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HomesportMarch Madness: 5 top storylines heading into the NCAA women's tournament

March Madness: 5 top storylines heading into the NCAA women’s tournament

Variety Sunday is nearing and with it a unutilized basketball season dawns. The NCAA ladies’s basketball event will component the largest names in both the boys’s or ladies’s sport led through Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Paige Bueckers, Cameron Brink, Juju Watkins, Hannah Hidalgo and Kamilla Cardoso.

There may be one crew making an attempt a repeat identify, any other going for an undefeated championship once more and much more taking pictures for historical past as their methods’ first identify winners. Or, with regards to the Pac-12, one ultimate championship for the convention’s lore.

The First 4 guidelines issues off March 20 forward of first- and second-round motion from March 22-25 on the house courts of the height 16 groups seeded within the bracket. The super-regionals please see weekend can be held in Portland, Oregon, and Albany, Unused York. The Ultimate 4 is April 5 in Cleveland and the championship sport will wind on ABC for a moment consecutive yr on April 7 at 3 p.m. ET.

Listed here are the principle storylines from this season to be able for the bracket expose Sunday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Caitlin Clark’s record-breaking season continues

This one was hard for anyone to miss, however negative event piece is entire with out it. Iowa famous person Caitlin Clark handed record then record over the utmost generation, shining a whole country and drawing even blind lovers into March Insanity. Then passing Pete Maravich’s hallowed mark, the NCAA all-time scoring chief will input the NCAA event with 3,771 profession issues and averaging a career-high 31.9 ppg.

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Her profession 28.353 ppg reasonable is hundredths of some degree from the DI ladies’s checklist eager through Patricia Hoskins. She averaged 28.382 at Mississippi Valley Environment within the overdue Nineteen Eighties, boosted through a checklist 33.6 ppg as a senior. Within the Fat Ten identify sport, Clark moved time Sabrina Ionescu into fourth at the DI ladies’s all-time assists leaderboard with 1,092. She is inside simple achieve of Courtney Vandersloot (1,118) and may even go Andrea Nagy (1,165) if Iowa performs lengthy enough quantity. However record-holder Suzie McConnell (1,307) is out of achieve.

Clark, the main candidate for a moment consecutive participant of the yr award, led the rustic in scoring and assists (career-high 8.9) once more this yr. Iowa (29-4) hasn’t ever gained an NCAA ladies’s basketball championship and performed in its first identify sport utmost yr. The Hawkeyes should be a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday, paving an more uncomplicated highway to the Ultimate 4. They rank first in offensive score (119.2) and scoring (92.8), in addition to in a majority of offensive taking pictures and crew divisions.

How far can Caitlin Clark carry Iowa in the NCAA tournament? (Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)How far can Caitlin Clark carry Iowa in the NCAA tournament? (Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)

How some distance can Caitlin Clark elevate Iowa within the NCAA event? (Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports activities)

South Carolina’s undefeated season, jerk 2

South Carolina is undefeated through the regular season and SEC event as soon as once more, following within the footsteps in their 2022-23 season that Iowa ended within the Ultimate 4. The Gamecocks (32-0) want to transform the tenth nationwide champion to proceed undefeated in NCAA DI ladies’s historical past.

All of the foundation 5 is unutilized then 4 starters, together with former Naismith winner Aliyah Boston, and a height conserve have been decided on within the 2023 WNBA Draft. Head professor Morning time Staley added switch Te-Hina Paopao, whose 49.1% clip from 3 leads the crew and rights a sore spot from utmost season, week selling gamers up from the bench. One of the most Gamecocks’ strengths utmost yr was once intensity, and it’s once more this season with Staley in a position to plug-and-play through the new hand and matchup.

They rank 3rd offensively (86.1 ppg) and primary defensively (56.3) for a nation-best profitable margin (29.8 ppg) this is 5 issues greater than LSU and UConn in moment. The Gamecocks gained all six video games in opposition to groups ranked height 25 in NET (LSU two times, Notre Dame, Utah, UConn, Duke), however the SEC time table isn’t as robust.

