After hiatuses, these teams are back in the NCAA Women's Tournament

NCAA basketball tournaments always represent the chance to make history. Some teams have already done this before speaking. Massachuse...


NCAA basketball tournaments always represent the chance to make history.

Some teams have already done this before speaking.

Massachusetts, seeded No. 12 on the women’s side, set a program record with 26 wins en route to making its first tournament in 24 years.

UMass, the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament champion, will face No. 5 Notre Dame in Oklahoma. Coach Tory Verdi took over in 2016, when the Minutewomen weren’t exactly a top program.

But do not get me wrong; the Minutewomen aren’t just happy to be in the tournament. They want to shake up the ground.

“I feel like we’re all really taking on that challenge, like the bigger the stage, the better we play,” Sam Breen, a graduate forward and A-10 player of the year, said this week.

Breen leads a group that witnessed the rebuilding of the program, and a group that includes Sydney Taylor and Destiney Philoxy, both of whom were on the all-conference second team.

Here are six more teams looking to create a new tournament narrative after years away from the biggest stage.

On Wednesday, Howard made history twice in the same game: by defeating the 16th seed Incarnate Word, 55-51, in South Carolina, the Bison won the first game of the women’s top four.

It was also Howard’s first-ever tournament win.

The Bison (21-9) went on to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament final, avenging their loss to North Carolina A&T in the championship game last season. Top-seeded Howard managed No. 2 Norfolk State, 61-44.

So, for the first time in 21 years, the Bisons are in the NCAA Tournament, and they already have a win under their belt thanks to a 15-point double-double from Brooklyn Fort-Davis.

Their reward? A date on Friday with the No. 1 seed from South Carolina, one of the favorites on the court.

Fairfield coach Joe Frager knew this season would be his last.

In October, ahead of his 15th season with the Stags, he said he would retire at the end of the year, citing his medical condition.

Frager has led the playoffs before: His Southern Connecticut State team won the 2007 NCAA Division II championship in 2007, his final year there before heading to Fairfield.

Under his predecessor, Dianne Nolan, the Stags won an overall bid for the 2001 NCAA Tournament.

They had not returned since.

“This season has been special thanks to the efforts of our coaching staff and our players,” said Frager. “This group was focused and goal-oriented from start to finish, and that speaks volumes about the leadership provided by our seniors. Right now, I’m very in the moment. I am sure that after a while I will be able to savor the memories of this beautiful season.

Fairfield (25-6) defeated Manhattan to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament Championship and earn automatic qualification. The Stags are led by senior forward Lou Lopez-Senechal, who scored 24 points in the conference title game. They will face No. 2 seed and Big 12 Conference Tournament champion Texas on Friday.

UNLV (26-6) hasn’t played in the tournament since 2002. A win over Colorado State in the Mountain West Conference tournament championship game put it back there 20 years later.

As the No. 13 seed, UNLV has an immediate challenge on Saturday night in the form of No. 4 seed Arizona, which lost to Stanford in last year’s title game.

Coach Lindy La Rocque took over the program in 2021, and a year later he’s back on college basketball’s biggest stage.

UNLV is averaging 75.6 points per game, its highest since 2009-10. The team is led by Essence Booker, who was named Mountain West Tournament Most Valuable Player after dropping 25 points in the championship game.

Starr Jacobs, the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, has only played one season in Division I.

After transferring from Temple College, a junior college in Texas, she became the first UTA player to average more than 20 points per game. She also led UTA (20-7) to their first tournament appearance in 15 years.

As the No. 14 seed, the team will face third-seeded Iowa State on Friday night. This will be the last time the program represents the Sun Belt, as the university joins the Western Athletic Conference next season.

Before that, however, UTA wants to show off their star power – or rather, Starr power.

The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champion Redbirds won just one NCAA Tournament game, in 1989. They haven’t even had a chance since 2008.

No. 15 seed Illinois State (19-13) takes on No. 2 seed Iowa, Big Ten tournament champions and one of the most dynamic and high-profile teams in the tournament on Friday. NCAA.

The Redbirds are 1-5 in the NCAA Tournament, and beating the Caitlin Clark-led Hawkeyes won’t be easy.

Juliunn Redmond leads the Redbirds with 17.6 points per game, while all-conference forward DeAnna Wilson has eight double-doubles this season.

When Longwood takes the field Thursday night in Raleigh, North Carolina, it will have taken more than a decade.

The No. 16-seeded Lancers, who completed their transition to Division I in the 2007-8 season, struggled through years of losing seasons before entering the tournament. Just three seasons ago, they finished 3-27.

Now behind Big South Conference Player of the Year Akila Smith, who is tied for third in Division I in blocks with Kansas State’s Ayoka Lee, the Lancers (21-11) will have a chance in a play-off against Mount St .Mary’s. A win on Thursday would earn them a date with No. 1 North Carolina State.

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Newsrust - US Top News: After hiatuses, these teams are back in the NCAA Women's Tournament
After hiatuses, these teams are back in the NCAA Women's Tournament
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