Upsets, top players and best first-round games in the women’s NCAA tournament

March Madness begins on St. Patrick’s Day, famous for good luck, leprechauns and pots of gold. And yes, Notre Dame plays on Friday when the first round of the 2023 NCAA Women’s Tournament begins.

For all the teams that have waited a week or two to play again, the excitement is contagious.

Your first question on the first round: Will there be any upsets? There will almost certainly be several. Which teams could be this year’s version of Creighton and South Dakota, the two No. 10 seeds who won both of their games early in the round in upsets last season?

Charlie Creme, Alexa Philippou and M.A. Sportzshala’s Vopel is watching first-round games played Friday and Saturday at the home courts of the top 16 seeds and predicting what we might see and where the best games might be played.

Each game of the women’s tournament will be streamed across the ABC/Sportzshala family of networks, with a non-stop upload throughout the first weekend. Follow these links for Friday’s games and Saturday’s schedule. Be sure to subscribe to Women’s Tournament Challenge and check your bracket as soon as the games start.

Which Friday game are you most looking forward to?

Cream: Almost by definition, 8-9 games are the most intriguing. No. 8 seed Ole Miss vs. No. 9 Gonzaga in Seattle 4 stands out from the rest. I have a good idea of ​​which team I think will win almost every game in the entire first round. Not in this. I have no idea, and it is because of this mystery that I am looking forward to it. Ole Miss’s Angel Baker has been a big player in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 24.5 points per game in first-round games over the past two years – one with Wright State and one with the Rebels. But Ole Miss is ineffective on offense (153rd in field goal percentage), and Gonzaga leads the nation in three-point percentage (41.5%). The contrast creates a great match.

Wowple: No. 11 seeded UNLV is 31-2 and has a 22-win streak as Mountain West regular season and tournament champions. The Lady Rebels will face No. 6 Michigan, who finished fifth in the Big Ten. The Wolverines entered the Elite Eight last year and went 22-9 this season after losing to Naz Hillmon in the WNBA Draft. Michigan struggled with the top four Big Ten teams, but the Wolverine’s 81-79 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament showed what a threat they could be.

Philip: In addition to those already mentioned, Georgia’s 10th seed versus Florida’s 7th seed should be a defensive-offensive battle, especially with ex-USSR freshman Ta’Nia Latson playing. USC #8 vs #9 South Dakota also falls into this category. Lindsay Gottlieb leads the Trojans this year to their first 20-win season in a while, but the Rabbits haven’t lost since Dec. 15, when they were within arm’s reach of the Gamecox ahead of a huge fourth quarter against the defending National national team. Champions

Which site has the best group of games and potential matches on the first weekend?

Philip: Pod South Bend will be nothing short of spectacular. Notre Dame announced Thursday that star point guard Olivia Miles (knee injury) will no longer play this season after suffering a knee injury on Feb. 26. with Irish Niel Ivey. Notre Dame’s potential second-round matchup could also be tricky, with the Irishman facing either 6-seeded Creighton or 11th-seeded Mississippi. In the top four, the Bulldogs blocked the Illinois offense and pushed forward, with 6-foot-5 Jessica Carter posting 22 points and nine rebounds. She could create problems for the undersized Creighton. Without Miles, who knows how the Irish will cope with a squad that can be tough on the defensive and productive both inside and out.

Cream: Look at the total number of victories in Villanova. Florida’s Gulf Coast won 32 games, Cleveland State won 30 and Villanova 28. Washington State, the only team without a flashy total of 23 wins, holds the Pac-12 tournament title. All this success in one place is at least interesting, if not fascinating. While I see the hosts Wildcats going into the Sweet 16, these should be close games with potentially more points.

Wowple: Texas will be an interesting place. The Longhorns were one of the Big 12 champions in the regular season, but only scored 51 points in a league tournament final loss to Iowa State. They will take on American Athletic Conference tournament champion East Carolina in the first round, while Louisville will take on Missouri Valley tournament winner Drake. If No. 4 seed Texas then faces No. 5 Louisville, it will be a second-round matchup between teams that were in the Elite Eight and Final Four respectively last year. Texas should be much better offensively than in the Big 12 tournament.

