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NCAA Women’s Tournament Bracket Released: Six B1G in, one B1G snub

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Iowa’s got the momentum, Maryland’s got the experience, Indiana and Michigan have big showings to live up to. Can the Hawkeyes finally break through with Caitlin Clark?

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Buick has made some splashy headlines with this commercial:

And, most importantly, it’s revived an important conversation that has women’s sports advocates—who have beating that drum for years and whose job it absolutely is not to continue to convince you of their worth—no doubt frustrated with.

Enjoyably for those of us on the internet, it resulted in Goals Sports CEO Caroline Fitzgerald bringing receipts and shoving Darren Rovell into a trash can over, and over, and over:

But perhaps you’re looking for a little more knowledge on the NCAA Women’s Tournament. Maybe you just want to sound more educated for your friends. Maybe, like me, you’ve only followed your team and the occasional B1G headline. Or maybe you want to win the Off Tackle Empire NCAA Tournament Bracket Pick’em Challenge...

I can’t promise to have a ton of insight on the Women’s NCAA Tournament—Northwestern, as you’ll see at the bottom, was likely the first team out of the tournament, and they’re about all I followed this year—but we’ll round up the Big Ten teams in the Dance (there are 6!) and get you thoughts where we can.

Schedule

  • First Four: March 16-17 (at site of top seed, ESPNU on Wed., ESPN2 on Thurs.)
  • First Round: March 18-19 (top 16 seeds host)
  • Second Round: March 20-21 (top 16 seeds host)
  • Sweet Sixteen/Elite Eight: March 25-28 (regions listed below)
  • Final Four: April 1, 3 (Target Center, Minneapolis, MN)

Greensboro Regional

All times CT.

Columbia, SC

[1] South Carolina Gamecocks vs. [16] Howard Bison/Incarnate Word Cardinals
[8] Miami Hurricanes vs. [9] South Florida Bulls

Tuscon, AZ

[5] North Carolina Tar Heels vs. [12] Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
[4] Arizona Wildcats vs. [13] UNLV Rebels

Ames, IA

[6] Georgia Bulldogs vs. [11] Dayton Flyers/DePaul Blue Demons
[3] Iowa State Cyclones vs. [14] UT Arlington Mavericks

Iowa City, IA

[7] Colorado Buffaloes vs. [10] Creighton Bluejays
[2] Iowa Hawkeyes vs. [15] Illinois State Redbirds

  • Friday, 3pm (ESPN)

Stew: Seems like Iowa’s draw was to maximize story lines. Iowa gets a 2 seed based a lot on potential and how they closed out the season. The committee lined up a likely rematch with Iowa State in the sweet sixteen. And if Iowa gets by then it’s a matchup between the two best players in the country with Caitlin Clark and Aliyah Boston off to overall seed South Carolina.

It’s a tough draw for sure, but I love the way the team is playing right now. Looks like everyone is finally healthy and gelling. I like them getting to the Elite 8 before getting bounced by the gamecocks.

Atinat: Iowa was hot to finish the conference schedule, and they ride a 7-game winning streak into the Dance. However, they have 12 days between their Big Ten title game and the first round of the national tournament, so they're probably going to have to reestablish that rhythm. The good news is that they start with 19-13 Illinois State, who snagged an auto bid by beating UNI in the MVC final. The Hawks should be big favorites here.

Next up would be Colorado or Creighton, and I think Creighton is the scarier of the two, but neither should be too much for Clark & Co. Colorado is not a high-scoring team, and Creighton is 0-2 against ranked teams this year.

The path obviously gets tougher from their, with a potential Sweet 16 rematch with Iowa State and #1 overall seed South Carolina standing between the Hawkeyes and the Final Four. Still, Iowa is a much improved team from their December loss to the Cyclones, and South Carolina may be one of the weaker number one overall seeds in recent memory. Iowa has a real chance at winning this region and going to Minneapolis.

Wichita Regional

Louisville, KY

[1] Louisville Cardinals vs. [16] Albany Great Danes
[8] Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. [9] Gonzaga Bulldogs

  • Friday, 2:30pm (ESPNN)

Jesse: I find myself conflicted with the seeding. Nebraska was 11-7 in one of the toughest conferences in the nation, has a nice little run in the Big Ten Tournament and is rewarded with... an 8 seed. They are 23rd in NET even.

Anyhow, good on Amy Williams for keeping the team together amidst some internal crisis this season, and if you enjoy some swagger, watch Jaz Shelley run the show for the Huskers. This is a fun team that probably is the best we’re going to get until Volleyball, so soak it in Nebraska.

Knoxville, TN

[5] Oregon Ducks vs. [12] Belmont Bruins
[4] Tennessee Volunteers vs. [13] Buffalo Bulls

Ann Arbor, MI

[6] BYU Cougars vs. [11] Villanova Wildcats
[3] Michigan Wolverines vs. [14] American Eagles

  • Saturday, 2:30pm (ESPN2)

MNW: That’s a pretty healthy draw for another Sweet Sixteen for the Wolverines...and possibly for an Elite Eight. The Cougars managed a couple ranked wins early, over then-ranked Florida State (who’s now in the First Four) and West Virginia (who didn’t make the Dance). The Cougars cruised through the WCC with a high-scoring offense, and F Lauren Gustin will provide an interesting matchup for Naz Hillmon.

More concerning for Michigan is their drop of form as of late—the Wolverines dropped 4 of their last 6, including a 104-80 pasting at the hands of Iowa.

But this could be a really favorable regional, as the Wolverines already met 2-seed Baylor back in December, beating the Bears 74-68 in overtime at a non-conference tournament in Connecticut. With Hillmon kept in check that day, G Leigha Brown dropped 25 on the Bears. Given their current form I don’t like the Wolverines’ odds, but hey...there’s a chance, assuming they can get by American and BYU.