“Yes, we won a lot of basketball games, but there are a lot of things we need to work on, a lot of deficiencies that we need to work on,” Staley said all over the SEC event sooner than a buzzer-beater over Tennessee and a close win over LSU. “This team has responded time in and time out, and they’re going to have to respond now that’s it’s a win-or-go-home situation.”

UConn is not a favourite

Even though UConn’s 14-year Ultimate 4 streak is not, the Huskies entered the 2023-24 marketing campaign as cast favorites to win their first nationwide championship because the 4 helmed through Breanna Stewart from 2013-16. That temporarily vanished with extra season-ending shock information that has grey this system the utmost few seasons. And with contemporary accidents, a place within the ultimate weekend is not going.

With Bueckers’ go back from her own season-ending knee injury, the Huskies was hoping to rate again right into a identify sport in the back of their two heralded Deny. 1 recruits. Rather, they pieced in combination any other trim roster when Azzi Fudd, one of the crucial sport’s cleanest shooters, tore the ACL and meniscus in her right knee two games into the season.

The Huskies (28-5) also are with out freshman middle Jana El Alfy (Achilles), fifth-year key conserve Aubrey Griffin (ACL), sophomore ahead Ayanna Patterson (knee) and youthful secure Caroline Ducharme (head/neck). Amari DeBerry overlooked the Fat East event with a concussion.

Bueckers, who’s again at a Naismith-winning degree, and ahead Aaliyah Edwards, a projected WNBA lottery pick out, carried the weight for UConn. Buckers is averaging 21.5 issues (14th in DI) week taking pictures 54.1% with 4.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.3 blocks in step with sport. Edwards is averaging 17.5 issues (59 FG%) and 9.3 rebounds in step with sport. Edwards overlooked the remains of the Fat East event then maintaining a damaged nostril within the quarterfinals. Head professor Geno Auriemma mentioned she must be able for the NCAA event.

UConn relied heavily on its freshmen (Ashlynn Shadow, KK Arnold, Qadence Samuels) and a team-high 6.3 assists from level secure Nika Mühl, who introduced she is not going to jerk her difference yr of eligibility. The Huskies rolled via any other Fat East time table, however misplaced to all 5 of the high-NET non-conference foes on their time table: South Carolina, Texas, UCLA, Notre Dame and NC Environment.

Paige Bueckers said she'll be back at UConn for another season next year. (M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)Paige Bueckers said she'll be back at UConn for another season next year. (M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Paige Bueckers mentioned she’ll be again at UConn for any other season after yr. (M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire by way of Getty Photographs)

Terminating age for the Pac-12

The final Pac-12 tournament is in the rearview as a better to one of the most competitive and a laugh seasons in convention historical past. It’s additionally the utmost as realignment destitute aside the “conference of champions.” There’s a tall chance the tale ends with two groups within the Ultimate 4.

Common-season champion Stanford (28-5) and event champion USC (26-5) are possible Deny. 1 seeds within the NCAA event with attractions eager on Cleveland. UCLA (25-6), which misplaced to USC in two overtimes within the SEC semifinals, could also be a attribute contender to build a run.

Cameron Breaking point (17.8 ppg, 11.9 rpg) and Kiki Iriafen (18.6 ppg, 11.0) are one of the crucial supreme frontcourt duos within the country powering Stanford’s second-best rebounding charge (58.5%) and top-10 offensive score (112.3). USC runs via big name freshman Juju Watkins, whose 27 ppg are moment to Clark and on pace to break the women’s all-time scoring record if she remains all 4 years.

The Bruins have been solidly the second-best crew all season till Lauren Betts, a switch from Stanford, overlooked 4 video games because of invisible clinical causes. UCLA is averaging 10 extra issues than utmost yr and ranks first in rebound charge. UCLA and USC have essentially the most wins in opposition to groups within the NET height 25 (8), however the Trojans have 4 losses, one fewer than UCLA.

