Charlie Cram predicts the women’s NCAA tournament for ESPN.com.
Sweet 16 of the 2021 women’s basketball tournament. It’s March Madness: all #1 and #2 ranked teams advance to the regional semifinals, or one of the offensives – the six teams ranked #5 or lower also advance.
This is the third consecutive time in the NCAA Tournament that the top eight seeds have advanced to the regional finals, but the first time since 2013 that six teams outside the top four seeds have made it this far.
The Big Ten is the story of the field. The SEC put six teams in the top 16, but there are only two left. For the first time in Conference history, four Big Ten teams have reached the Sweet 16 for women. Michigan is making its maiden voyage. Indiana returns for the first time since 1983. Maryland and Iowa were there in 2019, but with very different teams.
All four Big Ten teams have moved up in our updated Sweet 16 rankings.
1. Stanford Cardinal (Original serial number: #1. Serial number: #1)
The Cardinals’ win in the second round wasn’t as big as the other No. 1 on this list, but it was impressive and had all the hallmarks of a Stanford branded victory. The Cardinals led by 15 points at the break and controlled the game. Eight different players scored, including four in double figures. Stanford limited Oklahoma State star Natasha Mack to 13 points, her lowest point total since the second quarter. January. Haley Jones led the team with 17 points for the first time in over a month. And that Stanford versatility was there for all to see: Tuesday’s win was the sixth in seven games in which the Cardinals have had another top scorer.
2. UConn Huskies (original location: #1. Placement: #1)
Husky coach Geno Auriemma returned from KOVID-19 quarantine for the regional games – just in time for long-awaited recruits Caitlin Clark of Iowa and Paige Buchers of UConn. In the second half, the Huskies systematically dissected the Syracuse zone and held the Orange to 28 percent shooting. Booker had 20 points, but it was another rookie, the 6-foot-6 Aaliyah Edwards, who did well again and again. In UConn’s first two NCAA Tournament appearances, she averaged 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds. Edwards made his third start of the season on Tuesday, while teammate Nick Muehl remained on the bench after suffering an ankle injury in UConn’s first-round victory.
3. South Carolina Gamecocks (Originally posted first. Posted first)
The Gamecocks were the most dominant team in the country a year ago, but lost their chance to be the favorite when the 2020 NCAA Tournament was cancelled. South Carolina remains one of the favorites to dominate at least defensively this year. Mercer and Oregon State shot just 34.4 percent in South Carolina’s two wins. The 95 points the Gamecocks allowed in the first two rounds combined was the lowest total the team allowed in two games in the tournament. They especially shined against the Beavers. Oregon State ranked third in the country in three-point shooting accuracy, but it was just 3-of-19 on Tuesday, and the 42 points scored by the Beavers were a season low. South Carolina’s inability to make 3-point shots (4-of-29 in two games) could be a problem.
4. Baylor Lady Bears (Original number: #2. New number: #1)
It was tempting to put the Lady Bears even higher. They are probably the most impressive team in the NCAA tournament so far. But starting pitchers are important in this selection process, and it’s not like Stanford, UConn and South Carolina aren’t also dominant. So Baylor remains in fourth place. Coach Kim Mulkey believes his defense is number one right now. He said this after winning in the second round at Virginia Tech: That is the most impressive defense I have ever put on the field in an NCAA tournament game, maybe even in my entire coaching career.
Baylor is one of the best defensive teams in the country this season, if not the best, and leads the country in field goal percentage. So it’s not surprising that a good Hokies attack is only 30% successful. But then again, this is nothing new for the Lady Bears. The 2019 championship team and last year’s 28-2 team also led the nation, as they allowed their opponents to shoot just 31%. Baylor scores 82.6 points per game, but wins on defense.
With 198 points, Maryland and Chloe Bibby set the record for points scored by a Big Ten team in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament. Purdue had the previous score, 189 in 1994. AP Photo/Ronald Cortez
5. Maryland Terraria (Original seed: no. 2)
Maryland, the regular-season and conference tournament champion, leads the Big Ten. San Antonio’s Terps also cover most of the field on offense. Some of the winning scores from Wednesday’s games were 64, 57 and 53. Maryland defeated Alabama 100-64. In women’s NCAA Tournament history, only three other teams have scored at least 98 points in their first two games of the tournament (2018 Notre Dame, 1989 Stanford and 1988 Long Beach State). Against the Crimson Tide, the Terps shot 62% from the field and were led by two bench players: Angel Reese (19 points) and Faith Masonius (16 points). There are counters on their entire rotation.