More importantly, I was reminded today that there’s a BYU-Hawaii, and I learned that their nickname is the Seasiders, which is objectively pretty cool.

Waco, TX

[7] Ole Miss Rebels vs. [10] South Dakota Coyotes
[2] Baylor Bears vs. [15] Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine

Stanford Regional (Spokane, WA)

Palo Alto, CA

[1] Stanford Cardinal vs. [16] Montana State Bobcats
[8] Kansas Jayhawks vs. [9] Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

College Park, MD

[5] Virginia Tech Hokies vs. [12] Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
[4] Maryland Terrapins vs. [13] Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens

  • Friday, 4pm (ESPNU)

DJ Carver: I’ll be in Atlantic City and therefore being a delinquent betting on all of this. At the same time I bought tix for the wife and kids to hit the Maryland pod for the women’s side and they’re super excited.

So none of that matters in this analysis. I’m conflicted on Maryland being a 4 seed.

Maryland women have some injury concerns but when they’re rolling they are borderline 1 seed good. The VaTech lead guard is in a walking boot so I have to think that’s an easy walk to the S16 where they get Stanford. 99% chance to get to the second weekend, <5% chance they see the E8. Bad draw but it could be a lot of fun if #chaos happens

Baton Rouge, LA

[6] Ohio State Buckeyes vs. [11] Missouri State Bears/Florida State Seminoles

  • Saturday, 1:30pm (ESPNU)

[3] LSU Tigers vs. [14] Jackson State Tigers

MNW: I think observers of Big Ten women’s hoops in 2021-22 kept waiting for the Buckeyes to kind of scale up their play...and it just never came. Ohio State had two ranked wins all year, over Maryland (with whom they split) and Iowa and lost their only non-conference test, a 97-91 road loss at Syracuse.

That’s not to say they can’t put up the points and run with anyone—backcourt tandem Taylor Mikesell (18.8 ppg, 47% 3pt) and Jacy Sheldon (19.5 ppg, 4.0 apg, 37% 3pt) are dynamite, and the latter was near the top of most of the major stats in the conference.

The Bucks got a tricky draw, with perennial NCAA Tournament entrants Missouri State or Florida State lurking in the first round. The Lady Bears are one of the best defensive teams lurking that low in the draw, having held LSU to 66 points in an 8-point loss early in the season and bringing the height with a pair of 6-footers inside who could trouble OSU’s Rebeka Mikulasikova and Tanaya Beacham. The Seminoles...are definitely here. They overcame a protracted mid-season swoon and beat the teams beneath them in the ACC, but they cannot shoot the ball. I think Missouri State packs it in and beats them.

From there? The Buckeyes should be able to handle the Lady Bears’ height, setting up a date with the objectively horrible Kim Mulkey and the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge.

Go with God, Buckeyes.

Austin, TX

[7] Utah Utes vs. [10] Arkansas Razorbacks
[2] Texas Longhorns vs. [15] Fairfield Stags

NC State Regional (Bridgeport, CT)

Raleigh, NC

[1] NC State Wolfpack vs. [16] Longwood Lancers/Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers
[8] Washington State Cougars vs. [9] Kansas Jayhawks

Norman, OK

[5] Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. [12] UMass Minutewomen
[4] Oklahoma Sooners vs. [13] IUPUI Jaguars

Bloomington, IN

[6] Kentucky Wildcats vs. [11] Princeton Tigers
[3] Indiana Hoosiers vs. [14] Charlotte 49ers

  • Saturday, 12:30pm (ESPN2)

Buffkomodo: After faltering down the stretch of the regular season and working through injuries, the Hoosiers were able to salvage one of their goals for the season: Host NCAA tournament games.

After a wonderful run to the tournament finals, Indiana jumped from a 4 seed barely hanging on to a 3 seed, with what looks like a dangerous matchup with the UConn Huskies in the sweet 16. Good on this program, which has historically not been great. I look forward to seeing what they can do in the tourney.

Storrs, CT

[7] UCF Knights vs. [10] Florida Gators
[2] UConn Huskies vs. [15] Mercer Bears

Now that you’ve learned everything there is to know about the NCAA Women’s Tournament, be sure to enter our NCAA Tournament Pick’em Competition! Men’s and women’s brackets available:

Women’s NIT Bids

Last Four In (NCAA): Dayton (25-5, NET 43), DePaul (22-10, NET 52), Florida State (17-13, NET 51), Missouri State (23-7, NET 44)

Accepted: Minnesota Gophers (14-17, NET 89), Purdue Boilermakers (16-14, NET 80)

Declined: Northwestern Wildcats (17-12, NET 66), Michigan State Spartans (NET 70)

This one stings. Charlie Creme had the ‘Cats as the first team out in his final bracketology update, and...it looks like that’s what happened. This is the first year the women’s NCAA Tournament has included a First Four, but Northwestern’s non-conference loss to moribund Pitt (11-19, NET 98) and conference defeats at Minnesota (NET 89) and Penn State (NET 133) doomed them. A NET rating of 66 just can’t compare to those Last Four In, even if the ‘Cats have some big wins over Michigan and Iowa in their arsenal.

It’s a pretty disappointing finish to 2021-22 for a phenomenal defensive player in Veronica Burton, who’s likely off to the WNBA Draft, but one that’s understandable—I mentioned at InsideNU that Indiana blew $317K on hosting the Women’s NIT in 2018, and likely Northwestern and Michigan State weren’t up for hosting a tournament like this.

Congrats to those seniors from both schools, and good luck to Minnesota and Purdue in the next round.


Anything you’re looking forward to in the NCAA Tournament? Let us know your rooting and watching interests in the comments.