After a wild opening weekend of the women’s NCAA Tournament, the Sweet 16 field features a mixture of regulars that includes all four No. 1 seeds — South Carolina, Louisville, N.C. State and Stanford — as well as newcomers South Dakota and Creighton.
While it was expected that the four No. 1s would advance to the regional semifinals, the two No. 10 seeds definitely were a surprise to many. In all, eight double-digit seeds won over the weekend, tying for the most all-time in the history of the tournament.
Princeton and Belmont did their best to join the double-digit party in the regional semifinals, but both fell short, losing to Indiana and Tennessee by a combined four points.
No. 10 seed Creighton will look to keep its run going as it faces No. 3 seed Iowa State. The Bluejays went to Iowa and shocked the sellout crowd of over 14,000 fans with a two-point win over the favored Hawkeyes. Many of the Creighton players are familiar with the Cyclones, including Iowa State star Ashley Joens, so the Bluejays shouldn’t be phased.
This is the sixth trip to the regional semifinals for the Cyclones, but their first since 2010.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever wanted something professionally more in my life than to see these guys have that opportunity,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “Sometimes in life, you earn things and you get it. Well, this group earned it and they got it.”
Overall No. 1 seed South Carolina and Aliyah Boston will face North Carolina. The Gamecocks have been playing stellar defense in the first two games of the tournament, holding Howard to a NCAA record-low 21 points and then following that up by only allowing Miami to score 33 in the second round.
The Tar Heels took it right to Arizona and advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 2015.
It will be a homecoming for Lexie and Lacie Hull when top-seeded Stanford heads to Spokane to face fourth-seeded Maryland. The Cardinal’s senior twins will be key to the defending champions advancing.
The two teams met in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving weekend with Stanford coming away with a 19-point win. The Terrapins were short-handed for that game, missing a few starters and only having seven players available.
Now that they’re healthy, coach Brenda Frese’s squad has looked spectacular in the first two games of the tournament, averaging 95.5 points in the two wins.
Second-seeded Texas will face No. 6 Ohio State, which knocked off LSU. The Longhorns have looked strong in their first two games.
North Carolina State is one of the deepest teams in the tournament and reached the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight time. Led by second-team All-American Elissa Cunane, the Wolfpack will face Notre Dame which ran past Oklahoma. The Wolfpack will have a chance to avenge their lone Atlantic Coast Conference loss this season. They went 20-1 against league foes, including a three-game run to a third straight ACC Tournament title. The Fighting Irish won 69-66 at home on Feb. 1 in the Wolfpack’s last loss this season.
The other game will pit Indiana against UConn. The Huskies are in the Sweet 16 for a record 28 straight time. They’ve won their last 15 straight regional semifinal games and have owned the Big Ten lately, winning 25 consecutive games against that conference.
This will be the first meeting between the two schools.
South Dakota is making its first appearance in the Sweet 16 after knocking off second-seeded Baylor in one of the biggest shockers of the tournament. The 10th-seeded Coyotes will face Michigan, which is playing in its second consecutive Sweet 16.
“We cannot look past anyone or take anyone for granted. The team that we’re going to play is an unbelievable team,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “They showed that last night in the way that they were able to defend Baylor. So it should be an exciting game, but experience always helps. Experience is the best teacher. We talk about that all the time.”
The other regional semifinal will pit top seed Louisville against four-seed Tennessee. The Cardinals pulled away in the second half to beat Gonzaga in the second round while the Lady Vols blew a 14-point lead against Belmont before freshman Sara Puckett hit a go-ahead 3-pointer from the corner with 17.5 seconds left to get the win.
Louisville is back in the Sweet 16 for the eighth time since 2013 while Tennessee is there for the 35th time in the 40 NCAA Tournaments, but first since 2016.
“This has been an amazing, amazing journey,” Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said. “And they have said it all year. They have said this is a special team, and this team can do some special things in March. Here we are.”
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