6. NC State Wolfpack (Originally determined to be #1. Newly determined to be #2)
The Wolfpack played without starter Kayla Jones in Tuesday’s second round. Elissa Coonan had another day off at the Star Center. They won just two of the four quarters against South Florida. Still, they beat a team that won the regular season and the tournament by double digits. Tenacity and talent rule the NCO staff again. Jones suffered a knee injury in the first round and her status at the regional championships is uncertain. Cunane is just 6-of-22 from the field and has two 12-point games in the NCAA tournament. The notion of surviving and moving forward began in Raleigh with the men’s team and Jim Valvano. With Jones out of the game and Cunan in trouble, that’s exactly what the Wolfpack need to do.
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7. Louisville Cardinals (original number: #2. Placement: #2)
The Cardinals allowed the most points in the first quarter of the season (25) on Wednesday, and their 10 points scored marked the fewest points to start a game in the 2020-21 season. Their 18-point deficit was also their biggest of the season. However, the Cardinals made up for it by beating Northwestern 62-53 and reaching the Sweet 16 for their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. After scoring nine field goals and 25 points in the first quarter, the Wildcats scored another 11 field goals and 28 points in the final 30 minutes. Louisville doesn’t have any concerns on defense, but they might with Dana Evans. Since the start of the ACC tournament, the senior star is shooting 30 percent from the field and is averaging 13 points per game. That’s after 18.1 PPG and 45% shooting in the regular season. Louisville’s youth won over Northwestern. Haley Van Leet and Olivia Cochran each scored 13 points to create the women’s third-longest comeback in the NCAA Tournament at Louisville.
8. Texas A&M Aggies (Original serial number: #2. Serial number: #2).
After the decisive shot in overtime to defeat Iowa State, Jordan Nixon said the confidence of his teammates and coaches was the key to his success in College Station. She gave them a good reason. Nixon was Texas A&M’s leading scorer in both NCAA Tournament games. He scored 35 points in a 45-minute game against the Cyclones. The Aggies never led until the extension, and coach Gary Blair – who doubled his confidence – didn’t call a timeout on the final possession, instead working Nixon into the lane for a runner high behind the glass to pick up the win. Two wins by six points kept Texas A&M alive. The Aggies also survived a game-high 32 points from Iowa State’s Ashley Jones, who leaves the tournament with a two-game record of 65 points.
9. Arizona Wildcats (originally #3, now #3 again)
The Wildcats may not have perfected the art of defeating monsters, but they did visit the museum. It doesn’t matter. Arizona fought back and defeated BYU 52-46 in the second round and reached the second Sweet 16 in school history. Head coach Adia Barnes was the Wildcats’ senior star on that first trip. It’s a goal she’s had since returning to Tucson in 2016. Aari McDonald came as a transfer from Washington (where Barnes was an assistant) in 2017, and the two worked together to revitalize the program. McDonald, a senior and two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, scored 17 points and led a defense that held BYU’s defensive duo of Paisley Harding and Shaylee Gonzalez to 6-of-22 from the field.
Grace Berger scored 17 points and helped Indiana to a 70-48 victory over Belmont.
10. Indiana Hoosiers (original position: No. 4, re-elected: No. 3)
Some teams, players and storylines get more attention than others in the NCAA Tournament. It’s a great individual play, a scoring play or a whistle blowing play that draws the most interest. There was nothing like that in Indiana. Without much ado, the Hoosiers got off to a better start than Gene Hackman’s team in Hickory and exactly where they wanted to be to start the season. While Big Ten partner Maryland is the offensive team of the tournament, Indiana gets the defensive prize. The Terps have scored 100 points in a game. Indiana allowed a total of 80 for two. They are the first defensive team in the league known for scoring goals. It’ll only keep you for a while.
11. Iowa Hawkeyes (Original location: #5. Placement: #3)
Iowa is more than just Caitlin Clark. In some games, she just has a hard time proving it. His 24 points in the first half of Tuesday’s second round were more than the entire Kentucky team. Clark’s 35 points and six three-pointers are both Iowa school records in an NCAA tournament. To reach their third Sweet 16 in six years, the Hawks stuck to a formula that has worked for them all season: In their first 27 games, they have averaged 86.6 points per game on 51.5 percent shooting. The marks are 86.5 and 52.3 for the two NCAA Tournament games. And Clark, the country’s top scorer, isn’t shy about sharing praise and the ball, especially with junior Monica Chinano, who leads the country in field goal percentage. She has great hands, great vision, she knows when the ball is coming even when I’m not looking, Clark said. I want to give him the ball every chance I get.
