Calling Dr. Jared, Calling Dr. Jared
I have plenty of time on my hands today (I always write my posts the day before they publish so I'm not up at 5:00 am typing away) as I get to play babysitter. Katy had some major sinus surgery this morning and is at home recovering. Thankfully, everything went well and her mom drove up from South Carolina to help with the recovery process for a few days.
The extra time on my hands allowed me to take a deeper look into the eight games between sixteen teams that we'll see on Friday and Saturday, four games each day.
Hailey Van Lith Named a Region Finalist
For the second straight year, Hailey Van Lith has been named a region finalist for the WBCA NCAA Division I Coaches' All-American team. The junior is one of 52 named finalists with 10 of them being selected to the All-American team at a later date.
Besides leading Louisville in scoring, Van Lith also ranks 12th in the country in total points scored with 681. Her 88.0% free throw shooting is 20th, nationally. Her 241 made field goals ranks 14th. In 35 games played this season, HVL has scored in double figures 33 times.
Van Lith and 5-seed Louisville square off against 8-seed Ole Miss on Friday at 10:00 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Cards and Rebels will play in Seattle.
Previewing the Sweet Sixteen
*Note* The game scenarios and outcomes listed here are the opinion of Jared Anderon and may not reflect the opinions of the staff and management of Cardinal Couple
From 68 teams down to 16 teams, even surviving this long is quite a feat. Louisville is one of the few to proudly see their name on that list, but what do we know about the other 15?
1-seed South Carolina vs 4-seed UCLA
The Gamecocks haven't lost since the SEC Championship last season... to Kentucky. South Carolina went on to win the 2022 NCAA Championship that saw them defeating Louisville in the Final Four. They've won by less than double-digits five teams this year: Stanford (Nov. 20), UCLA (Nov. 29), Mississippi State (Jan. 8), UConn (Feb. 5), and Ole Miss (Feb. 19). Aaliyah Boston is the name everyone knows, but Zia Cooke and Camilla Cardoso are also major factors for South Carolina.
UCLA has a much different background, sitting at 27-9 on the year. The Bruins fell to Washington State in the Pac-12 Championship, coincidentally the most recent team to beat them before that. The Pac-12 was one of the best women's basketball conferences this year, contributing to eight of their nine losses with the final loss coming to South Carolina in the fall. The triple threat of Charisma Osborne, Kiki Rice, and Emily Bessoir have helped the Bruins power through the tournament so far.
2-seed Maryland vs 3-seed Notre Dame
The Terrapins fell in the Big 10 semifinals to Iowa, but have a strong 27-6 record. Like UCLA, Maryland also faced South Carolina this season and it didn't end well for them. Nebraska and DePaul both topped them before the New Year, but the Terps haven't lost to a team that wasn't an NCAA Tournament 1-seed or 2-seed since. Maryland loves to play offense and having a WNBA first round prospect Diamond Miller helps tremendously. Abby Meyers and Shyanne Sellers can both go off at any given moment too.
The Irish are a team Louisville fans are all too familiar with. Injuries to Dara Mabrey and Olivia Miles have set Notre Dame back, but Sonia Citron and Maddy Westbeld have stepped up to handle their increased roles with no trouble. Notre Dame boasts a 27-5 record with their most recent loss coming at the hands of Louisville in the ACC semifinals by 26. Maryland beat the Irish in South Bend by two on Dec. 1 so this rematch should be interesting.
4-seed Villanova vs 9-seed Miami
The Wildcats have the best non-Power Five player in the country in Maddy Siegrist. She's helped lead the Big East runner-up to a 30-6 record. Villanova was swept by UConn this year while the other three losses came at the hands of Baylor, Creighton, and Iowa State. Lucy Olsen and Christina Burke have been able to fly under the radar thanks to the skillset and talents of Siegrist.
