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The good, the bad and the ugly of the high-majors in the 2023 NCAA Tournament so far

More than half of the 64 teams competing in the 2023 Women’s NCAA Tournament are considered high-majors. It includes programs from the specific “Power Five” conferences – the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC – as well as the Big East, which had a highly competitive women’s basketball season prior to the national tournament.

Round two of the tournament, every single team remaining is a high-major. This isn’t entirely unexpected; Power Five schools are usually the ones competing for the NCAA championship, and although conference realignment has changed the overall landscape of the NCAA throughout the years, one-off victories and Cinderella stories in the women’s NCAA tournament are uncommon.

The Sweet Sixteen begins this Friday, March 24, and plenty of familiar shows are still competing. However, there are a handful of high-majors who haven’t made it that far, perhaps unsurprisingly. While we wait to tip-off the next round of NCAA tournament games, let’s take a look at which high-profile players lived up to expectations, exceeded expectations and who have already gone home.

Meeting Expectations

The Tennessee Lady Vols have won their first two games of the tournament by a combined 92 points.
Saul Young / News Sentinel / USA TODAY Network

First of all, the obvious. A total of four No. 1 seeds in the tournament each went to a Power Five school, and two of them are looking pretty good. The defending NCAA champion South Carolina Gamecocks, who entered the 2023 tournament as the only undefeated team in the nation, have shown no signs of slowing down, easily defeating No. 16 Norfolk State and No. 8 South Florida in Greenville Region 1 .

The Virginia Tech Hokies also continued their roll, extending their winning streak to 13 games with wins over No. 16 Chattanooga and No. 9 South Dakota State. The halfcourt game that recently won the Hokies the ACC Championship has so far proved too much for their NCAA Tournament opponents, and they have delivered as Seattle is the top overall seed of Region 4.

However it is not just the No. 1 seed that is putting in the work. The LSU Lady Tigers – who were in talks for the No. 1 seed for most of the season before some untimely losses eventually seeded them at No. 3 in the Greenville 2 region – soundly beat a worthy No. 6 Michigan squad Gave. Second step. LSU would face the No. 2 Utah Utes in the Sweet Sixteen; Utah had little trouble with No. 15 Gardner-Webb in the first round and came up against the No. 10 seed and Ivy League champion Princeton Tigers two days later.

The most influential hi-fi, however, has been Tennessee Lady Vol. Tennessee, seeded No. 4 in the Seattle 3 region, has swept its competition so far, defeating No. 13 St. Louis by 45 points and No. 12 Toledo by 47. The Lady Vols’ average margin of victory is the largest of any team that has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.

Elsewhere, the No. 2 seed UConn Huskies defeated their Seattle 3 region opponents, No. 15 Vermont by 43 points in the first round and No. 7 Baylor by 21 points in the second. Along those same lines, the No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes defeated No. 15 Southeastern Louisiana in the opening round of the Seattle 4 region by 52 points—the largest margin of victory of any game ever in the NCAA Tournament—and survived a scare at No. 10 Georgia to move on to the Sweet Sixteen. Greenville 1’s No. 2 seed, the Maryland Terrapins swept No. 15 Holy Cross in the opening round and then defeated No. 7 Arizona to earn a Sweet Sixteen matchup with No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Teams like the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes (Seattle 3 Region) and No. 4 UCLA Bruins (Greenville 1 Region) have had a rough road ahead, but they still survived their lower-seeded competition and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. , Ohio State defeated No. 14 James Madison and No. 6 North Carolina to get there; UCLA defeated No. 13 Sacramento State and No. 5 Oklahoma.

pleasant surprise

NCAA Basketball: March 19 Div I Women's Championship - Ole Miss vs. Stanford

The Ole Miss Rebels have been one of the best NCAA Tournament stories ever.
Photo Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

March, of course, is all about the ups and downs, and while higher seeds have reigned supreme in the NCAA Tournament thus far, some higher-major teams considered underdogs in their respective matchups have won big. Busted a lot of brackets with the upset win. The No. 8 Ole Miss Rebels pulled off a thrilling Seattle 4 field victory over the No. 1 seed Stanford Cardinal in the second round, advancing to play No. 5 Louisville in their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2007.

The No. 9 Miami Hurricanes also upset the higher seeds. After a dramatic first round comeback win over Greenville 2 Region No. 8 seed Oklahoma State, Miami went on to defeat No. 1 Indiana in the second round, ending a Sweet Sixteen drought that dated back to 1992.

In addition to individual program achievements, Ole Miss and Miami’s performances were also historic in scale. as noted athletics It’s been 25 years since Sabrina Merchant, two No. 1 seeds bounced from the NCAA tournament before the Sweet Sixteen; Holding it against Indiana and Stanford is tempting, but it’s also a positive development for those interested in greater equality in the women’s tournament. As Merchant writes, “No. 1 seeds treated first weekend [of the NCAA Tournament] As a goodbye in Sweet Sixteen,” but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case anymore.

Credit must also be given to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who added another SEC representative to the big dance with their first four win over Illinois. Seeded No. 11 in the Greenville 1 region, Mississippi State defeated No. 6 Creighton by 25 points in what was arguably one of the big upsets of the first round. The Bulldogs were then eliminated in the second round, but not before scaring No. 3 Notre Dame in a low-scoring contest.


NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - Second Round - Indiana

The Indiana Hoosiers were one of two No. 1 seeds to lose in the Round of 32.
Photo by Joe Robbins/NCAA Photo via Getty Images

The opposite of every disappointment is bitter disappointment. For every heartwarming statistic about a program reaching its first Sweet Sixteen in one, two or three decades, there is the unfortunate reality of another program struggling to meet the high expectations that come with a high NCAA tournament seeding. has failed.

The Indiana Hoosiers epitomize this frustration. Indiana’s loss to No. 9 Miami in the second round of the tournament brought an abrupt end to a magical season; The Hoosiers’ 28 wins were their most wins in a season, and they earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. An early tournament exit — on his home court in Bloomington, no less — certainly wasn’t the end he had in mind.

Stanford, meanwhile, a program well accustomed to both Pac-12 and NCAA tournament success, made the Cardinal’s loss to No. 8 Ole Miss perhaps even more shocking. The 2023 iteration of the Cardinals was a veteran group that persevered through an increasingly competitive Pac-12 schedule and sought to soar in 2021, when Stanford won the NCAA championship. Instead, the Cardinals stunned in the second period, registering more turnovers (21) than field goals (17) as time expired.

While teams like the Texas Longhorns (No. 5 seed in Seattle 4) and the Washington State Cougars (No. 5 seed in Greenville 2) didn’t fail to meet the lofty expectations of Indiana or Stanford, their early tournament losses were still disappointing. . The Cougars, fresh off an improbable Pac-12 tournament championship, lost by double-figures to No. 12 FGCU in the first round of the NCAA tournament, hardly seeming in control of a game that should at least have been more competitive. Was. Meanwhile, Texas showed its signature defense in an opening round win over No. 13 East Carolina, holding the Pirates to 40 points, but it was its offense that could not seal the deal against No. 5 Louisville; The Longhorns lost to the Cardinals by 21 points, failing to recover after a miserable start to the game.

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