Women’s college basketball winners and losers: Experience matters in March Madness; No. 1 seeds in flux

Tennessee head coach Kelly Harper sits to the side during a game against LSU during the semi-finals of the SEC tournament at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, on March 4, 2023.  (Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
Tennessee head coach Kelly Harper sits to the side during a game against LSU during the semi-finals of the SEC tournament at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, on March 4, 2023. (Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

Months before the season, duke released an impassioned pep talk from women’s basketball head coach Kara Lawson, which quickly spread beyond the sports world.

“It never gets easier,” Lawson told her team in July. “What happens is that you get better at coping.”

Lawson’s comments focus more on character development than game situations. But it is still valid and will come into effect for the top teams when they enter the NCAA Tournament next week. It becomes very difficult to win when everything is at stake. Previous experience cannot be replicated now.

Recall what Marquette head coach Megan Duffy said after the Big East semi-finals about the 11-time national champions, “It was Connecticut State University in March.” The Huskies know what it means to improve and get better at challenges when it matters because they have consistently played top-level talent in previous months. You’ll learn what it takes to better handle challenging games and situations.

There could be no better example of this contrast than the SEC semi-finals between Tennessee, a program in which the opponent’s average net rating is second, and LSU, whose opponent’s average net rating is 77th. Lady Vols passed LSU by closing the gap by 17 points and completing the last minutes of the game with one possession.

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Tennessee head coach Kelly Harper and her group have experience in such intense games. Most of the Vols roster against the NET top 100, going 16-11 with losses to the best in Ohio State (-12 difference), Indiana (-12), UCLA (-17), Virginia Tech (-3), Stanford (-7 ) and the University of California (-17). In the match against South Carolina, they performed better than LSU in the regular season.

Their record in the NET top 25 is 3-9, and this schedule ruined the look of their overall record (23-11, 13-3 SEC). But it matters where you are in March and they are ready. They also pulled off a signature win and their first win against an Associated Press-ranked team, a victory over LSU.

Harper said her team was confident in the game they were going to play in the future and determined to figure out how to earn the win.

“Did it come from our experience? I think it should be part of that,” Harper said. “This is just part of our journey this year. What I said at the beginning [was] I wanted this team to be the best basketball team ever. That’s why we planned the way we did it. We thought it would help us.”

The Tigers didn’t have the opportunity to learn how to cope better when their non-conference schedule didn’t include any team playing in the NCAA tournament field. They are 2-2 against the NET top 25 – a great percentage, but a terrible number – and 16-2 against the NET top 100. This is mainly due to the play of some teams in the SEC.

LSU head coach Kim Mulkey said the Tennessee zone had affected the offense and they would have to do extra preparation for the NCAA Tournament. She asked if her team was tired several times during a four-minute post-game interview following the Tennessee loss.

Playing back to back in conference tournaments is tough for any team. This is especially true for a team that doesn’t play the best teams in the country week after week. It’s not just physical fatigue, it’s mental fatigue from having to be locked into yourself all the time you’re on the court. One mistake against great teams can be life-changing.

LSU and its players are in a dire situation. The non-conference schedule was already set before Mulkey brought in a strong transfer team led by striker Angel Reese. Whether this was reasonable or not, given the growth in the use of the transfer portal and the ability of student-athletes to play immediately, is another matter. What matters is whether LSU is ready for March with more teams than ever able to reach the Final Four.

South Carolina won their seventh SEC tournament title in nine years by defeating Tennessee 74–58 to maintain their undefeated record. Aliya Boston was named MVP and guard Zia Cook joined her on the All-Tournament Team. Alexis Morris from LSU and the tandem of Ricky Jackson and Jordan Horston from Tennessee entered the top five.

Underdog: No. 1 seed of NCAA selection committee

South Carolina was the only No. 1 seed on the top 16 NCAA basketball selectors for women who played Sunday’s conference game.

Indiana, who finished 2nd overall in the committee scoring, lost a 24-point lead – the most in Big Ten tournament history – to Ohio State in the semi-finals on Saturday. Stanford was upset by UCLA in the Pac-12 semifinals on Friday night. And Utah didn’t even get that far.

The Cliffs were stunned by Washington State in the Pac-12 semifinals on Thursday. The No. 7 seeded Cougars won their first conference championship 65–61, beating No. 5 UCLA in their first appearance. This is Washington State’s first championship in any sport, men’s or women’s, in 21 years and the first ever women’s title.

