, but the Eagles are one of the most prolific three-point shooting teams in women's college hoops.
They averaged hitting 10.3 shots from beyond the arc this year as they went 26-7. Their team website proclaims that they launched 972 threes this season.
And, there is no doubt that Florida Gulf Coast will be putting up tons of shots from distance when it faces No. 5 seed Oklahoma State in its first-round matchup.
6. If Texas and Maryland Play, Both Teams Will Grab 50 Rebounds.
It is very possible that fifth-seeded Texas will face fourth-seeded Maryland in second-round action.
When the Longhorns do, we will be watching two of the best rebounding teams go at it.
The Longhorns averaged 44.5 RPG, and the Terrapins averaged 43.3 RPG.
Is 100 total rebounds possible? I think so.
So if you are into watching teams that can really go up and get it, this could be the game of the year for you.
5. Wichita State's Men's and Women's Teams Will Lose on the Same Day
Life is good at Wichita State University.
Their men's and women's basketball teams both made it to their respective national tournaments.
The guys' team is undefeated and a No. 1 seed. The girls' team is 26-6 and a No. 14 seed.
The men's team should take care of Cal Poly or Texas Southern in its opening-round matchup. But the Shockers could play Kentucky in their "third-round" contest. Not sure that is going to turn out well for the Shockers.
On the same day, the Lady Shockers will play their opening-round game against No. 3 seed Penn State.
What a discouraging day it will be in the "Air Capital of the World" if both teams lose on March 23.
4. All Seven SEC Teams Will Win Their First-Round Games
The Southeastern Conference has seven teams in this year's women's tournament. That is quite an accomplishment.
Tennessee and South Carolina are both No. 1 seeds. Kentucky and Texas A&M are No. 3 seeds.
LSU is a No. 7 seed, while Georgia and Vanderbilt are No. 8 seeds.
There is a very good chance that each of these teams will win its opening-round game and advance to the round of 32.
This will not require big upsets, but it will be a banner day for the SEC.
3. South Carolina Will Be the First No. 1 Seed to Lose
South Carolina had a fantastic season, going 27-4 overall and 14-2 as the SEC regular-season champs.
ESPN's Michelle Smith commented that:
The Gamecocks were the surprise No. 1 seed in the brackets, a first in school history and a result of their impressive run through the SEC regular season that led to the conference title (also a first).
While the Gamecocks will handle No. 16 seed Cal State Northridge without much trouble, they could be going back to Columbia after their second-round matchup with the winner of the Middle Tennessee and Oregon State contest.
2. Only Two No. 1 Seeds Will Make It to the Final Four
When brackets come out every year, there are some people who think it would be great if all four No. 1 seeds make it to the Final Four.
It just does not happen often, and it won't happen this year.
We have already predicted that South Carolina will be the first No. 1 to fall.
You can add Tennessee to that list. While the Lady Vols may not go out as early as the Gamecocks, there is a good chance that they will not make it to Nashville.
Maybe the team that will take down UT will be West Virginia or possibly Louisville.
1. Notre Dame Is the Only Team That Can Beat UConn
It is a little sad when a team is so dominant that no one feels like they can be beaten.
UConn may not quite be at that place, but there are a lot of fans that wonder if the unbeaten Huskies will go down in defeat this year. After all, they were the wire-to-wire No. 1 team in the nation.
Before it gets too deep, we should acknowledge that Notre Dame has not lost yet in the 2013-14 season.
The Fighting Irish are the No. 2 scoring team (86.6 PPG) and have the No. 2 scoring margin (+25.6).
They are likely the only team that can beat the defending champion Huskies.