The historic 2014-15 championship season for the Tennessee State Lady Tigers came to an end in a 97-52 loss to Kentucky. It was a second meeting very similar to the first in style, only on this day TSU just could not get the ball into the basket. The Tigers shot only 26%, got outrebounded by 18, had 26 turnovers, and shot only 13 free throws to Kentucky’s 42. OVC Tournament MVP Brianna Lawrence led the Big Blue with 16 points on a day that was not how any of us wanted. Still, it was an unforgettable season for these ladies, a championship one.
Meanwhile, it was the same as it ever was in Knoxville as the Tennessee Lady Vols improved to 56-0 all-time at home in the NCAA Tournament with hard-fought wins over Boise State and Pittsburgh. Bashaara Graves paced the Vols with a career-high 24 in the 72-61 win over Boise, and added 21 with 14 rebounds in the 77-67 win over Pitt. On Saturday, Pittsburgh defeated Chattanooga 51-40 in a disappointing performance for the Lady Mocs who only shot 26% from the floor to end their season 29-4.
Elsewhere, it was almost entirely chalk, with 12 of the 16 hosts making it to the Sweet 16 (and one of those that did not was not the higher-seeded team anyway). The Women’s NCAA Committee eliminated all pretenses and just officially deemed it so the top 16 would host first and second round games, when logistically possible. Louisville, a #three-seed, had to play at #six South Florida due to the Men’s Tournament taking place at Louisville.
Ironically, it was second-seeded Kentucky who ended up being the highest seed to lose on the opening weekend, falling to 7th-seeded Dayton 99-94 on Sunday in a dazzling performance. Oregon State, #three-seed, fell at home to 11th-seeded Gonzaga 76-64 at home in a game the ‘Zags controlled throughout. Tennessee is next for Gonzaga but now they will get to host the regional, a big problem in women’s basketball. California, #four-seed, lost to fifth-seeded Texas 73-70. The only other host to lose was South Florida, to Louisville 60-52.
In addition to those second round upsets, seeded upsets in the first round saw #10 Arkansas beat #seven Northwestern; #11 Miami beat #six Washington; #nine DePaul beat #eight Minnesota; #11 Gonzaga defeating #six George Washington before upsetting Oregon State; #10 Pitt over #seven Chattanooga; and #11 Arkansas-Little Rock over depleted #six Texas A&M. That was it.
So in the Sweet Sixteen, we have Connecticut/Texas and Louisville/Dayton in the Albany Regional; Maryland/Duke and Tennessee/Gonzaga in the Spokane Regional; Notre Dame/Stanford and Baylor/Iowa in the Oklahoma City Regional; and South Carolina/North Carolina and Florida State/Arizona State in the Greensboro Regional.
Albany could see another UConn/Louisville battle, as has occurred twice in the national championship game in recent years. Spokane could see a Maryland/UT battle if the Lady Vols can get past the hosts. OKC could see a Notre Dame/Baylor battle, while Greensboro could see South Carolina/Florida State unless the Tar Heels can upset the Gamecocks for the second straight year in the Sweet Sixteen. Once again this week, the action begins on Friday as the ‘road to the women’s final four’ at Tampa Bay continues.