Women's Tournament 2014: Sleeper, Upset Pick and Player to Watch in NCAA Tourney

Kenny DeJohn@@kennydejohnAnalyst IIIMarch 19, 2014

Penn State’s Maggie Lucas (33) moves the ball on Georgetown’s Samisha Powell (23) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
Luis M. Alvarez/Associated Press

Geno Auriemma's University of Connecticut Huskies are once again the best team in women's college basketball, but the women's NCAA tournament has other compelling stories to offer.

The Huskies are, by all accounts, the favorites yet again. They took down seven Top 10 teams this past year and beat them by an average of 18 points. Saying that the Huskies were dominant is even good enough to describe their season.

But who else should fans pay attention to during the women's NCAA tourney? Well, here are a few notes for you to keep in mind.


Sleeper: Penn State

Luis M. Alvarez/Associated Press

The Penn State Nittany Lions have a whole lot of talent for opposing teams to deal with. They were 22-7 this season, though three of their losses came within the final eight games of the season. While they aren't rolling right now, this team still has the chops to make some noise in the Stanford region.

Maggie Lucas averages 21.4 points per game and shoots 95.1 percent from the charity stripe, which is absolutely ridiculous. Don't foul her. She'll make you pay.

She is joined by fellow seniors Ariel Edwards and Dara Taylor as the main threats to the opposition. Edwards dropped 15.4 points per game this season, and Taylor averaged 4.9 assists and 2.86 steals per game.

As a No. 3 seed, Penn State might not be your typical sleeper. They're in a tough region headlined by a great South Carolina team and a strong Stanford team, however, so it won't be easy for them to make noise.

I think they're a good candidate to win a game or two, but don't be surprised if they take the region. Here are a few other sleepers to monitor.

Women's NCAA Tournament Sleepers
TeamRound of 64 Opponent
James Madison (11)Gonzaga (6)
Georgia Tech (10)LSU (7)
Oklahoma (10)DePaul (7)

 Upset Pick: No. 11 Florida over No. 6 Dayton

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Dayton was upset by Fordham in the finale of the A-10 tournament, but that didn't stop them from earning the highest seed of the three teams from the conference. There are high expectations for this group, but Florida won't be an easy matchup.

Senior Cassie Sant is motivated entering play, though, and that's because of the heartbreak from the A-10's. She told John Cummings of the Dayton Daily News that she's ready for her next challenge:

"Fordham has our trophy. That is something we think about every day. We are all competitors and we want to go out the next game and take it out on who we play next."

Sant might be disappointed yet again, however, as the Gators are a team that they shouldn't sleep on. They play in the toughest conference in America. South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Kentucky all finished ahead of Florida in the SEC, and the Gators finished with an in-conference record of 8-8.

They know how to compete against superior competition, and that pedigree will give them an edge against the Flyers.

Plus, senior Jaterra Bonds might just be the best player on the court for either team. The Gators' guard averaged 15.6 points and 3.8 assists per game this season.


Player to Watch: Odyssey Sims

LM Otero/Associated Press

Baylor's Odyssey Sims is a scoring machine.

The guard averaged 28.4 points, 4.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game this season, making her the driving force behind the Bears' 29-4 campaign. The team locked down a No. 2 seed after losing just once since Jan. 22.

NCAA tournament games can often be won by the team with the best player on the court. In Sims, the Bears will have the best player on the court for almost every matchup. Look for her to go off against anyone that tries to guard her.

Teams will be throwing double teams her way during the tourney, and that will force her to take up more of a facilitator's role. Never fear, though, as she showed us this season that she can set up her teammates with regularity.

Sims will be one of the best players in the tournament.