The upsets, comebacks, great individual performances, shocking moments and late game drama of the last two days made the Sweet 16 perhaps the best one ever. Advancing to the Elite 8 are two teams who have never been before, some who haven’t advanced to this round in a very long time, and some familiar faces.
Two key points from each matchup:
- Shooting percentages define Miami-Villanova: As a team, Miami shot 45.6 percent from the field and their leading scorer, Jasmyne Roberts, had 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting, or 62.5 percent. Meanwhile, Villanova was shooting 36.5 percent, and even though the nation’s leading scorer in all of college basketball, Maddy Siegrist, had 31 points, she shot 8-of-29, or 27.6 percent. Overall, Siegrist was responsible for 46 percent of her team’s field goal attempts and 68.2 percent of their attempted free throws.
- Overcoming turnover deficit: Shooting that well in this game allowed for the Hurricanes to overcome a 21-11 turnover differential that allowed for the Wildcats to have 30 points off of turnovers, compared to just 9 points for Miami. The two leading scorers also played a major role in forcing turnovers as both Roberts and Siegrist had four and five steals, respectively.
- It all came down to free throws: In the game’s final minutes, both teams were at the line for the lead, and LSU capitalized, while Utah didn’t. With less than two minutes to go, Gianna Kneepkins made two to tie the game at 61. Isabel Palmer then made two with almost a minute to go to put Utah ahead 63-61. National Player of the Year candidate Angel Reese was fouled with exactly 57 seconds left, and split at the free-throw line in order for the Tigers to just be down 63-62. Alexis Morris proceeded to be fouled with 10 seconds, and made both free throws to put the purple and gold up, 64-63. Jenna Johnson proceeded to be fouled with four seconds left, and airballed the first free throw while outright missing the second, and Morris made two more free throws to give LSU the 66-63 win.
- Foul trouble ruled the day: The Tigers saw three foul out, including Reese, while the Utes had just one in Alissa Pili. Both teams had at least five players with two fouls each and that paid dividends at the end, as both LSU and Utah shot 23 and 24 free throws, respectively.
- Clark and Czinano: Once again, Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano shined for Iowa with their inside-out game, as the former had 31 points and eight assists while the latter contributed 15 points and seven rebounds. Clark had a strong first quarter with 11 points and then just had one field goal in the entire second quarter. She then scored 11 and 7 points in the third and fourth quarters. Czinano made key buckets despite having just 28 minutes of playing time with foul trouble.
- Offensive rebounding for Colorado: Despite losing 87-77, the thing that kept Colorado in it was their 21 offensive rebounds, compared to just seven for their opponents. Five players, including Quay Miller and Aaronette Vonleh, had at least three offensive boards each, leading to 15 second-chance points.
- Hailey Van Lith: Once again, the Cardinal’s scoring machine lead them, with 21 points. She took and made the most shots for her team at 7-for-18 and also threw in five rebounds, four assists and one steal.
- Bench production: Louisville had 27 points off of the bench, while the Ole Miss reserves scored just 6. The Cardinal bench was lead by Liz Dixon (8 points), Morgan Jones (11 points) and Merissah Russell (8 points).
- Opening up in the third: Maryland outscored Notre Dame 26-13 in the third quarter after the Fighting Irish led 32-31 at halftime. This allowed for the Terrapins to turn a previously close game into a double-digit rout.
- Guard play makes the difference: Diamond Miller and Shyanne Sellers combined for 36 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, seven steals and three blocks for Maryland. They shot 39 percent from the field and 81 percent from the free-throw line.
- Depth on display: Once again, South Carolina highlighted how deep of a team that they are, with 28 bench points. Kamilla Cardoso and Bree Hall both had 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting each.
- It’s all about defense: The Bruins held their opponents to a season-low 25 points at halftime, and the Gamecocks returned the defensive favor. South Carolina shot 33 percent in the first half and 38 percent overall, while UCLA shot 27 percent in the first half and 29 percent overall.
- UConn’s streak is over: With their loss to Ohio State, the Huskies miss the Elite 8 for the first time since 2005, and it breaks their 16-year Final Four streak. This also marks the first time since 1985 that Tennessee, Stanford or UConn won’t be in the round of eight. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, return to the Elite 8 for the first time since 1993.
- The second quarter differential: In the second period, Ohio State outscored UConn 21-9. During that time, the Buckeyes shot 44 percent from the field.
- Georgia Amoore carries the Hokies: The prolific guard scored 29 points, grabbed six rebounds, dished five assists and stole the ball twice. As the primary ball handler and leading scorer and playmaker for Virginia Tech, she was always there whenever her team needed a bucket when Tennessee made a run in the third quarter. This allowed the Hokies to never once relinquish their lead.
- The press defense: All throughout their 73-64 victory, Virginia Tech had a hard time dealing with the Lady Vols’ press defense, which made it difficult to advance the ball past off court, and resulted in 18 turnovers. Tennessee closed the gap to four, but it wasn’t enough in the end.
The Elite 8 field signals a new era in college basketball, without any of the traditional blue blood programs on board. And the next round gets exponentially harder, with no clear-cut winner in any of the pairings.
Who will end in at the Final Four in Dallas next weekend is still anyone’s guess.
Miami vs. LSU, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Iowa vs. Louisville, 6 p.m. PT, ESPN
Maryland vs. South Carolina, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech, 6 p.m. PT ESPN