The 2018 Women's NCAA Tournament kicks off on Friday as we look to crown the next champion in women's basketball. Last year we saw Mississippi State knock off UConn in the Final Four then fall at the hands of South Carolina in the NCAA Championship.
Will UConn reclaim their crown in 2018? Will Mississippi State make it back to the Final Four? Is anyone classier than Geno Auriemma?
Let's try to answer some of these questions by taking an in-depth look at the Kansas City Region of this year's bracket. The top seeds are as follows: #1 Mississippi State (32-1), #2 Texas (26-6), #3 UCLA (24-7), and #4 NC State (24-8).
Check out the region with my predictions:
Coming off their appearance in last year's championship, Mississippi State ran the table this season until losing in the SEC Championship game to South Carolina, the same team that beat them in last year's national title game. Luckily for them, South Carolina isn't in this region or, in fact, on their side of the bracket (neither is UConn).
The Bulldogs have one of the best players in the country in Teaira McCowan, a 6-7 center and SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year averaging a double-double at 17.7 PPG and 13.2 RPG.
Keep your eye on Victoria Vivians as well. The senior joined McCowan on the All-SEC first team and leads the Bulldogs in scoring, averaging 19.6 a game.
Finally, don't sleep on Morgan William, the 5-5 guard whose buzzer-beater took down UConn in the Final Four last year. In case you need some help remembering, see below.
Gustafson leads all of D1 women's basketball in scoring (25.6 PPG) and FG percentage (66.8%), she's second in double-doubles (27), and fifth in rebounding (12.7). She was the Big Ten Player of the Year (media vote) and her high school graduating class only had 11 people, so that's awesome.
Iowa has struggled at times this year. They lost to both Minnesota and Nebraska twice (both 10 seeds in this tournament). But they also proved they could beat a solid team like Ohio State (a three seed), and, again, they have one of the best players in the country.
March is a time for stars to be born, for one player to take their team to previously unimagined heights. In 2018, Megan Gustafson is that player.
Players to Watch
Other than McCowan, Vivians, William, and Gustafson, this region is lousy with players you need to keep an eye on. #8 Syracuse has D1 women's basketball's top assister (9.9 APG) in Australian guard Tiana Mangakahia. The Orange's first round opponent, #9 Oklahoma State, sports a woman who can get buckets in Loryn Goodwin (20.9 PPG).
UCLA guard Jordin Canada is one to watch on the defensive end of the floor. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year is good at stealing the ball from you (3.2 SPG). If she was from Vancouver, you might have an extra reason to root for her, but, sadly, she's from Los Angeles.
If you're a fan of good passes and the occasional triple-double, Shay Burnett from Elon is a name to know. She's 16th in the country with 6.5 assists a game and has pulled a Russell Westbrook twice this season. Also, don't try to drive the lane against Nebraska's Kate Cain, she's 6th in the nation in blocks.