As UConn heads to Bridgeport for its 24th-straight Sweet 16, beat writers Dan Madigan and Matt Kren look at Huskies’ matchup against UCLA as well as the other seven matchups and offer predictions for this coming weekend.
Lexington, Kentucky Regional
No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 5 Ohio State
The Buckeyes have a dynamic scorer in guard Kelsey Mitchell, who averages 22.7 points per game and dropped 21 on Kentucky to help power Ohio State to the Sweet 16. Mitchell will cause problems, but the Irish should be able to hold on even without star forward Brianna Turner, who is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL suffered in the second round. OSU keeps it interesting, but Notre Dame prevails due to a combo of Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey. Losing Turner certainly hurts the Irish’s title chances, but they still have enough to slip past the Buckeyes.
WINNER: No. 1 Notre Dame
No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 3 Texas
Texas’ backcourt of Brooke McCarty and Ariel Atkins will give the Cardinal all they can handle, but Tara Vanderveer’s Stanford squad will be up for the task. The Cardinal hold opponents to just 34.5 percent shooting from the field and has a solid rebounding and scoring threat in Erica McCall. Karlie Samuelson, Katie Lou’s older sister, leads the Cardinal with 48.3 3-point percentage, and hits enough from deep to send Stanford to another Elite Eight.
WINNER: No. 2 Stanford
Stockton, California Regional
No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 12 Quinnipiac
The success of the South Carolina men making it to the Sweet 16 has taken the limelight off of the injury-riddled South Carolina women’s team. With Alaina Coates out for the tournament and the status of Allisha Gray in the air, the Gamecocks are hurting. Luckily for them, they have Naismith finalist A’ja Wilson who has scored 39 points on 56 percent shooting in the first two games. Give credit to Jen Fay and the Bobcats who have shocked two straight opponents but the clock will strike midnight for Cinderella, because of their lack of size and the 6-foot-5 Wilson.
WINNER: No. 1 South Carolina
No. 2 Oregon State vs. No. 3 Florida State
Oregon State almost got bounced in the first round against Long Beach State but rebounded nicely against Creighton with a 64-52 win. Seniors Sydney Wiese and Gabriella Hanson both had a team-high 13 points, as Hanson was able to exceed her season scoring average by seven points. Unfortunately, they will be running into a Seminoles team who beat Western Illinois by 21 points and a quality Missouri team by 22 points in the second round. Shakayla Thomas has been lights out scoring 43 points and grabbing 25 rebounds, and she will help lead Florida State to their second Elite Eight in the last three years.
WINNER: No. 3 Florida State
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Regional
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 4 Louisville
The Bears haven’t had much of a challenge so far this tournament on the way to their ninth-straight Sweet 16, but Louisville will change that. The Cardinal’s Asia Durr is a legitimate scoring threat, shooting over 40 percent from deep and averaging 19.2 points per game and Mariya Moore is fresh off a 19-point game of her own against Tennessee. Despite the scoring prowess of Moore and Durr, the Bears’ size in the post with Kalani Brown and Beatrice Mompremier will be too much for Louisville to handle. Combine that with freshman Lauren Cox coming off the bench, and Baylor has as dangerous of a team as they’ve had in years.
WINNER: No. 1 Baylor
No. 2 Mississippi State vs. No. 3 Washington
Mississippi State is considerably better than last year’s team, who fell to UConn 98-38 in the Sweet 16 in Bridgeport. Despite that, the Bulldogs’ season will end once again to a team called the Huskies. Washington’s duo of set-shooting, rebounding machine Chantel Osahor and the greatest scorer in the history of women's college basketball in Kelsey Plum will prove too much for Mississippi State and send Washington to the Elite Eight for the second-straight season.
WINNER: No. 3 Washington
Bridgeport, Connecticut Regional
No. 1 UConn vs. No. 4 UCLA
UCLA has crushed their first two opponents by a combined 59 points, as they never trailed in either game against No. 13 Boise State or No. 5 Texas A&M. Junior Jordin Canada has scored 27 points and dished out an absurd 27 assists in the first two games as the Bruins left Pauley Pavilion in style. Coming to the East Coast, the Bruins will run into the juggernaut that is the UConn Huskies and they will struggle to handle the overall No.1 seed. The lineup of Nurse, Samuelson, Collier, Williams and Chong will prove to be too much to handle for the Bruins in a “home game” for UConn.
WINNER: No. 1 UConn Huskies
No. 3 Maryland vs. No. 10 Oregon
The Ducks have had a historic run, going to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history, as their group of freshmen beat No. 7 Temple and No. 2 Duke, but like QU the clock turns to midnight. Oregon, led by Ruthy Hebard, who scored 20 points and 15 rebounds against Duke, are still a few years away, and Maryland is the better team in this matchup. The under-seeded Terrapins, led by Brionna Jones, Destiny Slocum and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough have been lighting it up in the first two rounds, and this will carry over early Saturday morning in Bridgeport.
WINNER: No. 3 Maryland