(Photo: Brooke Faber/WCSN)
For the NCAA tournament, the Arizona State Sun Devils will serve as the 2-seed in the Sioux Falls region of the bracket. Here, I’ll examine each team in the region in order of seeding, pointing out the players to watch as well as giving a best-case and worst-case scenario for each team as they all compete for a trip to the Final Four.
In the final installment of this four-part series to prep you for the tournament, we take a look at the lowest seeds in the Sioux Falls region with seeds 13-16.
13. Army West Point (29-2, 1st in Patriot)
West Point will be a really fun team to watch in this tournament. With a 29-2 overall record, Army boasts one of the best records in the entire tournament, let alone the Sioux Falls region, and is led by the best player in program history, senior point guard Kelsey Minato. Minato was voted the espnW mid-major player of the year after producing team highs in points (23.6ppg) and assists (3.7apg) and leading Army to a Patriot league championship. Army enters the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country with 19 consecutive victories. With Minato at the helm, Army has the potential to make some noise in this tournament, and are one of the safest upset picks in the entire bracket as they prepare to take on 4-seed Syracuse in the opening round. If West Point can move past Syracuse, they have the potential to win the sub-regional and make an appearance in the Sweet Sixteen, a send-off that would be extremely fitting for a stand-up player like Minato.
Player to Watch: Kelsey Minato, guard (23.6ppg, .485 FG percentage, .484 3pt FG percentage)
Best Case: Sweet Sixteen
Worst Case: First round loss
14. Buffalo Bulls (20-13, 3rd in MAC East)
At 20-13 overall and 8-10 in conference play, the Bulls aren’t a team you’d typically find taking part in March Madness; in fact, this will be the first time in program history that the Buffalo women’s basketball team will compete in the NCAA tournament. The Bulls are a team that rode into the tournament on the heels of a miracle. After a subpar regular season performance in conference play, Buffalo was able to knock off the MAC top-seed Ohio and fifth-seeded Akron to reach its first MAC title game ever, and there was where the real magic happened. After battling Central Michigan to an overtime game, Buffalo guard Stephanie Reid banked in a floater at the OT buzzer to complete the miracle and send the Bulls to their first appearance in the Big Dance. Unfortunately, even with as amazing of a run as it was to get into the tournament, I don’t see any possible way that Buffalo will be able to escape their first round matchup with 3-seed Ohio State. The Bulls are a decent enough scoring team and have some athleticism on their roster, but nothing compared to a powerhouse like the Buckeyes.
Player to Watch: Joanna Smith, (18.1ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.5spg)
Best Case: Somewhat close loss to Ohio State
Worst Case: Absolutely blown out by Ohio State
15. New Mexico State Aggies (26-4, 1st in WAC)
There are plenty of positive things to say about the Aggies. They’re 26-4, won the WAC title, and are taking part in the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season, but for the sake of being realistic I’m going to go ahead and say that their chances of escaping the first round are slim to none. They’ll be taking on 2-seed Arizona State, who will be playing on their home court. Not only that, but NMSU is one of the few teams that has a roster as short as ASU, so it will be a pleasant game for the Sun Devils to be able to play a team as small as they are. The Aggies offensive attack is decent at 69.2ppg, but they’ve yet to play anybody decent. In fact, NMSU lost to the University of Arizona earlier this season, a team that was a bottom feeder in the Pac-12, ASU’s conference. It’s wonderful that NMSU was able to have such success this season and take home a conference title, but there’s almost no possible way they’ll escape the first round. Quote me on it, I’ll be happy to take criticism if I’m wrong.
Player to Watch: Sasha Weber, guard (12.3ppg, 4.0rpg, 2.3apg)
Best Case: Make it a close game with ASU
Worst Case: Absolutely blown out by ASU
16. Jacksonville Dolphins (22-10, 2nd in A-Sun)
There’s literally no way Jacksonville gets anywhere close to 1-seed South Carolina. USC is just too athletic, too talented, and too experienced to allow that to happen. The Dolphins are in the tournament thanks to a victory in their conference tournament, a feat they should definitely be proud of, but a team that can’t even win the A-Sun regular season title has no shot against a national championship contender like South Carolina. The silver lining is that they were able to make it to the NCAA tournament, so kudos to Jacksonville for that. Oh, and they have a cool mascot. So… that’s nice.
Player to Watch: Briona Brown, forward (11.7ppg, 6.7rpg, 1.7apg)
Best Case: Finish within 20 points of USC
Worst Case: I don’t even want to think about it…