Possibly the biggest surprise of the tournament, Miami is still finding ways to survive and advance. The Hurricanes rallied from a huge deficit to defeat Oklahoma State before stunning Indiana in Bloomington on Monday. Miami is 21-12 on the year and finished sixth in the ACC. Louisville handled the Hurricanes well back in February in a stretch where "The U" lost three of five games. Destiny Harden has been the go-to player in a bind, but having Haley Cavinder and Lola Pendade helps spread the floor from the paint to the arc.
2-seed Utah vs 3-seed LSU
The Utes were considered overrated by a few folks, but a 27-4 record on the year and not having lost at home in 13 months are both great marks. All four losses for Utah have come in the past month and a half with two of those coming from Stanford. Utah has one of the highest-scoring offenses in the country and they shoot 35% from three. Alissa Pili scores at a high rate and her shooting percentages are well above average. Gianna Kneepkens and Jenna Johnson both score in double figures and shoot over 50%.
LSU lost twice all year with one loss being a blowout loss to South Carolina and the other one coming in a two-point loss to Tennessee in the SEC semifinals. Kim Mulkey's squad was shocked at home in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year, but that team didn't have Angel Reese. Reese is a walking double-double and should be one of the top returners in the country next year. Alexis Morris and Flau'jae Johnson have played big supporting roles behind her and have been a major reason when LSU has a strong offense and a top notch defense.
1-seed Virginia Tech vs 4-seed Tennessee
The Hokies are having a program record-sitting year, much to the thanks of Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore. The ACC Player of the Year (Kitley) and one of the most dangerous three-point threats in the country (Amoore) have been the dynamic duo for much of the year. Transfer Taylor Soule has started to show the same spark she previously had at Boston College now that the post-season is here. The ACC champs need one more win to break 30 wins on the year and they haven't lost since Duke took them down in late January.
The Lady Vols (yes, they still use "lady" in their name) aren't back to their glory days yet, but a 25-11 record and SEC runner-up finish are both encouraging for the once proud program. Rickea Jackson has been a bright spot for Tennessee and the tournament is only helping the senior improve her draft stock. Jordan Horston has been another key contributor for Tennessee, but the loss of Tamari Key back in late November set the Lady Vols back some.
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2-seed UConn vs 3-seed Ohio State
UConn and the NCAA Tournament have been together in every sentence for two decades, it seems. The Huskies have been to 14 straight Final Fours. Despite dealing with more injuries than any other team in the country including the Paige Bueckers injury. The Huskies still went 31-5 and won the Big East. Aaliyah Edwards, Azzi Fudd, Lou Lopez-Senechal, and Dorka, Juhasz have all been crucial to the success of this year's UConn team.
The Buckeyes have had some similar experiences as UConn when it comes to injuries this season. Fortunately, for Ohio State, their injury woes seem to be behind them. Ohio State has gone 27-7 up to this point that includes a Big 10 Championship loss to Iowa. Five of their losses came in a seven-game stretch in January and February as the injury bug was hitting. Six players average in the double figures highlighted by three-point threat Taylor Mikesell. The return of Jacy Sheldon, who hit the game winner against North Carolina last round.
Of note: Dorka Juhasz started her career at Ohio State before transferring to UConn.
2-seed Iowa vs 6-seed Colorado
Caitlin Clark and Company is the more accurate phrase for Iowa. The Hawkeyes run everything through the junior. After a second round exit last year, the Hawkeyes look to continue their run this year that began with a Big 10 title. The Hawkeyes are 28-6 and lost just once in their last 10 games. Iowa has broken 100 five different times. Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock also average double figures.
Colorado is 25-8 on the year and handled their own in the Pac-12 before falling victim to Washington State in the conference semifinals. The Buffaloes are a defensive minded team that has relied on Quay Miller and Aaronette Vonleh to clog the paint. The duo post players are part of four players averaging 10+ points per game for Colorado and have been a key part on the defensive end that has forced 552 turnovers this year.
