The 2019 women's Sweet 16 gets back underway on Friday, so our three-day absence from the tournament is mercifully over.
UCLA vs. UConn, Arizona State vs. Mississippi State, Oregon State vs. Louisville and South Dakota State vs. Oregon are the matchups for Friday night. NC State vs. Iowa, South Carolina vs. Baylor, Texas A&M vs. Notre Dame and Missouri State vs. Stanford are your matchups for Saturday.
WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT: View the interactive bracket | Printable bracket & schedule
Here's one thing you absolutely must know about each team still chasing the title:
UConn isn't a No. 1 seed, but don't let that fool you
You thought this season's team wouldn't be dangerous? Nope. UConn is doing what it usually does.
TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK 💯#ncaaW | @UConnWBB pic.twitter.com/D67GEwgZfj— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 24, 2019
This team beat Towson by 49 points in the first round, then Buffalo by 12 in the second. Napheesa Collier leveled up as a senior and his now scoring 21 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Katie Lou Samuelson is returning to form after a back injury kept her out of the conference tournament. Their bench isn't super deep, but that's about the only bad thing you can say about UConn right now. They might not have the separation on the pack that they did in past years, but you'd be mistaken to think they're anything less than a threat to win it all.
UCLA snuck into the tournament, but turned heads once it got here
The Bruins upset No. 3 Maryland to make the Sweet 16, and used 27 offensive rebounds to push through a 36-percent shooting effort.
MOVING. ON. #ncaaW | @UCLAWBB pic.twitter.com/JnbnAIChO3— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 26, 2019
UCLA lost its top two scorers from last season in Jordin Canada and Monique Billings. The Bruins stumbled through two separate four-game losing streaks during the season, but won 10 of their last 12 regular-reason games made it to the PAC-12 championship game before losing to Oregon.
Mississippi State will dominate you down low
The final No. 1 seed comes in at No. 1 in Her Hoop Stats' overall rating, and possesses the No. 2 offense and No. 3 defense in the nation.
Having 6-foot-7 center Teaira McCowan helps on both ends. She averages 18 points per game on just 10 field goal attempts. McCowan grabs 14 rebounds and blocks 2.5 shots per game, too. Watch out.
A dominating performance by @HailStateWBK tonight! Watch the best of 👇#ncaaW pic.twitter.com/oRYjFGiO2l— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 25, 2019
MSU owns the top offensive rebounding rate and No. 2 total rebounding rate in the country, per Her Hoop Stats. The Bulldogs are eighth in block rate, thanks to McCowan's presence inside. It's hard to get much done near the basket whenever she's in the game.
Arizona State loves to slow things down
The No. 5 Sun Devils play at one of the slowest paces in the country. They're 337th out of the 351 teams in Division I. Arizona State aims to slow opponents down and suffocate them with defense. So far, that's served them alright.
ASU defeated Miami despite only shooting 36 percent from the field because the Sun Devils were able to force 15 turnovers while only giving the ball away 7 times.
Louisville and Asia Durr are still lighting up the scoreboard
Another No. 1 seed, Louisville has the No. 6 offensive rating in the country, per Her Hoop Stats. Asia Durr is a big reason why. The Cardinals' senior is at the heart of what Louisville does offensively. She averages 21 points per game, hits 43 percent of her 3-pointers and is a terror near the basket.
ICYMI: Asia Durr was on 🔥 today! #ncaaW | @UofLWBB pic.twitter.com/fmEjdoB7VN— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 24, 2019
Oregon State is here to remind you there's more than one good team in that state
Oregon State already proved in its series split with Oregon that it's a team capable of competing with the best in the country. The Beavers almost match their intrastate rivals in 3-point shooting prowess, and have a capable backcourt group in Mikayla Pivec, Destiny Slocum and Aleah Goodman.
Sabrina Ionescu leads Oregon's frightening offense in the most fun way possible
Oregon's junior triple-double machine might be the most entertaining player in college basketball. Sabrina Ionescu leads the best offense in the country with 20 points per game, and has the most triple doubles in NCAA history (men's or women's) with 18 in three seasons.
|￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣|— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 25, 2019
SABRINA IONESCU IS
GOOD AT BASKETBALL
\ (•◡•) /
| |#ncaaW | @OregonWBB pic.twitter.com/7xtO2ekPYP
Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally both average 16 points per game, and form an offense that forces opponents into tough choices. Double Hebard down low and leave a someone from the country's deadliest 3-point shooting team open from deep, or let one of the country's best inside scorers go to work.
South Dakota State's offense is hard to stop
The No. 6 Jackrabbits slid by Syracuse with a late run to make it here. They're 28-6 out of the Summit League, and have the No. 9 offense in the country, per Her Hoop Stats efficiency ratings.
South Dakota State shoots 48 percent from the field and 37 percent on 3-pointers, good for seventh and 14th in the nation, respectively, and is eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio. Top scorers Macy Miller and Madison Guebert shoot 43 and 45 percent on 3-pointers.
