Women’s March Madness first weekend—parity is here to stay 

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It has arrived. After being known as a sport primed for predictability and a lack of upsets, this year’s March Madness has been nothing short of exciting. Upset after upset has kept viewers on the edge of their seats in a way that has not been the case in previous years. The national championship is up for grabs like never before. Even before the tournament started, crazy things happened. South Carolina lost to two unranked teams and UConn lost to three such teams. Let’s take a look at a few highlights and headlines from this weekend’s slate.  

CRAZINESS IN CREIGHTON 

The first team to make it to the Sweet 16 was supposed to be Iowa – according to 88% of brackets in ESPN. The national player of the year favorite Caitlin Clark-led team was a hot pick to at least make it to the second weekend, and maybe sneak into the Final Four. Playing on their home floor, who wouldn’t pick them to advance? Instead of waltzing to the Sweet 16, they were surprised by Creighton, a team that finished third in the Big East. Creighton’s star player for the game was Lauren Jensen, who hit a last-minute triple to take the lead and ice the game. She finished the contest with 19 points and seven boards, proving that the Big East is for real with the big win over No. 2 seed Iowa.  

FGCU SURPRISES 

Even though they got bounced by Maryland in the second round, Florida Gulf Coast still proved to everyone that they meant business and were massively underseeded by the committee. Going into the tournament, the Eagles were ranked No. 23 by the AP, which should equate to a No. 6 seed. Instead, the committee made them a No. 12 seed, forcing them to play No. 5 seed Virginia Tech. In a tight game, FGCU pulled out victorious with the “upset,” thanks to Kendall Spray’s 3-point barrage. Regardless of the fact that they were demolished by Maryland just two days later, they still showed up big and proved the committee wrong.  

SOUTH DAKOTA ADVANCES 

Who would have thought that two No. 2 seeds would have lost in the Round of 32? Further, who would have expected that South Dakota, a team without any votes in the AP poll would be the one to make that happen in their win over Baylor? It shouldn’t come as a major surprise–despite competing in a far inferior conference to the Big 12, they still did have a better record than the Bears on the year. In a well-rounded team effort, Hannah Sjerven led the way with 16 points, four rebounds and four steals, as they staved off a series of late Baylor runs in their 14 point win. 

PRINCETON IMPRESSES 

Regardless of the round of 32 result, Princeton showed the nation that they deserve to be on the big stage, similar to FGCU. The Tigers have had just four losses all year and finished the season ranked No. 25 with nice wins over FGCU and thrice against Columbia, yet were still picked as a No. 11 seed by the committee. They showed out against No. 6 seed Kentucky, a team that finished with 10 straight wins, including one over top seed South Carolina, to win the SEC. Princeton commanded the game, keeping the Wildcats just at arm’s reach for the whole time in their seven point win. The Tigers have two ESPN Hoopgurlz top 50 players coming in, which should provide a considerable boost as they look to three-peat in the Ivies.  

VILLANOVA GRABS THE UPSET 

After getting blown out of the water against UConn in the Big East tournament, Maddie Siegrist’s No. 11 seed Villanova squad did the Big East another solid by beating No. 6 seed BYU by four. Despite trailing at halftime, the Wildcats kept fighting, thanks to a monster effort by Siegrist, who scored 25 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists. Regardless of anything else, the Big East, a conference that many were doubting, has proved that they belong. And, it’s only getting better, with their improved recruiting coming in next year, but we’ll just have to wait and see. For now, we can watch them play and see them go as far as they can.  

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