Breaking down the Sioux Falls region of the 2016 NCAA women’s tournament
STATE OF THE NO. 1 SEED
The No. 2 overall seed, South Carolina probably wonders why it’s not in the Lexington regional. The trip to Sioux Falls is surprising, but the Gamecocks are in a terrific position to get back to the Final Four.
Outside of UConn’s Breanna Stewart, South Carolina’s 6'5" forward A’ja Wilson (16.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 54.4%FG) is the toughest matchup in the country. The lefty can score with either hand on the block and step outside to 15 feet to shoot or drive. Senior guard Tiffany Mitchell (15 PPG, team-leading 81 assists) gets a shot anytime she wants, and USC gets a boost off its bench from speedster Bianca Cuevas (6.6 PPG, 42 total steals), a sophomore guard who loves to push the tempo.
South Carolina sometimes has trouble scoring, but when that happens, the Gamecocks are simultaneously locking down on the other end of the floor. Opponents shoot just 34.9% against USC, which ranks 16th in the nation. That defense gives South Carolina time to figure it out offensively.
No. 11 Princeton over No. 6 West Virginia
For the first time ever, the Ivy League was awarded multiple bids (Penn is a 10 seed in the Lexington regional). One of the most talked-about teams last season after a perfect 30–0 regular season, Princeton has four starters back from last year’s team. Count on that experience, and on the Tigers’ ability to defend. Princeton opponents hit just 34.3% of their shots, and the Tigers can keep up with anyone, scoring 76 points per game.
Yes, you read that correctly. After getting tagged with its lowest seed (7th) in program history—the Lady Vols are the only team to appear in every women’s NCAA tournament—UT will be a trendy upset pick.
Yes, the Lady Vols have a lot of losses (a program-record 13, to be exact) but they’ve also got a lot of talent. It’s just a matter of it gelling this month. Diamond DeShields (13.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG) is one of the most dynamic players in women’s basketball, while 6'2" forward Bashaara Graves (10.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG) and 6'6" center Mercedes Russell (9.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG) are each capable of notching doubledoubles. Tennessee goes as DeShields does; if she takes good shots within the offense and the Lady Vols go inside-out, UT could make a deep run.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Kelsey Minato, Army. She has the best career three-point percentage among active players (43.5) and an unconventional postgraduation plan (field artillery school). The 5'8" sharpshooter has scored in double digits in her last 111 games, with 2,546 career points and counting. She’s led her team to a program-record 29 wins and on Feb. 24, the senior became the first active cadet to have her jersey retired. The Patriot League’s three-time player of the year, Minato (22.3 PPG, 2.6 APG, 1.8 SPG, 45.6 FG%) can score on any and everyone.