While the women's NCAA tournament usually has fewer upsets than the men's bracket, this year has seen plenty of surprises.
Both No. 2 Duke and No. 2 West Virginia were eliminated before the Sweet 16, while a sleeper team in No. 12 BYU made it to the second weekend. This is just the start of the surprises as a number of lower-seeded squads are looking to keep their runs going into the regional finals with upset wins.
With so many great programs that feature plenty of postseason experience still in contention, we are certainly in for some exciting games.
Here is a look at what to expect in the second day of Sweet 16 play.
|March 29||No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 3 Kentucky||12 p.m.||ESPN|
|March 29||No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State||2:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|March 29||No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 12 BYU||4:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|March 29||No. 3 Texas A&M vs. No. 7 DePaul||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|March 30||No. 1 Tennessee vs. No. 4 Maryland||12 p.m.||ESPN|
|March 30||No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 7 LSU||2:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|March 30||No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 3 Penn State||4:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|March 30||No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 4 North Carolina||7 p.m.||ESPN2|
You can view an updated bracket of the tournament on NCAA.com.
Day 2 Preview
No. 1 Tennessee vs. No. 4 Maryland
Maryland forward Alyssa Thomas enters the game with 2,287 career points, which is the most in school history on both the men's and women's sides. She has been a top all-around players in the country all season, averaging 18.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
Her coach, Brenda Frese, explained how good Thomas has been, via (The New York Times):
By far, she’s one of the best of the best. From the moment A. T. stepped on campus and was given the nickname Baby Bron Bron by the men’s basketball team — a mini LeBron — she’s backed it up.
On the court you see how commanding she is — just ferocious and competitive. Off the court, she’s really quiet and soft-spoken, really humble. Just a phenomenal teammate. It’s been neat to see her grow as a leader.
Thomas has proven the ability to win games for Maryland almost by herself. She will put this to the test as she matches up with Meighan Simmons of Tennessee. Both players have been individual stars all year, but Thomas does a bit more for her team.
The question is whether either player will get help. While the Terrapins do not have any other go-to scorers, they have 10 players who see the floor regularly and should be able to contribute. If any of them get hot, they should be able to help Maryland pull off this upset.
Prediction: Maryland 64, Tennessee 63
No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 7 LSU
Louisville might only be a No. 3 seed in its region, but it has the advantage of playing on its home court.
LSU knows exactly how much of an advantage this could make as the Lady Tigers used its own home court to help upset West Virginia in the previous round. As Mitch Vingle of the Charleston Gazette points out, there can be no complaining with how the Sweet 16 turns out:
Question: Will LSU complain when they play at Louisville? Really can't, right?— Mitch Vingle (@MitchVingle) March 26, 2014
Of course, even on a neutral court Louisville would have the overwhelming advantage.
Despite having a No. 3 seed, the Cardinals enter the NCAA tournament as the No. 4 team in both the USA Today and AP Polls. The squad has only four losses this season—three coming against Connecticut—and only one was at home.
The Cardinals have a balanced approach and are incredibly difficult to defend. This system has helped them win their first two NCAA tournament games by a combined 76 points.
Meanwhile, LSU entered the tourney with seven losses in eight games and simply took advantage of some home cooking. That will not help the team now as the Cinderella run ends.
Prediction: Louisville 76, LSU 57
No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 3 Penn State
Before Stanford's second-round matchup against Florida State, many were discussing the high-profile matchup between Chiney Ogwumike and Natasha Howard. This battle turned out to be one-sided, as the Stanford senior totaled 21 points and nine rebounds while Howard was left with just nine points in a 19-point loss.
She was very aware of her strategy going into the previous matchup:
Ogwumike is truly one of the best players in the nation, ranking third in college basketball with 26.7 points per game and ninth with 12.2 rebounds per game. There are few players in the sport who can slow her down, and certainly no one on Penn State.
On the other hand, Maggie Lucas will try to lead the Lady Lions to victory with her great outside shooting and ability to score in a number of ways. The problem for the Lions is Stanford does have defenders who can make a difference: Amber Orrange and Lili Thompson.
Unless Penn State gets incredibly hot from the outside, Stanford should be able to advance in a home game.
Prediction: Stanford 71, Penn State 62
No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 4 North Carolina
The first version of this border war ended with a 74-66 win for North Carolina. The Gamecocks are now looking for their revenge.
Both teams have had closer games in the first two rounds than they might have hoped, but they each found a way to survive and advance. South Carolina is a bit better in this regard thanks to the experience in close games and the ability to put opponents away.
This experience is something that North Carolina lacks with a team full of freshmen. Diamond DeShields is the leader of the class while also being an entertainer, as argued by Graham Hays of ESPNW:
That's the mix. She wins basketball games and puts on a show along the way. As long as it is in that order, it's hard to complain. It has been that way since she was in high school. When there were enough people in the stands that she started to notice the gasps and oohs and aahs that accompanied her movements. She became part conductor, able to command that response.
There are few people who could deny that the Tar Heels are extremely entertaining. Unfortunately, they are an inconsistent bunch who still make the mental errors you would expect from players this young.
In a few years, North Carolina should be a top title contender. Unfortunately, South Carolina has the skill and basketball IQ necessary to survive this tough test.
Prediction: South Carolina 62, North Carolina 60
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.