The sled at the top can be extended downwards. Maryland, which was promoted by ESPN and Washington Post bracketers to the final No. 1 seed after losing to Utah, lost to Iowa in another Big Ten semi-final. LSU, a team that some thought could move to the top spot, failed to finish against Tennessee in the SEC semi-finals.

Virginia Tech and UConn were the only two-seeded players to play in their title game. The only other team to finish in the top 16 in their title game was Iowa, who last placed ninth overall with three seeds in the South Carolina region.

Chaos makes life difficult for the committee ahead of qualifying Sunday. But it added interest to March Madness and highlighted the more balanced play we see in the women’s game.

Ohio State's Taylor Mixell dribbles against Indiana's Chloe Moore-McNeil during the Big Ten semi-finals at the Target Center in Minneapolis on March 4, 2023.  (Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)
Ohio State’s Taylor Mixell dribbles against Indiana’s Chloe Moore-McNeil during the Big Ten semi-finals at the Target Center in Minneapolis on March 4, 2023. (Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)

Winner: ACC Tournament MVP Georgia Amur

Virginia Tech won the ACC Tournament Championship for the first time in the program’s history, thanks in large part to young quarterback Georgia Amour.

On Sunday, Amur took on a 75-67 victory over ACC seed 3, Louisville. She had 25 points, four rebounds and four assists for the fourth seed at Virginia Tech.

Amur was named the ACC Tournament Most Valuable Player, averaging 21.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists over three games. She was 42.5% from the floor, including 48.3% from 3. Her 14 full 3-pointers is an ACC tournament record.

She was joined on the ACC All Tournament First Team by Elizabeth Keatley (VT), Hayley Van Lit (Louisville), Mikasa Robinson (Louisville), and Chrislyn Carr (Louisville). Second Team: Sonia Citron (Notre Dame), Jewel Speer (Wake Forest), Taylor Soule (BT), Amari Robinson (Clemson) and Olivia Cochran (Louisville).

This is the first conference title for the Hokies since they won the A10 in 1998. Virginia Tech is in line to receive the latest No. 1 seed vacated by Utah and again by Maryland, according to an analysis by braces experts. disclosure of the final top 16.

Notre Dame, the regular season champion, was left without point guard Olivia Miles, who suffered a knee injury in the regular season finals. The Irish got a big win over defending state champions North Carolina but failed to do the same against Louisville in the quarter-finals. Duke’s No. 2 offense scored just 81 points over two games.

Winner: Billikens Head Coach Rebecca Tillett

This month, St. Louis will make their first NCAA Tournament appearance as champions of the Atlantic 10. No. 3 Billikens (17-17, 10-6) edged out No. 1 seed Massachusetts (26-6, 14-2) 91-85 in overtime. .

UMass sent him to extra minutes due to Sydney Taylor hitting 3 buzzers (with the help of Destiny Filoxy), but the Billikens quickly extended the margin in overtime to 15–9. Julia Martinez posted a triple-double with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. Kayla McMakin led all scorers with 27 points, including 7 of 8 on the line.

Tournament place is the first for St. Louis, but the second for head coach Rebecca Tillett. Tillett, who coached Virginia high schools in the 2000s, led Longwood to the Big South title last year. She is now the second head coach in Division I history to win two different auto bids in different leagues in consecutive seasons. according to ESPN statistics and information.

The other is Lisa Bluder, who did the same with Drake at the Mountain Valley conference in 2000 and with Iowa at the Big Ten in 2001.

Longwood’s Tillett team beat Mount St. Mary’s in the top four, marking the first NCAA tournament win in program history. The Lancers lost to NC State in the first round.

UMass dropped to “first four” in ESPN Bracketing Charlie Crema. They had an automatic conference bid in previous grid iterations.

Winner: Health Reports for UConn, Ohio

Although UConn and head coach Geno Auriemma never talked about a possible return of Azzi Fudd, Storrs was confident that she would indeed return this season.

“Azzy and Paige were standing outside and I said, Paige, are you playing in March?” She says, “Yeah,” Oriemma told reporters after losing to South Carolina a month ago. “And I said, ‘What about you, Azzy?’ And she said, “I hope much sooner.” I think Azzi was being truthful. Paige lied to her ass.”

The hopeful part didn’t work, but Fudd returned for the Husky’s first game in March, opening their Big East tournament, and scored 10 points, including two threes,…


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