5-seed Louisville vs 8-seed Ole Miss
The Rebels were the first team to take out a 1-seed in the women's tournament this year and one of two teams to knock a 1-seed out so far. However, the Ole Miss win didn't seem as surprising... seeing as they've taken teams such as South Carolina, LSU, and Utah to the wire this year. Ole Miss is 25-8 after a huge turnaround under Coach Yo (Yolett McPhee-McCuin), who is in her fifth season at the helm. Angel Baker, Madison Scott, and Marquesha Davis have been the driving force to this revamped Ole Miss squad.
Of course, we all know about Louisville. The Cards broke 25 wins again as they sit at 25-11 on the year and finished runner-up in the ACC Tournament. Louisville has taken down some top tier teams such as Notre Dame, Texas, and North Carolina. They also took down another Sweet Sixteen team in Miami back in February. What many argue as a "down year" for the Cardinals has still resulted in a sixth straight Sweet Sixteen, if not better. While Hailey Van Lith has stolen the spotlight on offense, any Louisville fan knows Mykasa Robinson deserves an equal amount of praise due to the fifth-year senior's defensive skills.
While we don't do any bracket redo's, there are some interesting match-ups going forward. With the absence of two 1-seeds, a 3-seed, and a 4-seed, the opportunity has opened for several other teams.
I still think South Carolina is the team to beat in this tournament. The first two rounds haven't caused my confidence to waver. With the absence of of Miles and Mabrey, I think the luck of the Irish runs out against an offensive juggernaut in Maryland. While the Terps and UCLA have both battled South Carolina well, I think the Gamecocks still get to the Final Four with ease.
No Indiana opens the door for a few other teams. In my opinion, LSU comes out of this region. The whole weak non-conference schedule debate has been shot down as of like as the Tigers have been on cruise control so far. Utah has the offense to make it an interesting game, but Kim Mulkey isn't a Hall of Famer for no reason. Now, does Miami continue their Cinderella run or does Villanova prove to the world that you don't have to be a Power Five team to go far? Had Maddy Siegrist been on a top-10 team in the ACC, SEC, or Pac-12 then she'd be the favorite for Player of the Year. I think the Wildcats get past Miami but fall to the other felines of the bunch in LSU.
There has been split decisions on if UConn will continue their Final Four streak or if Virginia Tech will snap that streak. Don't look that far yet. Tennessee's offense has gone off this tournament, averaging 94.5 points per game. The Lady Vols will be able to match watch Georgia Amoore can do on the outside, but I think the Hokies come out on top due to what Elizabeth Kitley does in the post. A healthy Ohio State team can go far, but I don't think they'll be able to handle UConn. The Huskies in the post-season are a different breed. VT vs UConn has the makings of being a game for the ages, but I think Kenny Brooks' squad comes out on top by a slim margin. The winner of this region will end up in the championship game.
With Stanford out of the picture, Iowa wants to make a case on why they deserved the 1-seed. While Colorado was able to crush MTSU and upset Duke in the second round, I don't think they will have an answer to Caitlin Clark. Louisville vs Ole Miss is a match-up of teams that had to take down host teams on their respective home courts to get this far. This will be a defensive battle that I think Louisville comes out on top on. I don't expect Louisville to drop 70 or 80 points per game, but I think breaking 60 points will be enough. As impressive as Louisville has looked the last few weeks, I think their season runs out in the Elite Eight against Iowa, and then then Hawkeyes fall to eventual champion South Carolina. There is no shame in an Elite Eight appearance.
While these are all just my guesses and predictions, there is no guarantee any of this will happen. Don't forget, I had Stanford in my Elite Eight and Indiana falling in the final. We'd would love to hear your thoughts on how the rest of the tournament plays out.
The Cardinal Couple NCAA Tournament Pick 'Em contestants see it this way: South Carolina (11 picks), Louisville (4 picks), Connecticut (3 picks), Indiana, Iowa and Virginia Tech (2 picks) and Notre Dame, Maryland, and Ohio state (1 pick).
Happy Thursday and Go Cards!