How about this? Not one, but two teams from Connecticut will be in the women’s NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16. One, of course, is UConn, the No. 1 overall seed seeking its 12th national championship, and fifth in a row. But No. 12 seed Quinnipiac — a school located in Hamden, Connecticut — is the surprise team that joined No. 10 seed Oregon as first-timers in the regional semifinals.
The Bobcats and the Ducks both knocked off ACC teams on their home courts on Monday, helping a tournament that was full of near-misses finally deliver two huge upsets. Quinnipiac won at No. 4 seed Miami, and Oregon triumphed at No. 2 Duke.
Oregon is one of five teams from the Pac-12 in the Sweet 16, leading all conferences. The ACC, despite the two big losses Monday, has three teams moving on. In all, seven of the top eight seeds have advanced, with Duke the only exception.
Probably the most anticipated regional semifinal matchup will be No. 1 seed Baylor versus No. 4 Louisville in Oklahoma City. Those teams met in 2013 in the same round on the same Chesapeake Energy Arena court, when Baylor was the defending national champion with one loss, and Louisville a No. 5 seed with eight losses. But the Cardinals upset the Lady Bears 82-81 in an epic game, and went on to the NCAA final.
Both coaches might downplay that 2013 game — Baylor’s Kim Mulkey almost certainly will — and the key players from that matchup are all graduated. But the fact that it’s in the same building, with the Lady Bears again as a No. 1 seed … it’s natural to look back on what happened then. Which was this: Louisville played as physically aggressive against Baylor center Brittney Griner as possible, and the Shoni Schimmel-led Cardinals hit an absurd 16 3-pointers. What will happen this time?
The Oklahoma City and Lexington regionals play Friday/Sunday, with Bridgeport and Stockton playing on Saturday/Monday. Here’s a quick look at the women’s Sweet 16.
No. 1 Notre Dame (32-3) vs. No. 5 Ohio State (28-6), ESPN, 7 p.m. ET Friday: The big question for the Irish is supposed to be answered Tuesday: Whether junior center Brianna Turner, the team’s top scorer and rebounder, will be able to play after injuring her knee in Notre Dame’s second-round victory. Without her, this would be even more of a guard-heavy game, with the Irish trying to match up against the Buckeyes’ scoring sensation, Kelsey Mitchell. Ohio State has its own injury question with post player Stephanie Mavunga, who didn’t play in the first two NCAA games.
No. 2 Stanford (30-5) vs. No. 3 Texas (25-8), ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET Friday: The Cardinal won their regular-season meeting 71-59 in November at Stanford, but both teams have evolved since. This could be a very fun game to watch, with both teams having inside-outside threats and the ability to get up and down the court pretty well. The big key might be whether Stanford, led by Karlie Samuelson and Brittany McPhee, can hit from the 3-point line. Also, look for a great post battle between young stars: Texas freshman Joyner Holmes and Stanford sophomore Alanna Smith.
Oklahoma City Regional
No. 2 Mississippi State (31-4) vs. No. 3 Washington (29-5), ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET Friday: The Bulldogs are known for their defense — yet scored 110 and 92 points in their NCAA tournament victories thus far. This after 49 points in the SEC tournament final against South Carolina. Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer has shaken up his starting lineup, though, and that seems to have worked pretty well. But what will he do against the top scorer in the nation, Kelsey Plum? The Huskies scored 91 and 108 points in their two NCAA wins. It would seem more likely Mississippi State will revert to its defensive identity, and try to force a lower-scoring game against Washington.
No. 1 Baylor (32-3) vs. No. 4 Louisville (29-7), ESPN2, 9:30 p.m. Friday: Baylor was upset in the Big 12 tournament final, but the Lady Bears pulverized their first two NCAA tournament foes, Texas Southern and California. Senior guard Alexis Jones has returned to Baylor for the NCAA tournament after being sidelined since Feb. 20 with a bone bruise, and that makes a deep team even deeper. Baylor also has great size inside, led by 6-foot-7 sophomore Kalani Brown. Louisville, though, held Tennessee to 33.3 percent shooting in their second-round matchup Monday, and was led by guard Asia Durr’s 23 points. Plus, Cardinals coach Jeff Walz loves the giant-slayer role.
No. 3 Maryland (32-2) vs. No. 10 Oregon (22-13), ESPN, 11:30 a.m. ET Saturday: For those anticipating a grudge match between former ACC rivals Maryland and Duke, the Ducks prevented that. Oregon is a freshmen-led team that has been playing fearlessly of late; the Ducks upset Washington in the Pac-12 quarterfinals and then upset No. 7 seed Temple and No. 2 Duke in the NCAA tournament. Maryland is led by seniors Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who went to the Final Four their first two seasons. The Terps shot a combined 55.5 percent from the field in their two NCAA tournament victories, over Bucknell and West Virginia.
No. 1 UConn (34-0) vs. No. 4 UCLA (25-8), ESPN, 2 p.m. ET Saturday: It’s as if the UConn starting five kind of takes turns on who is going to put up ridiculous numbers. It was junior Kia Nurse in Monday’s second-round victory over Syracuse, with nine 3-pointers and 29 points, as the Huskies shot 62.3 percent from the field. UCLA clobbered Texas A&M on Monday, shooting 56.6 percent as Kari Korver hit seven treys and scored 21 points. UConn has won all three previous meetings with UCLA, the most recent in 2014.
No. 1 South Carolina (29-4) vs. No. 12 Quinnipiac (29-6), ESPN, 4 p.m. ET Saturday: The Gamecocks are without center Alaina Coates, and have not announced whether guard Allisha Gray, who was injured in the second round, will be able to play. South Carolina still would seem to be the heavy favorite against MAAC champion Quinnipiac — but tell that to No. 5 seed Marquette and No. 4 Miami, which both fell to the Bobcats. Watch how well Quinnipiac moves the ball; the Bobcats had a combined 44 assists in their two NCAA upsets.
No. 2 Oregon State (31-4) vs. No. 3 Florida State (27-6), ESPN, 6:30 p.m. Saturday: The Beavers survived a big scare from No. 15 Long Beach State in the first round, and now are back in the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row. They made the Final Four last season, and have terrific guard play, led by Sydney Wiese. But the Seminoles, who are in the Sweet 16 for the third year in a row, have great guards too, with Leticia Romero and Brittany Brown. And forward Shakayla Thomas had a combined 43 points and 25 rebounds in the early rounds for Florida State.