There are a handful of women's basketball teams who are dangerous draws for anyone in the nation right now.
Their fans know they're in a good spot to make the NCAA tournament and they're playing with such confidence opposing fans don't want to see them run onto the court.
Some of those teams are looking at the top few seeds. Others could be the first to enter the NCAA tournament with a four-seed or lower and win a national title. Let’s take a look at 5 of them and why they're so formidable.
No. 3 Oregon
Oregon (23-1) wouldn’t surprise anyone this season if it won its program’s first national championship. The Ducks are on a 16-game winning streak. They can boast of ranked wins against No. 16 Syracuse, No. 5 Mississippi State, No. 19 Arizona State and No. 10 Stanford. And that win against Stanford came Sunday by 40, 88-48. It was the first time since 1987 an Oregon team traveled to play Stanford on the road and won.
The Ducks have the inside track at a No. 1 seed in the tournament and could win the Pac-12 regular season and tournament titles because they are led by three members of the 2019 Naismith Trophy Women’s Midseason Team — Ruthy Hebard, Satou Sabally and Sabrina Ionescu. All have their role, but Ionescu’s is paramount. She is the reigning Nancy Lieberman Award winner in addition to holding the NCAA record for triple doubles and Ducks program record for assists.
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The Ducks also have the nation’s best assist-to-turnover ratio and the second-ranked scoring margin. Oregon isn’t prone to mistakes offensively and has the defense to ensure opponents can’t keep up.
No. 7 Maryland
Maryland (22-2) took a hit when it lost by 17 on the road Jan. 17 against Michigan State just four games after it lost at home against Rutgers. But the Terrapins rebounded quickly and during the seven-game winning streak they are currently on have an average margin of victory of just more than 15 points per game.
The most recent win came on the road against No. 23 Rutgers and kept the Terrapins in the lead for the Big Ten regular season title.
Who’s 22-2 and has a 1.5-game lead on the league? 😆😆 pic.twitter.com/fshrYjyqJW— Maryland Women’s Basketball (@TerpsWBB) February 10, 2019
Kaila Charles leads the team with 16 points per game and earned a spot on the just-announced Citizen Naismith Trophy midseason team. Shakira Austin averages 10 rebounds per game as a freshman and Maryland out-rebounds opponents by an average of 10.7 per contest. And any team that can beat No. 11 South Carolina by 24 on the road should never be overlooked.
No. 8 Marquette
The Golden Eagles (21-3) took their lumps with losses to No. 20 Miami, Mississippi State and No. 6 Notre Dame during non-conference play and are now on a 12-game winning streak. Marquette has a comfortable lead in the Big East. Each team left on its regular season schedule it has beaten.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think Marquette could run the table and enter the NCAA tournament with both the conference regular season and tournament championships.
Five different Golden Eagles players average more than 11 points per game and have guided their team to a top-20 mark for field goal percentage in the nation. Marquette out-scores opponents by an average of more than 24 points per game. As its defense continues to develop the task will only become tougher for teams to game plan a way to win.
And don’t overlook Naismith Trophy midseason team member Natisha Hiedeman’s 17.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.
No. 20 Miami
Beatrice Mompremier’s double-double average of 16.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game earned her a spot on the midseason watch list for the Naismith Trophy and has helped propel the Hurricanes to a 21-5 record and 9-2 mark in ACC play.
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Miami just knocked off Notre Dame to add that to quality wins against Syracuse and Marquette. It showed it could hang with any team in the country and that the 23-point road loss in November against Iowa State was an outlier this season. And while tough road matches remain against Louisville and NC State the Hurricanes have the pieces necessary to win those and make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
Miami is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. It has more turnovers than assists but has held opponents to just 36 percent shooting from the field and 29.4 percent shooting on 3s. The Hurricanes out-score opponents by an average of 12.5 points per game.
This isn’t a team that has to prove anything, it just has to play to its potential.
Up 5 spots!! pic.twitter.com/RXlV1Q6TPJ— Canes Women's BBall (@CanesWBB) February 11, 2019
No. 25 South Dakota
It’d be easy to overlook this team.
It owns 22 wins and just three losses. It is on its way to a Summit League title if it can hold off South Dakota State. It can boast of wins against Missouri and No. 18 Iowa State. But until it makes its run in the NCAA tournament it’s unlikely a Summit League team will feel the national appreciation many of the teams ranked around it and behind it do now.
That’s just the reality a team in its position faces. However, it has a balanced offense and no one person an opponent can strategize against and neutralize what it’s able to do in the rebounding game. Seven different players have more than 20 steals. And it hits close to 80 percent of its free throws.
When this team claims a key upset this March don’t be surprised.