Miami, Ohio State and LSU continue to erase the chalk in the women’s 2023 NCAA tournament. Only the Greenville 1 Regional has provided a 1-2 matchup as undefeated and top-seeded South Carolina will face Maryland in the Elite Eight.
The Big Ten delivered on its preseason promise of a league loaded with heavyweights, putting three teams — Iowa joins the Buckeyes and Terps — in the Elite Eight. The ACC also has three, but Miami, which finished tied for sixth in the conference and had the lowest NET ranking (50th) of any of the league’s eight teams in the field of 68, wasn’t supposed to be one of them. ESPN Analytics said the Hurricanes had a 3% chance of reaching the Elite Eight before March Madness tipped off. They are this year’s party crashers in a tournament that is getting increasingly more wide-open — see: 10th-seeded Creighton in 2022 and 6-seed Texas in 2021 — despite the presence of heavy favorite South Carolina this year.
Miami is the first No. 9 seed to make it this far since Arkansas in 1998. The seed total of 12 in its game with No. 3 seed LSU on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) is the highest number a regional final has ever seen, making it officially the most improbable Elite Eight matchup ever.
Miami qualifies as the biggest surprise of this year’s Elite Eight, but Ohio State’s upset of UConn can’t be ignored. For the first time since 2007, the women’s Final Four will not include UConn. Ohio State’s win, coupled with Virginia Tech’s elimination of Tennessee, also means this will just be the third Elite Eight without either the Huskies or Lady Vols (1985 and 1992 were the others).
This has been a history-making tournament in so many ways. All the upsets both big and small have made reseeding more challenging than ever. But here it is one last time before we know which teams punch their ticket to Dallas.
No. 1 seeds
South Carolina dominates UCLA to advance to its 3rd straight Elite 8
The Gamecocks take care of business as they dominate the Bruins 59-43 and advance to their third straight Elite Eight.
South Carolina Gamecocks
NCAA seed: No. 1 overall (Greenville 1)
NCAA tournament: Defeated Norfolk State 72-40; defeated South Florida 76-45; defeated UCLA 59-43
Even the world’s greatest linguists are running out of superlatives for the South Carolina defense. What the Gamecocks did to UCLA is just another example of their complete dominance of even the best competition the rest of the country has to offer. The Bruins had more turnovers (8) than field goals (6) in the first half and didn’t even reach 30% shooting for the game. The Gamecocks haven’t allowed more than 45 points in any game in the tournament. Their offense produced the team’s second-lowest output of the season and looked as out of sync as it has in some time, but the outcome was still never in jeopardy. That’s how stifling the defense has been in this tournament and all season. South Carolina has now matched last season’s team for the most wins in school history (35) and is one win away from Dallas, the site of the program’s first national title in 2017.
Up next: vs. Maryland on Monday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
What stood out about Caitlin Clark’s performance in Iowa’s win?
Monica McNutt lays out what she liked about Caitlin Clark’s performance in Iowa’s Sweet 16 win over Colorado.
NCAA seed: No. 2 (Seattle 4)
NCAA tournament: Defeated SE Louisiana 95-43; defeated Georgia 74-66; defeated Colorado 87-77
Colorado pushed Iowa. The Buffaloes even led at halftime. Then Caitlin Clark kicked into another gear. Again. Clark scored 11 points and assisted on three more baskets in the pivotal third quarter, which Iowa won 25-13. It’s a story that has been written so many times this season. Clark takes over every aspect of the Hawkeyes’ attack and Iowa thrives. And when Monika Czinano is riding shotgun, Iowa is tough to beat. Czinano is an X factor. Her 19.0 points per game in the tournament exceeds her season average. In four of Iowa’s six losses, Czinano failed to score in double figures. She navigated the size of Colorado frontcourt duo Quay Miller and Aaronette Vonleh with 7-of-9 shooting. The 6-foot-3 Czinano might have to do the same against Louisville’s 6-3 Olivia Cochran and 6-5 Liz Dixon if Iowa is to advance to the school’s first Final Four since 1993.
Up next: vs. Louisville on Sunday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Virginia Tech advances to Elite Eight for the first time in program history
Georgia Amoore scores a career-high 29 points as Virginia Tech advances to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
Virginia Tech Hokies
NCAA seed: No. 1 (Seattle 3)
NCAA tournament: Defeated Chattanooga 58-33; defeated South Dakota State 72-60; defeated Tennessee 73-64
Elizabeth Kitley is the two-time ACC Player of the Year. She is the cornerstone of the rise of the Virginia Tech program. Right now, though, Georgia Amoore is the Hokies’ best player as they play the most important games in school history. As the games have gotten bigger, the 5-foot-6 junior has gotten better. Amoore scored a career-high 29 points in Saturday’s regional semifinal win over Tennessee. That’s after averaging 23 points per game in five games since the ACC tournament semifinals. She has lifted Virginia Tech to its first Elite Eight. Amoore will also be integral if the Hokies are to take the next step to the Final Four. How well she can continue to score while also trying to break the Ohio State press will be the biggest factor in Monday’s last game of the regionals.
Up next: vs. Ohio State on Monday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Maryland’s 17-1 run in 3rd quarter seals spot in Elite Eight
Maryland moves on to the Elite Eight over Notre Dame thanks to a 17-1 run in the third quarter.
