The Women's NCAA Tournament has reached the Sweet 16. How does the field look heading into the third round of the 2018 tournament?
ALBANY REGION PREVIEW
The top ranked, undefeated Huskies cruised into their 25th consecutive Sweet 16 with a win over Quinnipiac on Monday night. There's no secret they are the team to beat, and at 34-0 on the season they are two wins away from reaching their 11th consecutive Final Four. They are four wins away from their 12th national championship and seventh perfect season.
In a 66-40 win over Georgia while shooting 50-percent from the field, Duke limited the Bulldogs to the fewest points in second-round school history. Duke ranks 18th in the nation in scoring defense — limiting their opponents to 55.8 points per game — and the Blue Devils are currently giving up an average of 49 points a game in the tournament thus far.
The Blue Devils will need that suffocating defense to try and limit UConn's scoring output, as they currently lead the nation at 89.8 points per game. The two schools have not played each other since December 2014. This will be Duke's 17th Sweet Sixteen appearance.
After uncertainty they would even be in the NCAA tournament — the Buffalo women earned only the second at-large bid in Mid-American Conference history as an 11-seed — the Bulls rattled off convincing wins over South Florida (102-79) and Florida State (86-65) and are currently beating their opponents by an average of 22 points.
Junior guard Cierra Dillard is on a tear averaging 29 points a game so far in the tournament. This is a team that fears nothing and truly believes they can beat anyone. Combine that with the confidence they are playing with and having nothing to lose, this makes the Bulls a scary threat moving forward. Buffalo advances to their first ever Sweet Sixteen in school history and will match up against reigning national champion South Carolina on Saturday.
[credit]South Carolina Athletics[/credit]
Senior forward and National Player of the Year A'ja Wilson finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds in the final home game of her career leading to a 66-56 victory over Virginia. The Gamecocks are advancing to their fifth straight trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
The Gamecocks hold a considerable size advantage inside with Wilson averaging 22.6 points per game and 12 rebounds. They are currently out-rebounding their opponents by a margin of 7.2 rebounds a game and the Gamecocks must use this to their advantage against a feisty Buffalo team who can cause fits defensively and have proven they can score it.
UConn is UConn, there is no denying they are the team to beat and it will take the stars aligning perfectly for Duke to be able to pull off that upset.
The interesting matchup, to me, is Buffalo and South Carolina. South Carolina and leader A'ja Wilson are dominating inside right now. Sophomore point guard Ty Harris is a consistent leader and also playing at a very high level. They have faced plenty of adversity and appear to be playing well and ready for any challenge.
Buffalo, however, is also a team that is playing at a very high level right now. They are scrappy, they are tough, they have a chip on their shoulder and they will play this game physical, something South Carolina will need to be prepared for. The team with the greatest chance for upset is Buffalo.
Saturday, March 24 – Albany, NY
South Carolina vs. Buffalo: 11:30am ET
UConn vs. Duke: 1:30pm ET
Monday, March 26 – Albany, NY
The winners will advance to the Elite 8 and tip at 7:00pm ET