Two rounds in the books of the NCAA women’s tournament and everything is almost going according to seed, well except for the Nebraska Regional.
Coming into the tournament it seemed that UConn may have the easiest road to the Final Four. That path got potentially easier with the upset of fourth-seeded Nebraska and No. 2 seed Duke.
Don’t count UConn coach Geno Auriemma among those looking at it that way.
“I’m sure all the talk will be for the next three days how, ‘If it wasn’t going to be easy enough for Connecticut to go to the Final Four, now it’s going to be real easy, because No. 2 and No. 4 are out,” Geno Auriemma said. “That would be kind of disrespectful to the teams that are already there.”
While the Nebraska Regional has 12 seed BYU and No. 7 seed DePaul still standing, the other three regions didn’t have too many surprises.
The top four seeds advanced to Stanford. Fifth-seeded Oklahoma State joined the top three seeds in South Bend, Ind. Seventh-seeded LSU crashed the Louisville region by beating No. 2 seed West Virginia. Then again, the Lady Tigers did win at home.
It marked the first time since 2010 that two No. 2 seeds got knocked out in the second round.
Home-court advantage could be huge for Notre Dame, Stanford and Louisville. The trio, which are hosting regionals, have lost one game combined on their own courts this season.
Five things to watch for in the regional semifinals.
PARTY CRASHERS: BYU is the biggest party crasher to the Sweet 16. The Cougars earned their first trip to the regional semifinals with a victory over Nebraska. The Cougars reward - top seeded UConn. Throw in seven seeds DePaul and LSU and there is some intrigue. It’s not the same as the men’s bracket which has three double-digit seeds still standing.
“You start to understand that the game is changing a little bit,” Auriemma said. “It’s not automatic anymore that if you’re seeded higher you’re going to win. It’s been rewarding to see teams play great basketball and get rewarded with wins and having new teams in the regionals.”
DOMINANT ONE SEEDS: All four one-seeds advanced to the regional semifinals with relative ease. Only three times since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1994 have the top seeds not all advanced to the Sweet 16. The last was in 2009 when ninth-seed Michigan State upended Duke.
STAR POWER: Some of the best seniors in the women’s game are still playing. Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford), Kayla McBride (Notre Dame), Odyssey Sims (Baylor), Alyssa Thomas (Maryland), and Maggie Lucas (Penn State) were all instrumental in getting their teams to the Sweet 16.
GO WEST YOUNG WOMEN: North Carolina and Penn State will have to make cross-country journeys to play in the Stanford regional after opening up at home in the first two rounds. It will be the first time the Lady Lions have been in the Pacific time zone this season. The Tar Heels played out West twice this season, competing in a Thanksgiving tournament in Mexico and taking on UCLA.
Top-seed South Carolina played its first two games in Seattle and will stay out West in between rounds.
“We’re staying out on the West Coast,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “It doesn’t really make sense for us to fly 3,000 miles to Columbia to turn around and have to leave the next day. We have study hall and exams being proctored and Skyping into classes. We want to make sure our student-athletes get the full balance of basketball and making sure they stay on top of their school work.”
TOP CONFERENCE: The SEC has five teams in the Sweet 16 with the ACC being the next closest conference with three advancing. It probably didn’t hurt the SEC that four of the five teams played the first two rounds on their home courts.
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