Your Day in Women’s Basketball, March 23: Highlights from the first round of the NCAA Tournament

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 01: Michaela Onyenwere #21 of the UCLA Bruins grabs a rebound during the first quarter against the Utah Utes at Pauley Pavilion on March 01, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 01: Michaela Onyenwere #21 of the UCLA Bruins grabs a rebound during the first quarter against the Utah Utes at Pauley Pavilion on March 01, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images) /

Round 1 of the NCAA tournament is in the books

Let the madness begin! Or, maybe wait a day for the madness in our case. Day 1 featured some great matchups and even better individual performances, but with every favorite winning it was a bit anticlimactic for a normal March.

Day 2 was everything you could ever hope for. There were upsets, dominant performances, and a controversial finish that almost made the history books. Let’s look at the highlights of each region before the Round of 32 begins today.

Alamo Region

The big storyline is #13 Wright State knocking off #4 Arkansas 66-62. The Razorbacks trailed the entire contest, and their comeback attempt was thwarted largely by the play of Angel Baker. The junior guard led the Raiders with 26 points and 12 rebounds, including a clutch three-pointer with 30 seconds remaining. Wright State will take on Missouri State with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

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Chelsea Dungee finished her college career strong with a 27 point performance. She is Arkansas’s all-time points leader and her contribution to the program will never be forgotten as she transitions to the professional stage of her career.

Every other game in the region was decided by double-digits, but I would be remiss to not mention how dominant Natasha Mack was for #8 Oklahoma State against #9 Wake Forest. No one could defend Mack inside, where she tallied 27 points and grabbed 15 boards. The Stanford forwards will have their hands full in their matchup tonight, as Mack’s performance will be the deciding factor against the Cardinal.

River Walk Region

One of two sections of the bracket that the top 8 seeds all moved on, and the fans will be rewarded for it. We get UConn vs. Syracuse in a Big East throwback and then Iowa vs. Kentucky where All-Americans Caitlyn Clark and Rhyne Howard will face off. Rennia Davis and Naz Hillmon will go head to head in Tennessee vs. Michigan, and lastly Virginia Tech looks for the upset against 2-seed Baylor.

Despite the powerhouse programs advancing, there is much to be said amount the mid-major teams accomplishments this season. Both Central Michigan and Florida Gulf Coast gave their first round opponent a scare early on through the power of incredible coaching and improved scouting that should gradually increase the parity throughout college basketball.

Hemisfair Region

For 95% of the game, it seemed inevitable that #12 Stephen F. Austin would put away #5 Georgia Tech. Up 34-17 at halftime, the Ladyjacks were playing incredible defense on the Yellow Jackets. Neither team shot the ball well, but slowly Tech creeped back into the game, holding SFA to just 5 points in the third quarter and 9 in the fourth. The Ladyjacks had the opportunity to win in regulation, and multiple chances in overtime to send it to a second extra period, but ultimately they choked away a tournament win.

The most intriguing matchup in the Round of 32 will be #3 UCLA vs. #6 Texas. A pair of future top-10 draft picks in Charli Collier and Michaela Onyenwere in a showdown of storied programs.

Mercado Region

Despite a 30-point performance from Arella Guirantes, 6-seed Rutgers fell to 11-seed BYU. Paisley Harding had 28 of her own for the Cougars, who fought back from down seven heading into the fourth. Shaylee Gonzalez made clutch free throw after clutch free throw to put the game out of reach.

After seeing BYU’s upset, it would be an understandable opinion that the West Coast Conference may have been underrated in the selection process. However, conference champion Gonzaga proceeded to lose a few hours later to #12 Belmont. Destinee Wells scored 25 to lead the winning Bruins, who advance to play an Indiana squad that decimated VCU in the first round.

The biggest story of this region might be a result that did not even happen. 15-seed Troy was looking to become the first ever team to knock off a 2-seed in Texas A&M. The Trojans quite frankly got robbed of that opportunity. Being a referee is incredibly difficulty, especially in high-pressure situations. But after two subjectively incorrect fouls against Troy, the icing on the cake was this no call on a clear as day backcourt violation.

Certainly a disappointing way for Troy to go out, as the Aggies live to see another day. The tournament continues today and tomorrow with the second round, and I for one, cannot wait.

Oh, and for all of you bracket lovers, just 2 perfect selections remain on ESPN’s tournament challenge, an incredible feat of prediction, or maybe just guessing.

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