Iowa has Megan Gustafson, and she's pouring in buckets over everyone
The Hawkeyes have the nation's top scorer. Megan Gustafson made sure there isn't even a debate. She averages 28 points per game. Buffalo's Cierra Dillard, the No. 2 scorer in Division I, averages 25.2. Gustafson shoots an astounding 70 percent from the field, grabs 13.5 rebounds per game, and shoots 80 percent from the free-throw line.
So, yeah...Megan is good at hoopy ball...#ncaaW | @GustafsonMeg10 pic.twitter.com/f8KhR4FlZh— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 24, 2019
Gustafson scored 45 points to beat Maryland in the Big Ten championship game, put up 30 in Iowa's first-round escape over Mercer, and had 24 points against Missouri in the second round. Opponents know she's essentially unstoppable, and can only hope the rest of Iowa's team can't beat them. That hasn't happened often.
NC State is in its first back-to-back Sweet 16 since 1991
NC State had to run through the gauntlet that was the ACC this season. The Wolfpack didn't lose a game until Feb. 3, then went 7-5 after that (including tournament play).
NC State plays at a slow pace, ranking 262nd out of the 351 teams in Division I in possessions per 40 minutes, and doesn't have any glaring weaknesses. Gustafson awaits on Saturday to test their interior defense.
Baylor has lived up to its No. 1 overall seed so far
It's not as if UConn is the only team off to a blistering start to the tournament. Baylor beat No. 16 seed Abilene Christian by 57 points in the first round and No. 8 seed California by 39 in the second.
👀🎬highlights from tonight’s second round win! On to the Sweet 1️⃣6️⃣#SicEm | #TTT 🐻🏀 pic.twitter.com/J7XAS4AAoC— Baylor Women's Basketball (@BaylorWBB) March 26, 2019
The Lady Bears boast the best defensive efficiency rating in the country, per Her Hoop Stats, and the fifth-best offense. They only lost once in the regular season, at Stanford in December. Baylor's been perfect since then.
This team has the best rebound rate in the country, per Her Hoop Stats, to go along with the third-best 3-point shooting percentage in the nation.
South Carolina might be the most balanced team in the field
The Gamecocks have four players averaging between 10 and 12 points per game, but no one exceeding the latter number. They still come up with the No. 14 offense in the country, per Her Hoop Stats, and it's working for them.
FOR THE SIXTH YEAR IN A ROW!@GamecockWBB is headed to the Sweet 16! #ncaaW pic.twitter.com/ToDBJEhPUj— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 24, 2019
Notre Dame is right back where it was last year, and so is Arike Ogunbowale
The hero of last year's Final Four is hoping to lead Notre Dame to a return appearance. Last year, Arike Ogunbowale hit the two biggest shots of the tournament:
A year later, Ogunbowale is still getting hers. She averages 21 points per game, and scored 23 points in each of the Irish's first two NCAA tournament games, both times doing so on at least 47 percent shooting.
Notre Dame surrounds her with talent, too. Jessica Shepard, Jackie Young, Brianna Turner and Marina Mabrey help coach Muffett McGraw form a devastating offense that isn't afraid to run, with a pace that ranks 22nd in the nation.
An injury definitely has not slowed Chennedy Carter — or Texas A&M
Texas A&M's star guard missed the SEC tournament after suffering two different fractures on her right pinky finger, but hasn't missed a beat since returning.
AGGIES FOR THE LEAD! #ncaaW | @AggieWBB pic.twitter.com/69YlPsxiuI— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 24, 2019
Carter can rescue them from just about any situation:
FOR THE LEAD!#ncaaW | @AggieWBB pic.twitter.com/wFbYurpKnc— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 24, 2019
And so far, that's what she's been doing. Carter has the sixth-highest usage rate of any player in the country. With Carter scoring 27 and 30 points in the first two rounds behind a defense that ranks 12 in Her Hoop Stats' efficiency, the Aggies' recipe has been working.
Stanford demands to be taken seriously
Stanford ran the table in the Pac-12 tournament, and that meant beating top seed Oregon in the championship game, avenging one of the Cardinal's four regular-season losses. This is where Stanford's accustomed to sitting this time of year. This is a team that has only missed one Sweet 16 since 2004, and made back-to-back Elite Eights in 2016 and 2017.
The Cardinal lock people down on defense and round out a solid supporting cast around Alanna Smith, who averages 20 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
Missouri State is this tournament's Cinderella
The Lady Bears haven't won a game in the NCAA tournament since 2001, and grabbed an auto bid by defeating the No. 1 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference to get here. MSU is the lowest remaining seed in the tournament, having engineered upsets over No. 6 DePaul and No. 11 Iowa State.
Don't sleep on Missouri State y'all 😴#ncaaW | @MSULadyBears pic.twitter.com/YCHO2o0f9f— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 26, 2019
Jackie Stiles, who spurred Missouri State's 2001 Final Four run, is back as an assistant. Head coach Kellie Harper's team rebounds well, and has seen its opponents go cold from the field in two straight games. Alexa Willard and Danielle Glitzen are the team's two upperclass leaders, and one of them has scored at least 17 points in each of the team's last six games.