Who do you need to see on the court on Friday?

Wowple: You may have heard of her: Caitlin Clark. Iowa fans are so excited about Clarke and her team of Big Ten champions that early round tickets sold out as fast as tickets to a Taylor Swift concert. Tickets for the Carver-Hawkeye Arena sold out almost instantly. Clarke has had another exciting season, including four triple-doubles, and she and the Hawkeyes are on a mission after a disappointing second-round loss at home to Creighton last year. Iowa’s last game at the Carver Hawkeye was a victory over Indiana on February 26, ending with Clark’s three-pointer. Clarke’s reputation as a player with big threes and great passing predates her, and she has almost no offside games. It will be important that her supporting cast, who was so good in the Big Ten tournament, also be up to par.

Cream: Much of the attention on Virginia Tech since the bracket came out has centered on center Elizabeth Keatley and the Hokies as the top seed. This is certainly justified. But point guard Georgia Amour was vital to Virginia Tech’s late-season success, and I can’t wait to see how that plays out in the NCAA Tournament. Amur scored 24 and 25 points in the semifinals and finals of the ACC Tournament, and in a key stretch of the Hawkeyes’ 11-game winning streak, she averaged 24 points per game against North Carolina State, Florida State and Duke. Cupid’s retreat jump is admired and has become a crushing blow for opponents.

Philip: Friday could be more about what players should see Not took the floor. We know Miles isn’t at home. ACC Rookie of the Year Latson is considered Florida State’s everyday player, but coach Brooke Wyckoff might really need her star against tough defensive team Kathy Abrahamson-Henderson of the Georgia Lady Bulldogs in the first round. It looks more and more like 2022 ACC 6th Woman of the Year Diamond Johnson may not be available for NC State, and with the Wolf Pack struggling this year, their first round matchup against Ivy League champion Princeton is screaming. huge frustrated potential.

How many upsets in the first round do you have in the grid?

Cream: The word “upset” has an interesting twist in this first round. For my initial picks, I picked No. 11 seed Middle Tennessee to beat No. 6 Colorado, No. 12 seed Florida Gulf Coast to beat No. 5 Washington State, No. 10 seed Princeton to eliminate the 7th seed. No. 9 in South Dakota beat No. 8 in USC. As it turns out, DraftKings doesn’t consider some of them upsets at all. Middle Tennessee, FGCU and South Dakota State are the betting favorites despite being lower seeded (and the Blue Raiders are the 27th most popular team selected to make the Sweet 16 in the Women’s Tournament Challenge bracket; the other three are at 11 crops are ranked 39th or lower). The Jackrabbits have a whopping 6.5 points favorite over the Trojans. I’m sticking with these picks and adding UNLV instead of Michigan as my true upset pick. The Lady Rebels are seeded at number 11 and are still slightly behind in betting.

Wowple: I go with six. Charlie is right: what is upset in terms of seeding is not necessarily so in reality. I have two potential upsets just like him: Princeton and South Dakota advance to the second round. I also see No. 5 from Oklahoma hitting the Sweet 16 from the UCLA early round court, Colorado doing the same from the Duke court, No. 9 Gonzaga pushing past the No. 8 Ole Miss Rebels and 10th seed West. Virginia finished 7th in Arizona in the first round.

Philip: I included five violations – at least in terms of seeding – in my bracket, but I have six more I would classify as “under the detuned clock.” My two wildest are Creighton with 6 seeds losing to his 11 seed opponent and Drake Bulldogs with 12 seeds beating Louisville with 5 seeds. Creighton has nights when shots just don’t land. And at the Big East tournament, she almost lost to Seton Hall, allowing Lauren Park Lane to score 36 points. The Blue Jays will need to bolster their defenses. And then perhaps Drake’s effective, balanced offense could take on Louisville, who have improved in the game but are still a long way from the group that made it to the Final Four last season.


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