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Gary Putnik | | March 27, 2022

Eight storylines to follow in the women's Elite Eight

NC State vs. Notre Dame - Women’s NCAA tournament Sweet 16 highlights

The Elite Eight is upon us, and with a few new faces joining the party this year, it should provide for a great two days of women's basketball. You can view the full schedule and matchups for the 2022 tournament here.

Here are eight storylines to get you ready for the Elite Eight:

1. South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston continues to raise the bar

Arguably the best player in the nation, Aliyah Boston, set an SEC record with her 27th consecutive double-double in No. 1 South Carolina’s 69-61 win over No. 5 North Carolina in the Sweet 16. The last time she failed to record one was on Nov. 26 against Elon.

MADNESS: View the 2022 NCAA DI women's basketball tournament bracket

Through the first three rounds, she has 48 points and 50 rebounds. Boston’s best performance came in the Sweet 16 when she recorded 28 points and 22 rebounds. Out of the remaining eight teams, Boston is first in rebounds per game (12.4) and only second to Michigan’s Naz Hillmon in points per game (16.8).

2. Creighton continues its Cinderella story

No. 10 Creighton joins 2017’s Oregon and 1991's Lamar as the only No. 10 seeds to make the Elite Eight. This year the Bluejays will have a tall task on their hands when they take on No. 1 South Carolina. 

Though it might not seem as daunting to Creighton. It has already handled difficult path leading up to this point as it knocked off No. 7 Colorado, No. 2 Iowa and No. 3 Iowa State. 

Up and down the lineup, the Bluejays have had players step up at the right time with six different Jays reaching double digits at least once. Lauren Jensen is the only player on the team to record double digits in all three games. 

3. Stanford continues hopes of back-to-back titles

The last time a team not named UConn or Tennessee won back-to-back DI women’s basketball championships was Southern California in 1983 and 1984. Tara VanDerveer soon became the head coach at Stanford. 

Since then, the Cardinal has been a mainstay in the sport with three NCAA titles and 13 Final Four appearances. 

This year, the squad has a lot of familiar faces from the 2021 championship team like Haley Jones, Cameron Brink, Francesca Belibi and Lexi Hull

4. Texas looks to break Final Four cold spell 

No. 2 Texas hasn’t been to the Final Four since 2003. Now two years into Vic Schaefer’s tenure in Austin, he’s had immediate success now reaching back-to-back Elite Eights. 

Last season, the Longhorns fell 62-34 to No. 1 South Carolina in the Elite Eight.

But with a boost from Aliyah Matharu, who transferred from Mississippi State, and freshman Rori Harmon, Texas continues to prove it can remain consistent in the competitive landscape. 

ELITE EIGHT: Here are the most common Elite Eight matchups by seed

5. NC State also looks to break Final Four cold spell

Another team that has been a force to be reckoned with over the past few seasons, but has also fallen short a few times, is No. 1 NC State. The Wolfpack haven’t made a Final Four since 1998.

Out of the remaining teams in this year’s tournament, the Wolfpack have the highest average points per game at 77.0

6. UConn hasn’t missed a Final Four since 2007

No. 2 UConn has been one of the most consistent programs in all of sports. The Huskies have won 11 national titles and reached 21 Final Fours and haven’t missed a Final Four since Rihanna’s hit song “Umbrella” made its debut. 

Paige Bueckers might also be hitting her stride at just the right time after returning from an injury a few weeks before the start of the tournament. She tied teammate Christyn Williams for the most points for UConn at 15 in its win over No. 3 Indiana in the Sweet 16. She has been gradually working up to a normal workload and the Sweet 16 was her second game in a row with over 30 minutes. 

7. Third time is the charm for Louisville 

No. 1 Louisville will try to avoid its third consecutive Elite Eight exit when it faces No. 3 Michigan. The Cardinals were bounced by No. 1 Stanford last season and No. 2 UConn in 2019.

This season the Cardinals have a veteran roster to make the final push to the Final Four. One of the biggest moves in the nation was Emily Engstler taking her talents from Syracuse to Louisville and creating a three-headed monster of herself, Hailey Van Lith and Kianna Smith. 

8. Michigan looks to continue historic run

To round out the Elite Eight we have No. 3 Michigan. The Wolverines are charting a new course in their program’s history with their first Elite Eight appearance. 

Head coach Kim Barnes Arico has been building a consistent program quietly in Ann Arbor with two second-round appearances in last two tournaments, but now things seem to be really turning around. 

Naz Hillmon is a player of the year finalist and a great post player. Hillmon averages 21.3 points per game and 9.6 rebounds. The matchup between her and Engstler will be one to keep an eye on in their game on Monday. 

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