We’re two full weeks into the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament and just four teams remain. We’ve seen impressive Cinderella runs from squads like Miami and Ole Miss, each knocking No. 1 seeds off in the round of 32. We’ve also seen teams like South Carolina dominate their competition regardless of the opponent, perhaps an even better feat. Or what about a team like Ohio State who broke UConn’s longstanding Elite Eight and Final Four streaks? These teams have all been spectacular throughout March Madness, but who rises above the rest? Our DC Sports writers discussed in this week’s roundtable.
Associate Sports Editor
The Hurricanes had the premier Cinderella story in all of the NCAA Tournament this year and it’s not even close. After narrowly edging No. 8 seed Oklahoma State, they were supposed to lose to No. 1 seed Indiana, the team that most people pegged to advance to the Final Four in Dallas, TX. Instead, Destiny Harden hit a last second shot on the Hoosiers’ floor, effectively knocking them out of the tournament and sending Miami to the Sweet 16. Playing No. 4 seed Villanova went great for the first 21 minutes, as they were up by 21. The next 14 minutes saw them score just five points, with the Wildcats taking the lead. The Hurricanes regrouped and emerged with the tight win, before struggling offensively in their Elite Eight loss against LSU. There is no team so far that overperformed as heavily as Miami, beating two top-16 squads. This is a season to be proud of for them.
Ole Miss Rebels
It is hard to lose in the first or second round as a top-four seed in March Madness, especially since those games are played on your home court. Four out of the 16 host teams lost in the second round this year, and No. 1 seeds made up half of those eliminations. Between both top-seeded upsets, I found the Rebels’ performance against the Stanford Cardinal much more impressive. Cameron Brink and Haley Jones both scored in double figures, but they accounted for 36 out of the Cardinal’s 49 points as Ole Miss’ defense shut almost everyone else down. This upset should not have come as a big surprise to many; the Rebels took the undefeated defending national champion South Carolina Gamecocks to overtime and stayed close with the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge in back-to-back games. Although Hailey Van Lith and the No. 5 Louisville Cardinals ended Ole Miss’ tournament run in the Sweet 16, this will be their most memorable March Madness appearance in one of their best seasons in program history.
South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina’s 36-0 record speaks for itself. Just because they were expected to be dominant does not take away from the fact that they have been incredibly impressive this March Madness. Winning all their tournament games by at least ten points, the Gamecocks are the team to beat in the final four. They have been dominant in bucking this year’s trend of No. 1 seeds being knocked out. Of course, Aliyah Boston is a standout player for the Gamecocks. Averaging 13.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, she is a formidable forward that can challenge any front court in the tournament. The fact that Boston has been outscored by Zia Cooke further highlights the fact that South Carolina has incredible skill across their roster. If South Carolina can defend their title this year by extending their record to 38-0, it will be almost impossible to argue that any team has been more dominant, or more impressive, in this year’s March Madness.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Listen, I know this isn’t the popular pick, as we are UConn’s student newspaper. However, I think credit should be given to where it’s due: to Ohio State, who shocked the world last Saturday with a triumph over the Huskies in the Sweet 16. While Connecticut was certainly put through the wringer injury-wise all year, it seemed that enough players came back in time for them to make another deep run. Thanks to a dominant performance in a tougher-than-normal Big East Tournament, many experts believed any No. 1 seed should be afraid of an underseeded UConn. How about No. 3 Ohio State? Not only did they stop Geno Auriemma and squad from reaching the Final Four for the 15th straight time, the Huskies didn’t even get to the Elite Eight. The Buckeyes made history, and the final score wasn’t particularly close, thanks to 23 points from Cotie McMahon. While it was unfortune that they ran into each other, my pick for most impressive performance goes to Ohio State.