Thursday, March 18, 2010
What can we expect in Kansas City?
Before the women's NCAA tournament opens Saturday, ESPN.com breaks down the four regionals. Check out the Dayton, Memphis and Sacramento analysis.
Mechelle Voepel's breakdown
No. 8 UCLA vs. No. 9 NC State (ESPN2/ESPNU/ESPN360.com, 9 p.m. ET Sunday): The obvious storyline is the Tennessee pedigree of coaches Nikki Caldwell and Kellie Harper, both former standouts for Pat Summitt. Caldwell, of course, also was an assistant coach at Tennessee for six years. Caldwell is in her second season at UCLA, Harper her first at NC State.
The Bruins, like all the other teams in the Pac-10, continue to try to roll the rock uphill against Stanford. UCLA made the Pac-10 title game, but wasn't much of match for the Cardinal. Still, the Bruins won 10 of their last 11 games, and the only team to beat them since mid-January is Stanford, which did it twice. Jasmine Dixon, a transfer from Rutgers, leads UCLA at 15.3 ppg and 8.0 rpg.
Harper took over for the legendary Kay Yow. After a 70-39 loss to Duke on Feb. 11, the Wolfpack didn't look like an NCAA tournament team. But NC State instead came back strong from that defeat, winning seven of its last nine and making the ACC tournament final. This is a team with no stars -- three players are averaging around 11 points to lead the way -- but it plays an up-tempo style that will remind you of the way Harper competed when she was at Tennessee.
NC State is a place where the fans will more eagerly embrace the success of the women's team. And it will be good for Triangle women's hoops to have NC State as more of an equal player with the likes of Duke and North Carolina.
• Kelsey Griffin, Nebraska: The first Husker to win the Big 12 Player of the Year award, she has been all-everything for this program and is having a dream senior season.
• Victoria Dunlap, Kentucky: The junior was the SEC Player of the Year, as the Wildcats also took the awards for rookie (A'dia Mathies) and coach (Matt Mitchell). Kentucky made the SEC title game for the first time since 1982.
• Danielle Robinson, Oklahoma: The Sooners' point guard kept the team from ever getting down after the loss of teammate Whitney Hand to an ACL in November. Maybe no guard in the country gets to the rim quicker.
Three under the radar
• Amanda Thompson, Oklahoma: The Big 12's leading rebounder (10.5 rpg), the senior also averaged 13.2 points and has played her best down the stretch this season.
• Chastity Reed, UALR: One of the nation's top scorers (25.3 ppg), the junior forward from New Orleans helped Arkansas-Little Rock win the Sun Belt's regular-season title. The Trojans fell to Middle Tennessee in overtime of the league tourney title game, but got an at-large bid that thrilled the school.
• Brigitte Ardossi, Georgia Tech: The senior was in the top seven in scoring (15.8) and rebounding (7.5) this season in the ACC, and led the league in free throw percentage (82.8).
Charlie Creme's take
Who's Hot: No. 10 seed Vermont. The Catamounts won 10 of 11 games to finish the season, including an America East tournament title. Senior Courtnay Pilypaitis averaged a double-double in the conference tournament.
Who's Not: No. 7 seed Wisconsin. Vermont's first-round opponent was just 3-3 to finish the season, with all the wins coming against non-NCAA tournament teams. Two of the losses were to Ohio State, and the Badgers did play pretty well, but they would prefer to be headed in a bit more positive direction.
Possible matchup to watch: The Michigan State defense versus Kentucky's Victoria Dunlap. If both survive first-round games then it will be interesting to see how the Spartans attack the SEC Player of the Year. Dunlap uses her foot speed to set up spin moves and quick darts to the basket. MSU coach Suzy Merchant can employ four 6-foot-1 physical players -- Aisha Jefferson, Kalisha Keane, Lykendra Johnson and Lauren Aitch -- to bump, push and nudge Dunlap off course. If Dunlap avoids that pinball machine, there is always Allyssa DeHaan lying in wait.
Possible upset: No. 11 seed Arkansas-Little Rock over sixth-seeded Georgia Tech in the first round. The Trojans' Chastity Reed is a big-time scorer (25.3 ppg). The Yellow Jackets' offense, especially in the half court, can be anemic at times. The number of good teams that can go such long periods with so little offensive production are few. If Reed and Kim Sitzmann get off early, Georgia Tech could have some trouble playing catch-up.