The women’s NCAA tournament field is now out and the games are still a few days away. So before we get to making our picks and debating who will make the Final Four, let’s take a last look at the bracket.
Who were the winners and losers from Selection Monday?
Notre Dame: Following its loss to North Carolina, the defending champion spent the rest of the season chasing a chance to play in the Chicago Regional. In the two top-16 reveals from the NCAA selection committee, the Fighting Irish were first in Greensboro, then in Portland. Finally, on the last day of the season, Notre Dame beat Louisville in the ACC tournament championship game, earning its spot close to home. The Irish fan base in Chicago should come out in full force at Wintrust Arena. That’s not only good news for Notre Dame, that’s good for the game.
Tennessee: Making the field as an 11-seed won’t thrill the rabid fan base in Knoxville, but the Lady Vols just making the field was never a forgone conclusion this season. Getting in and extending the streak of NCAA tournament appearances to 38 straight has to be good enough for Tennessee.
The ACC: For the second straight year, the ACC put eight teams into the field, the most of any conference in the country over that span. That’s over half the conference, with possibly a couple of more in the WNIT. The conference also got two No. 1 seeds in Notre Dame and Louisville and five teams in the top 16, which means home games in the first two rounds. Bounce-back seasons from Clemson and North Carolina helped the conference all season, and the Tigers and Tar Heels earned the conference’s final two bids, both No. 9 seeds.
Central Michigan: The Chippewas, a year removed from a Sweet 16 run, get an at-large bid and a No. 8 seed. They also get a first-round matchup with Michigan State and a chance to bid for in-state supremacy. Could CMU be the best team in the state of Michigan? Here is a chance to find out.
Arizona State: Not only do the Sun Devils have to travel nearly 2,400 miles to their opening-round game, but they’re the “and Peggy” afterthought in Coral Gables (for all you “Hamilton” fans out there). Paired with UCF, Florida Gulf Coast and host Miami, the majority of the crowd will be cheering for anyone but Arizona State. But at least the Sun Devils got the No. 5 seed, and they get to trade the desert for the beach. Their first-round matchup with UCF is a good one. Playing another defensive-oriented team but traveling that far to meet teams that can practically Uber to the arena should be interesting.
Mercer: See Arizona State above. The Bears will have to bring their fans from Georgia to Iowa City to face a trio of nearby schools in Iowa, Drake and Missouri.
Towson: Undeniably, the Tigers are thrilled to be in the NCAA tournament for the first time after winning the CAA tournament as the No. 4 seed. The prize, however, is a matchup in Storrs with a UConn team seeded second for the first time in 13 years. Not only does Towson face the Huskies on their home floor, the Tigers get them with a chip on their shoulder, angry about not being a No. 1. Look out, Tigers.
Stanford: Sometimes it’s the nature of being the second-best team out west, but for the fourth straight year, the Cardinal are headed to a region nowhere near California. At least they get a little closer this year in Chicago after three straight tournaments in Lexington, Kentucky. With Oregon as the Pac-12’s best team over the past two years, the Ducks have gotten to stay out west, forcing Stanford east.
North Carolina. According to HerHoops Stats, the Tar Heels rank 241st out of 351 teams in rebounding rate. Their first-round opponent is Cal, which just happens to have the nation’s leading rebounder in Kristine Anigwe. The 6-foot-4 senior averages 16.3 rebounds a game, which is nearly three boards more per game than second-place Reyna Frost of Central Michigan. Even if North Carolina advances, its next likely opponent is Baylor, featuring 6-foot-7 Kalani Brown and 6-foot-4 Lauren Cox. Get those box-out drills ready, Coach Sylvia Hatchell.