In the first two rounds of the Women’s March Madness Tournament, there were a lot of impressive sights to see.
From massive upsets like Belmont beating Oregon in double overtime to Creighton downing Iowa with a massive bucket from former Hawkeye Lauren Jensen, this year’s tournament is making a great first impression. We got a chance to see impressive single performances like Stanford’s Lexie Hull dropping 36 points over Kansas, or Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles becoming the first freshman to have a triple-double in NCAA tournament history.
The Sweet 16 is the place for Cinderella stories to continue, top seeds to roll over competition, and players to step up on a bigger stage against different opponents in their regional tournaments. As we wait for that to start, here are some players and teams to look out for later in the week.
Players to Watch:
Dara Mabrey: Notre Dame
Much like her teammate Olivia Miles, Mabrey had a spectacular game in the second round against Oklahoma. Mabrey hit five three-pointers and had 17 points in the first quarter alone. Mabrey is big, loud, and has a lot of confidence to back up her play on both ends of the court, and went on to post 29 total points in the game. In order to advance in the tournament, Mabrey and her team must stay sharp in the next round against top-seeded NC State.
Hannah Van Lith: Louisville
The sophomore for the Cardinals has come up big in Louisville’s last two tournament games, scoring a total of 41 points — 20 against UAlbany and 21 against Gonzaga. Van Lith is elusive with the ball and can score points when her team needs a spark to get going. Van Lith was one of the best players on the court last season for Louisville as a freshman and knows what it takes to make a deep run into the tournament as her team goes on to face Tennessee.
Deja Kelly: UNC
Deja Kelly and the Tar Heels were underdogs in some people’s brackets. The sophomore from San Antonio has put up just under 50 points in the first two rounds. Kelly was dangerous from the free-throw line in the game against SFA, where she didn’t miss a single bucket. Down the stretch, those points will be crucial in securing a win.
Angel Reese: Maryland
Maryland has had one of its best seasons in some time and Angel Reese is one of the biggest reasons for the team’s success. With 18 rebounds and 49 points in the last two games combined, Reese is a nightmare to defend. Reese will fight for the ball and drive to the hoop every chance she gets, which has helped the Terrapins tremendously throughout the tournament.
Jacy Sheldon: Ohio State
After the Buckeyes upset against third-seeded LSU, all eyes were on Jacy Sheldon. The junior scored 23 points against the Tigers and recorded three crucial blocks. Sheldon has been the Buckeyes' top scorer for a majority of the season and plays a lot of minutes without her production dropping off. As Ohio State prepares for its matchup against Texas, Sheldon will be a threat on the court.
Teams to Watch:
After an insane upset over second-seeded Iowa, thousands of brackets were busted. Lauren Jensen is one of the biggest offensive threats for the Bluejays. As first-timers ever in the Sweet 16, Creighton has a lot of girls who can shoot and play great defense. Iowa State will be another tough game, but Creighton is flying under the radar as a serious contender if it plays a complete game like it did against Iowa.
South Dakota is the epitome of a Cinderella story, comparable to St. Peter’s on the men’s side. Its win against Baylor snapped the Bears' 12-year streak to the Sweet 16, which was the fourth-longest in the NCAA. Three seniors — Hannah Sjerven, Liv Korngable, and Chloe Lamb — dominated the court with their shooting and defensive ability. This is the first time the Coyotes have made it to the Sweet 16 in their entire history.
The Fighting Irish looked unstoppable against Oklahoma, scoring a points record for the team with 106. Mabrey and Miles are two offensive forces that will be hard for NC State to contain, but if the Irish play how they did earlier in the week, their game against NC State could be a close one.
Dominating as ever, Geno Auriemma and the Huskies squad has now qualified for their 28th Sweet 16. Bueckers is now back from injury and UConn is playing all-around great basketball. There is an expectation for excellence, and this team can take down Indiana if it can play just as good as it has all year long.
A bit of an outside pick, but Iowa State was solid against Georgia and capitalized on every chance it had on offense. Defensively, the Cyclones blocked shots and forced turnovers. What more could you ask for in a team that is heating up as the tournament winds down? Iowa State is slated to play Creighton next, which should be an easy win if it can pick up right where it left off.