And then there were six.
By the time that the unveiling of the brackets occurred on Monday evening, many Big Ten teams already knew if they were dancing or not. The lone deciding factor would be where these teams were going and who they were going to play. For the second consecutive year and 22nd time overall, the Big Ten will have six or more teams in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Let’s dive a little bit into each matchup.
After winning their first Big Ten Tournament title in 18 years, the Hawkeyes earned a No. 2 seed in the Greensboro Region and will take on No. 15 seeded Mercer on March 22. Carver-Hawkeye Arena will host the first and second round games because of Iowa’s seed, their highest since 1996 when they were also a No. 2 seed. Iowa is making its second straight tournament appearance and 26th appearance overall. If the Hawkeyes are able to get past Mercer, the team will take on the winner of the No. 7 Missouri/No. 10 Drake matchup on March 24. In the 2019 tournament, Megan Gustafson and Co. will look to improve on the team’s 21-25 record in NCAA Tournament play. Iowa has a Final Four in its history, reaching it in 1993.
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Winning the team’s fourth regular season Big Ten Championship in five years has helped the Terrapins earn a No. 3 seed in the Albany Region and allow them to host opening weekend games at the XFINITY Center. Maryland will host No. 14 Radford at 11 a.m on March 23, with the winner of that game facing off against the winner of No. 6 UCLA/No. 11 Tennessee. Maryland has appeared in more NCAA Tournaments than any other current Big Ten team with 27 and is making its ninth appearance in a row. The Terrapins hold a 21-4 record at home in the Big Dance and have reached the Final Four five times including a national championship 13 years ago in 2006. In the team’s opening season in the Big Ten, the Terrapins advanced to the Final Four.
Also in the Albany Region, the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers will travel to Storrs, Connecticut for the opening weekend. The No. 7 seeded Rutgers squad will take on No. 10 Buffalo at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on March 22 with the winner of that game taking on the winner of No. 2 UConn/No. 15 Towson. This is only the second appearance for Rutgers in the tournament since joining the Big Ten in 2015, but will be the team’s 25th appearance in school history. Rutgers played in the 2007 national championship and also appeared in the 2000 Final Four.
The third Big Ten team in the Albany Region, the Wolverines from Michigan earned the No. 9 seed and a date with No. 8 seeded Kansas State. The winner of that matchup will take on the winner of No. 1 Louisville/No. 16 Robert Morris. Both opening weekend games will take play at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday and Sunday. Michigan is appearing in back-to-back NCAA tournaments for the first time since 2012 and 2013. It will be Michigan’s eighth time to the Big Dance where the team holds a record of 4-7. One of those wins came in the last season’s NCAA Tournament before a second-round exit.
The Spartans will make the quick jaunt to Notre Dame this week as the No. 9 seeded Michigan State team will take on No. 8 seeded Central Michigan on Saturday afternoon. Michigan State is making its 17th NCAA appearance and 14th in the last 17 years. If the Spartans can advance, the team will battle against the winner of No. 1 Notre Dame/No. 16 Bethune-Cookman. Michigan State is 18-16 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including a 2005 national championship game appearance.
Making the furthest trip of any of the Big Ten teams are the Hoosiers, who earned a No. 10 seed in the Portland Region and will play in Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena for the first and second rounds. The Hoosiers first test is No. 7 seeded Texas on Friday night with the winner advancing to take on the winner of the No. 2 Oregon/No. 15 Portland State game. The Hoosiers are coming off an NIT Championship last season and are appearing in their sixth NCAA Tournament in school history. Overall, the Hoosiers are 2-5 in tournament play including a Sweet Sixteen appearance back in 1983.
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