Stanford earned its third consecutive No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, sitting in the bottom right corner of the bracket. Kaitlin Clark and Iowa secured the No. 2 spot after a stellar season featuring electrifying, clutch performances, while Duke and Texas rounded out the top four.
Here’s what you need to know about the Seattle 4 ahead of the NCAA tournament:
NCAA Tournament Field Preview: Greenville 1 | Greenville 2 | Seattle 3 | seattle 4
Stanford (28-5, Pac-12 regular season champion)
The Cardinals have been here before, led by stars Haley Jones and Cameron Brink. Stanford led the nation in wins with 10 ranked this season and is poised to make its third consecutive Final Four appearance, despite an early exit in the Pac-12 tournament.
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Duke’s Kara Lawson must continue to ‘handle optimally’
Blue Devils head coach Kara Lawson goes viral after summer she gave a pep talk to her team Its about learning how to better handle life’s obstacles.
“It’s never going to be easy,” she said, “but you better handle the hard work.”
Duke (25-6) is Lawson’s third season this season, rebounding from a 10th-place finish in the ACC last year only to come under champion Notre Dame. The Blue Devils were dubbed one of the top 12 teams in the field after missing the previous three tournaments.
Their stellar defense has limited opponents to only 50.8 points per game, second lowest in Division I. Senior guard Celeste Taylor was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. Offense is a pressure point for Duke, however, as it has scored fewer than 50 points in four of its last six games.
The Blue Devils are in the same part of the bracket as Iowa. The game between them and the Hawkeyes could be an interesting battle between a defensive powerhouse and an offensive juggernaut, but Duke will have to score on another level come the Sweet 16 if it wants to stay with Iowa.
Could it be Texas time?
A rocky 3-4 start to the season subverted expectations after Texas’ thrilling March Madness run last year, where it advanced past the Elite Eight before falling to Stanford. But the Longhorns then clawed their way to their first Big 12 regular season championship since 2004. The committee rewarded him with one of the top 16 seeds.
Texas (25-9), led by offensive playmakers Rory Harmon and Shelly Gonzales, will face tough competition in their portion of the bracket. A rematch with Louisville in the Sweet 16 seems imminent and another meeting with Stanford in the Elite Eight is entirely possible. This will be the Longhorns’ third straight Elite Eight appearance, but could it be their first win under head coach Vic Schaefer?
Louisville played both Texas and Gonzaga during the regular season. The Cardinals may meet the two teams again in the NCAA Tournament.
It is very likely that No. 5 seeded Louisville and Texas will play in the second round. The Cardinals upset the Longhorns 71–63 in Battle 4 Atlantis in November. But the Longhorns played without Harmon, who averaged 11.4 points and 7.3 assists per game.
Should Louisville overcome Texas, the Cardinals could face No. 9-seeded Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 (though Gonzaga would have to beat Ole Miss in the opening round and surprisingly upset Stanford in the second). They lost 79–67 to the Bulldogs in overtime at Battle 4 Atlantis, which put Louisville in the consolation game against Texas the next day.
The last time the Cardinals were the No. 5 seed, they made it to the national championship game.
In 2013, Louisville defeated No. 1 Baylor in the Sweet 16, No. 2 Tennessee in the Elite Eight, and No. 2 Cal in the Final Four. That team had faced eight defeats in the tournament.
This year, he has 11. But Louisville faced tough ACC competition and shone in the conference tournament, including a 64–38 rout of No. 3 seed Notre Dame. They are led by Hailey Van Lith, who is averaging 19.2 points per game.
And the Cardinals can lean on his extensive March resume. Their 2022 tournament ended against South Carolina in the Final Four. Can they get past the likes of Texas and Stanford to make it there again?
Middle Tennessee State (28-4, Conference USA champion)
MTSU is on a 10-game win streak in the NCAA Tournament.
The Lady Raiders are experts at getting to the free-throw line, averaging nearly 16 per game, which ranks eighth in Division I. He makes 78.4% of his free throws, which equates to about 12.5 points per game from the line. His ball control is another marvel, ranking 25th in the nation in turnovers per game (12.1) and turnover margin (4.88).
MTSU could ride this momentum into a 2022 Cretan-esque run at this year’s tournament.