(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.
Here, we’ll take a look at seeds 5-8 of the Sioux Falls region.
5. Florida Gators (22-8, 4th in SEC)
The Gators had a solid season with some impressive signature wins. They were able to claim a victory over rival Florida State as well as SEC powerhouses Kentucky and Tennessee. At one point, Florida won 12 games in a row and sat at 12-2 heading into conference play, but unfortunately they found the SEC to be pretty difficult. Their 10-6 conference record was only good enough to be the fifth ranked team in the conference, and their most recent game was a blowout loss to Kentucky in their lone conference tournament game. The Gators boast a balanced scoring attack similar to that of ASU’s where they rely heavily on everybody to chip in. After moving in and out of the rankings all season, Florida currently sits at 25th in the country, and will look to make some noise in the big dance.
Player to Watch: Ronni Williams, guard/forward (11.0ppg, 7.8rpg, .510 FG percentage)
Best Case: Sweet Sixteen
Worst Case: First round upset loss to Albany
6. West Virginia Mountaineers (24-9, 3rd in Big 12)
West Virginia is a solid team with a lot of talent, but had the misfortune of playing in the same conference as 1-seed Baylor and 2-seed Texas, who accounted for five of WVU’s nine total losses. Led by senior guard Bria Holmes, the Mountaineers went 12-6 in Big 12 play to secure a 3-seed in the conference tournament, but were bested by Texas 67-51 in the semifinals. Following their loss in the conference tournament, WVU was given the No. 23 ranking in the AP top 25 poll. Fortunately for them, the Mountaineers open the NCAA tournament against a Princeton team that is much less athletic, so they shouldn’t have any problem getting out of the first round.
Player to Watch: Bria Holmes, guard (16.4ppg, 4.2rpg, 3.6apg)
Best Case: Sweet Sixteen
Worst Case: First round upset loss to Princeton
7. Tennessee Volunteers (19-13, 7th in SEC)
Tennessee’s season has been a major surprise to the NCAA women’s basketball world. After being ranked as the No. 4 team in the entire country in the preseason, the Volunteers have experienced their least successful season in recent memory. The Tennessee program is one that is typically a Final Four contender year in and year out, but this season proved that they’re in a rebuilding stage as the Volunteers struggled to maintain a .500 record in conference play, finishing 8-8 in the SEC and skidding into the NCAA tournament as an abnormally low 7-seed. Even so, the fate of this team in the NCAA tournament is a mystery. Sure, Tennessee isn’t the powerhouse team everyone is used to this year, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. In fact, they might be the most dangerous 7-seed in the bracket, and could pose a serious threat to ASU in the second round if they can get past Wisconsin-Green Bay. With a large amount of talent on the roster, this Volunteers squad is extremely dangerous.
Player to Watch: Diamond DeShields, guard (13.9ppg, 5.06rpg, 1.9apg)
Best Case: Elite Eight
Worst Case: Upset in first round by Wisconsin-Green Bay
8. George Washington Colonials (26-6, 1st in A-10)
A 26-6 record and a five-game winning streak are exceptional things to have when heading into the NCAA tournament, but the Colonials still aren’t getting much respect. The A-10 conference isn’t exactly known for having competitive women’s basketball teams, so the impressive overall record could be attributed to their weak schedule. In fact, GW has only played two games against teams ranked in the top 25, splitting those games with a loss to Stanford and a victory over Iowa. They’re opening game of the tournament will be against a Kansas State team that has more experience playing against top tier teams, but have been on a bit of a skid lately, so that matchup truly is the biggest tossup of the entire Sioux Falls region. Regardless of the victor, the second round matchup would likely be against 1-seed South Carolina, so the Colonials’ tournament trip will be very short.
Player to Watch: Jonquel Jones, forward (16.0ppg, 14.7rpg, 3.1bpg)
Best Case: Second round
Worst Case: Loss to KSU in first round