There were a few surprises in the first couple of rounds of the women's NCAA tournament, but the best is still yet to come in the Sweet 16.
Duke and West Virginia were each defeated in the second round, while 12-seeded BYU will make a surprise appearance in the third round after beating North Carolina State and Nebraska.
Still, top teams like Connecticut, Notre Dame and Tennessee will create an exciting rest of the tournament. Meanwhile, contenders like Maryland, Louisville and Baylor will try to play spoiler and knock the top teams out before the Final Four.
It all comes down to how each team competes in the upcoming Sweet 16. With almost every matchup likely to be close, make sure you don't miss a second of the action.
|Women's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Schedule|
|March 29||No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 3 Kentucky||12 p.m.||ESPN||Baylor|
|March 29||No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State||2:30 p.m.||ESPN||Notre Dame|
|March 29||No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 12 BYU||4:30 p.m.||ESPN||Connecticut|
|March 29||No. 3 Texas A&M vs. No. 7 DePaul||7 p.m.||ESPN||DePaul|
|March 30||No. 1 Tennessee vs. No. 4 Maryland||12 p.m.||ESPN||Maryland|
|March 30||No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 7 LSU||2:30 p.m.||ESPN2||Louisville|
|March 30||No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 3 Penn State||4:30 p.m.||ESPN2||Stanford|
|March 30||No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 4 North Carolina||7 p.m.||ESPN2||South Carolina|
You can view an updated bracket of the tournament on ESPN.com.
Day 1 Preview
No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 3 Kentucky
This is the first game of the day and it is certain to have fans excited. These two teams competed earlier this year with Kentucky getting the 133-130 win in four overtimes.
Jay Harris of ESPN was clear about how good the effort was from both sides:
These are different teams at this point of the year, though, with Baylor playing extremely well as of late. The Lady Bears dominated the Big 12 this season and have won 17 of their last 18 games.
Odyssey Sims has been one of the best scorers in the nation all year and has 58 points through two NCAA tournament games. With Nina Davis contributing as a secondary option, Baylor will go far.
Prediction: Baylor 78, Kentucky 71
No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State
Notre Dame will look to continue an undefeated season, something that might not be too difficult playing in South Bend.
Not only have the Irish been performing at a high enough level to remain undefeated, but only once have they scored fewer than 80 points in the past 14 games.
The key is Kayla McBride, the senior guard who has continually improved in her career. As Charlie Creme of ESPNW described:
McBride has evolved from role player to second fiddle to full-fledged star. She is as responsible as anyone for keeping Notre Dame elite. McBride is the perfect combination of tenacious competitor and elegant shooter/scorer.
As consistent as Notre Dame has been all year, Oklahoma State has been the opposite. In fact, the two tournament wins were the first consecutive victories for the Cowgirls since Jan. 22.
The Fighting Irish should be able to end their opponent's winning streak at two as they move into the Elite Eight.
Prediction: Notre Dame 81, Oklahoma State 70
No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 12 BYU
In many seasons before, Connecticut has featured one elite scorer it can count on to produce in every big game. While Breanna Stewart is immensely talented, this team's strength is its balance.
Head coach Geno Auriemma explained, via Jim Fuller of the New Haven Register:
It’s nice when everybody you pass the ball to has the ability to put points on the board. That’s our offense. The skill level of our offensive players is pretty high. Even playing top 10 teams in the country, it’s pretty high. I hope my teams look the same year after year after year because we spend a lot of time trying to recruit those kids. And we spend a lot of time in practice on offensive skills.
The Huskies proved this balance in their recent win over Saint Joseph's with all five starters reaching double-digit points, three getting to at least 20.
BYU has surprised many with its impressive run to the Sweet 16 behind the solid play of Lexi Eaton and Jennifer Hamson, but the Cougars have little chance against the powerhouse that is UConn.
Connecticut should control the action throughout the game and easily move into the Elite Eight.
Prediction: Connecticut 88, BYU 63
No. 3 Texas A&M vs. No. 7 DePaul
Texas A&M is led by one of the best point guards in the country in Jordan Jones. The sophomore is in the midst of a breakout season, ranking fourth in the nation with 7.2 assists per game. In her last game, she totaled an incredible 16 assists in a win over James Madison.
However, she has been a bit inconsistent this year while often turning the ball over too much.
This could end up being a real problem against the quick-paced DePaul. The Blue Demons scored 104 points in their first-round win, then scored 74 against the normally solid Duke defense.
DePaul is loaded in the backcourt and even runs four guards on the floor at once. This helps the squad increase the pace of the game, which will force Jones and the rest of the Aggies into making mistakes.
Doug Bruno's team has gotten better defensively and will look to push the action whenever possible. If it can do that, DePaul will come away with another upset win.
Prediction: DePaul 77, Texas A&M 74
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