Oregon Environment (24-7), Colorado (22-9) and Utah (22-10) are locks to build the garden. Arizona (17-15) surged onto the bubble overdue with a signature win over Stanford.

Main accidents impacted height groups

UConn wasn’t the one program to paintings via primary shock issues, and extra accidents have impacted height groups’ outlook over the time couple of weeks.

Virginia Tech (24-7) rose into place for a possible Deny. 1 seed over the utmost generation of the usual season till three-time ACC Participant of the Date Elizabeth Kitley injured her knee in the final game. The 2023 Naismith finalist was once dominated out of the ACC event, however has now not been dominated out of the NCAA one, but. Kitley (22.8 ppg, 11.4 rpg) and senior level secure Georgia Amoore (19.2 ppg, 6.9 apg) are the one double-digit scorers at the Hokies roster and one of three returners from the 2023 Final Four squad. They’re each top-15 finalists for the Wood Award. Dropping Kitley’s manufacturing this overdue within the season, with out right kind age to tinker and alter, would leave Virginia Tech’s ceiling from Ultimate 4 to Candy 16.

LSU (28-5) is using a trim bench into Variety Sunday. The reigning champions have been already with out sophomore foundation ahead Sa’Myah Smith, who injured her knee in November, and senior Kateri Poole, who’s not with the crew. Utmost-Tear Poa, their 6th participant, sustained a concussion in the SEC semifinals. The Tigers are in the hunt for to transform the primary back-to-back champions since UConn in 2016 and the fourth program to do all of it age. They gained the identify as a Deny. 3 seed utmost season.

Texas level secure Rori Harmon, an Related Press and WBCA All-The us honorable point out, logged career-high numbers and was once a participant of the yr contender before tearing her ACL in practice in December. Standout freshman Madison Booker took over at point guard and has Texas (28-4) in layout for a Deny. 1 seed within the NCAA event. Booker (16.6 ppg, 5.0 apg ranks 3rd in Fat 12) is the primary freshman to win a proportion of Fat 12 Participant of the Date, was once named the convention’s height freshman, and is one among 5 finalists for the Cheryl Miller Miniature Ahead of the Date.

Notre Dame (26-6) also overcame a plethora of injuries to win the ACC tournament title and internet hosting rights within the NCAA event. The Preventing Irish played the full season without level secure Olivia Miles (knee), a finalist for primary 2023 awards and 2023 ACC Participant of the Date runner-up, in addition to a handful extra guards on their roster.

Sonia Citron (16.6 ppg, 1.8 spg) overlooked 9 video games and ahead Kylee Watson injured her knee within the ACC finale, striking her condition for the NCAA event in flux. Hannah Hidalgo, a height contender for nationwide freshman of the yr, is a menace on both sides of the ball, averaging 23.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.5 apg and four.6 spg.

Utah’s hopes within the packed Pac-12 plummeted after the loss of junior guard Gianna Kneepkens in early December. She was once the crew’s second-leading scorer in the back of ahead Alissa Pili for a moment consecutive yr, however with out her taking pictures warning from 3, the Utes (22-10) weren’t as deadly offensively.

Extra gamers have overlooked wallet of age, however not anything paints the image of accidents this season as obviously as TCU (20-11) and Davidson (18-8).

TCU fell from undefeated and ranked within the AP Lead 25 to retaining unmistakable tryouts in January when a rash of injuries dropped their roster under the important participant threshold. Davidson canceled the remainder of its season this month as a result of the “physical, mental and emotional toll of this unfortunate and injury-riddled season,” athletic director Chris Clunie mentioned in a commentary. The Wildcats began the yr a program-best 12-1 with wins over Duke and a related loss to North Carolina that led to attention for the AP ballot.

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