El Raffridge hit four three-pointers in the fourth quarter and helped Missouri State beat Wright State.
12. Missouri Lady Bear (originally scheduled as #5. Now scheduled as #3)
Someone in the Missouri program probably spent several long hours watching video of Wright State’s win over Arkansas. Angel Baker put the Raiders in the biggest jam of the tournament. The Lady Bears didn’t need to be told twice. Baker’s performance went from 26 to 10 points. Without Baker, Wright State had no other options. Missouri State operated from the 3-point line (8-of-16) and the free throw line (14-of-17), and that was enough to win 64-39 – the fewest points the Lady Bears have ever allowed in an NCAA Tournament game. This is Jackie Styles’ second consecutive Sweet 16 appearance and two Final Four victories on the 20th anniversary of his memorable run in 2001.
13. Michigan Wolverine (Initial selection: 6. Selection: 4)
Naz Hillmon usually leads any conversation about Michigan basketball. Perhaps the Wolverines’ defense should have been given equal consideration. After ranking fourth in the Big Ten in scoring (and in a conference with three of the top 10 teams in the country in scoring), the Wolverines showed their defensive versatility in San Antonio. No team has played such a variety of offensive opponents and performed so well. Florida Gulf Coast leads the nation in scoring with 3 points per game, but the Eagles shot 9-of-29 in the first round. Tennessee was second in the SEC in offensive rebounds and did not have a starter under 6-1, but the Wolverines outscored the Lady Vols 42-40. Michigan held both teams to 17 points below their season average to reach their first Sweet 16.
14. Texas Longhorns (Original serial number: #6. Serial number: #4).
Vic Schaefer knows the formula, reaching the Sweet 16 four times as Mississippi State’s head coach. He just needed to teach all their elements to his Longhorns. Remember the lesson you learned. The Texas guards approached the action with great enthusiasm: Celeste Taylor scored 24 points, Kyra Lambert had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Joan Allen-Taylor added 16 points. Texas defeated No. 3 UCLA 71-62 in the final game of the second round to become the sixth player seeded No. 5 or higher to advance to the Sweet 16. The Longhorns came out of the locker room quickly and limited the Bruins to 14 points in the first half. Maryland is the next opponent, and the formula for beating the Terps will demand more from star center Charlie Collier, who had five points and five rebounds Wednesday.
Nyara Saballi hit back-to-back 3-pointers and helped Oregon beat Georgia.
15. Oregon Ducks (Original place: 6. Placement: 4)
Maybe the Ducks just needed a break. After losing against Oregon State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament – its fifth loss to the Ducks in six games – Oregon had 18 days before the NCAA Tournament began on Monday. The Ducks now have two wins and a spot in the Sweet 16. And who would have thought in November that it would be the defense that would lead a 57-50 victory over Georgia in the third-most important SEC game in terms of points. Sedona Prince has become known for highlighting the difference between the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournament, but Wednesday was all about her two-way game. Prince, a transplanted Texan who has been battling injuries his entire career, matched his highest scoring total of the season with 22 points, five rebounds and four blocks.
16. Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket (Initial location: #5. Placement: #4)
There’s nothing like a second round NCAA tournament to find your happiness. Georgia Tech finished third in the ACC and earned the No. 5 spot on defense. But a 54-52 win in extra time over Stephen F. Austin in the first round as the Yellow Jackets were stopped on an interception in the second half. The offense finally played its part in an impressive 73-56 victory over West Virginia. The team, which finished 13th in the regular season. He ranks first in the ACC in scoring games, hitting 41.3 percent of his pitches. Against the Mountaineers, he hit more than half of his pitches and scored the most points since Week 2. February. The defense was also outstanding, holding West Virginia All-American Kisre Gondresic to just three points.
frequently asked questions
Who is in the Sweet Sixteen 2021?
The UCLA Bruins celebrate after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide on Sunday the 28th. March 2021, during the Sweet Sixteen of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at the Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.
Have the 16 seeded players won yet?
16 to 1. The first 16th placer to win a game in the NCAA Division I basketball tournament was Harvard in 1998 against Stanford. … There was also only one 16 seed in the men’s tournament, and that was in 2018, when UMBC defeated top-seeded Virginia, 74-54.
Where will the NCAA tournament be held in 2021?
The 2021 NCAA Tournament features the Final Four and National Championships in 3rd and 5th place, respectively. April completed. All games will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
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