NCAA seed: No. 2
NCAA tournament: Defeated Holy Cross 93-61; defeated Arizona 77-64; defeated Notre Dame 76-59
The rebuild is officially a major success in College Park. After losing 85% of her offense to either graduation or the transfer portal, Brenda Frese pivoted to the portal herself. Abby Meyers, Brinae Alexander and Lavender Briggs filled in the gaps around Diamond Miller, Shyanne Sellers and Faith Masonius, and now the Terps are 22-2 since Dec. 8. (The only losses are to Iowa, another Elite Eight participant.) Once the chemistry kicked in, Maryland has been one of the nation’s best teams. The Terps aren’t big and are only 207th in the country in rebound rate, according to HerHoopStats.com, but their athletic ability overcomes that. On Saturday, Maryland wore down the depleted Irish, outscoring them by 18 in the second half. There is little chance the Terps will do the same to South Carolina, but their offensive versatility should present the Gamecocks with their biggest challenge.
Up next: vs. South Carolina on Monday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
No. 2 seeds
Utah misses both FTs as LSU holds on to Sweet 16 win
Jenna Johnson misses both free throw attempts for Utah as LSU holds on to advance to the Elite Eight.
NCAA seed: No. 3 (Greenville 2)
NCAA tournament: Defeated Hawaii 73-50; defeated Michigan 66-42; defeated Utah 66-63
All the talk about LSU’s weak nonconference schedule this season means nothing now. Michigan and Utah were both ranked in the top 25 this season. The Utes were a top-10 team. The Tigers beat them both to earn the program’s first Elite Eight trip since the days of Sylvia Fowles in 2008. Angel Reese has put herself squarely in the conversation with Caitlin Clark as the best player in this NCAA tournament, but against Utah she got some significant help. LaDazhia Williams had her best game in an LSU uniform — and one of the best games of a career that has included stops with Missouri and South Carolina — with 24 points. Alexis Morris made four critical free throws, including two with 10 seconds left, that put the Tigers ahead for good. By Kim Mulkey’s calculations, this LSU team, in just her second year as coach, is ahead of schedule. The Tigers were just 16th in the preseason poll, so while a Final Four trip doesn’t seem so surprising now after a 31-2 season, it didn’t seem possible in November.
Up next: vs. Miami on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Jacy Sheldon caps off a 17-2 Buckeyes run
Jacy Sheldon drives hard to the basket for a nice floater to cap off a 17-2 Buckeyes run.
Ohio State Buckeyes
NCAA seed: No. 3 (Seattle 3)
NCAA tournament: Defeated James Madison 80-66; defeated North Carolina 71-69; defeated UConn 73-61
The Buckeyes did something no team since Stanford in 2005 could: keep UConn from the Elite Eight. It turns out the Huskies were the perfect matchup for Ohio State. Aside from injuries, UConn most struggled with turnovers this season. The Buckeyes force over 20 per game, which ranks 16th in the country. They did even better on Saturday, turning 25 UConn turnovers into 22 points. After falling behind 10-2, Ohio State thoroughly dominated the game, completely taking the Huskies out of any rhythm. The press that is the cornerstone of everything the Buckeyes do was more disruptive to UConn than it was to either James Madison or North Carolina, reminiscent of the version that helped Ohio State start the season 19-0. The Huskies outshot and outrebounded the Buckeyes. The Ohio State press, especially during a 21-9 second quarter in which UConn had more turnovers than shot attempts, was nearly the entire story behind Saturday’s win. Cotie McMahon, who has grown into a future star during her freshman season, and Jacy Sheldon, who looks completely healthy after returning only for the start of the Big Ten tournament, were the rest. They combined for 40 points and four steals.
Up next: vs. Virginia Tech on Monday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Olivia Cochran hits the strong and-1 layup
Olivia Cochran makes a tough move, then finishes inside with a tough and-1 layup.
NCAA seed: No. 5 (Seattle 4)
NCAA tournament: Defeated Drake 83-81; defeated Texas 73-51; defeated Ole Miss 72-62
In the final season before the NCAA tournament, the Cardinals’ only significant wins were over Miami and a depleted Notre Dame. Now they are in the Elite Eight for the fifth straight tournament. It’s no secret Jeff Walz is an outstanding coach. He seems to take it to another level in the NCAA tournament, especially this year. This is the lowest seed the Cardinals have had while making it this far. Much like she did last year in Louisville’s Final Four run, Hailey Van Lith has taken her game to another level. She struggled with her shooting in February and in the ACC tournament but has made 47.2% of her shots and is averaging 22.7 points in three tournament games. Van Lith’s usage rate is up as well with Walz putting the ball in her hand even more. Still, guard Mykasa Robinson has been the biggest difference-maker. Always a premier defender, Robinson has two of her six double-digit scoring games in the tournament.
Up next: vs. Iowa on Sunday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Jasmyne Roberts’ big-time and-1 sends Miami to the Elite 8
Jasmyne Roberts’ late and-1 proves decisive as Miami hold on to beat Villanova to advance to the Elite Eight.
NCAA seed: No. 9 (Greenville 2)
NCAA tournament: Defeated Oklahoma State 62-61; defeated Indiana 70-68; defeated Villanova 70-65
Against No. 8 seed Oklahoma State in the first round, Miami trailed by 17 points before rallying to win. The Hurricanes never trailed against No. 1 seed Indiana in one of the tournament’s biggest upsets. Then on Friday, they blew a 21-point lead against No. 4 Villanova, only to recover, make key plays down the stretch and emerge with yet another upset. Three games. Three distinctly different paths to victory. The result is Miami’s first Elite Eight. What hasn’t changed is how Miami has been successful: offensive balance and defense. The Hurricanes have had three different leading scorers (Haley Cavinder, Lola Pendande and Jasmyne Roberts) and have held all three of their opponents below their season scoring average.
Up next: vs. LSU on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)