NCAA Women's Tournament: What to watch at the start of the Round of 16?

The Sweet 16 is back in its usual form at the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, after the 2020 tournament was canceled and last year’s...


The Sweet 16 is back in its usual form at the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, after the 2020 tournament was canceled and last year’s event was based around a single city due to the pandemic.

The women’s regionals are in Greensboro, NC; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Wichita, Kansas; and Spokane, Wash., with Round of 16 matches on Friday and Saturday and Round of 16 matches on Sunday and Monday.

Here’s what to watch ahead of Friday’s matches.

All times are Eastern.

Creighton and South Dakota, the two 10th-seeded teams making their first trips to the Round of 16, are unlike each other beyond their breakthrough wins. Creighton is young, with a sharp offense, while South Dakota’s stifling defense relies on fifth-year players who have worked together seamlessly.

A similarity: most teams in the tournament do not know them. Aside from facing each other (due to their proximity, being separated by only a two-hour drive), Creighton and South Dakota each faced only one remaining tournament team: Creighton lost twice to the Connecticut in the Big East Conference game; South Dakota lost to South Carolina in November.

They are wildcards in a sea of ​​familiar faces. So far, that has made South Dakota dangerous. The Coyotes didn’t trail in their tournament wins over Mississippi and Baylor, a feat that suggests they were underseeded.

So when Creighton takes on third seed Iowa State (Friday, 9:30 p.m., ESPN2) in Greensboro and South Dakota takes on Michigan (Saturday, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2) in Wichita, they will try to remain unsolved mysteries.

All four No. 1 seeds qualified for the knockout stages, but some made it easier than others.

Stanford and North Carolina State wiped out their opponents. When Kansas faced Stanford up close in the first half of their second-round game, the Cardinal offset with an offensive outburst and won by 26. This was after Stanford’s 41-point win over Montana State in the first round. . North Carolina State also won by wide margins in its first two games, allowing its bench to get in on the action.

These teams will start to face more pressure. Stanford will face fourth seed Maryland (Friday, 9:30 p.m. ESPN), whose offense has been electric. Stanford beat Maryland in November.

North Carolina State takes on fifth-seeded Notre Dame (Saturday, 11:30 a.m. ESPN), responsible for one of the Wolfpack’s three losses. That loss, 69-66, on Feb. 1 in South Bend, Ind., was North Carolina State’s only loss in the Atlantic Coast conference, a testament to the Wolfpack’s dominance and Fighting potential. Irish to create chaos.

Two teams that sprinted out of the tournament gates staggered into the second round.

Second-seeded Connecticut, back in the Big East, was challenged by No. 7 seed Central Florida, which it regularly strangled when both teams were in the American Athletic Conference. UConn won, 52-47, but the scoreline showed just how frustrating the Knights defense proved. The margin of victory was the smallest for a Huskies second-round game since 1999, a story they would rather not have.

South Carolina looked slow offensively in their 49-33 win over eighth-seeded Miami. When the national title favorite scores less than 50 points in a first-round game, eyebrows will be raised.

In the Greensboro area, the Gamecocks will face fifth-seeded North Carolina (Friday, 7 p.m., ESPN), whose stellar defensive performance sent fourth-seeded Arizona to their home turf. South Carolina has been great defensively, but it hasn’t faced an offense as sneaky as the Tar Heels or a player as productive as Deja Kelly, a sophomore who averages 16.3 points. per game.

To get back on track, the Huskies have the unenviable task of competing against a veteran team from Indiana (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN) no doubt studying Central Florida’s game footage. UConn’s advantage will be in the seats: playing in Bridgeport, the Huskies can expect a friendly and enthusiastic crowd.

“One of the first things we say, before the game even starts, is strike first,” Texas rookie Rori Harmon said. “When you strike first, the game is in your favor.”

The No. 2-seeded Longhorns enter their game with No. 6-seeded Ohio State as favorites (Friday, 7 p.m., ESPN2), but they clearly retained some of the underdog mentality that fueled last year’s round of 16. win over second-seeded Maryland. This year, however, they hope to reach the Final Four.

“We both have similar teams, and we have some players that we don’t want to get off the field,” Texas coach Vic Schaefer said of Ohio State. “So it’s probably going to be a bit of an attrition game.” The Buckeyes will rely on guards Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Mikesell to help score, while Schaefer and the Longhorns will look to post players like Lauren Ebo and Aaliyah Moore to take high percentage shots.

The Buckeyes were something of an enigma, barely escaping their first-round game against No. 11-seeded Missouri State and then dispatching third-seeded Louisiana State 79-64. in Baton Rouge behind 23 points from Sheldon and 18 from Mikesell.

For the Buckeyes, however, the win came as no surprise. Asked about the upset victory, Ohio State guard Kateri Poole said, “Mars is for everybody.”

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