WNUR 4-On-4: Women’s Basketball Tournament

Joe McKeown has Northwestern in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997. How far will the Wildcats go? Photo credit: Charles Cherney, AP.

Joe McKeown has Northwestern in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997. How far will the Wildcats go? Photo credit: Charles Cherney, AP.

It’s another 4-on-4, where four WNUR broadcasters answer four questions about a newsworthy topic in Wildcat athletics. This afternoon, Michael Stern (@michaeljstern23). Ben Goren (@BenG412), Jason Dorow (@jasondorow), and Ari Ross (@aross50) break down the women’s basketball tournament? Will UConn complete the three-peat? Can Maryland reach the final four in their first Big Ten season? And, oh yeah, NORTHWESTERN has made the field. How far will the Wildcats go?

Who is your Final Four?

Michael: You’d be crazy not to go with UConn out of Albany, right? The Huskies have reached the last seven final fours, and are led this year by Breanna Stewart, who has been most outstanding player at the last two. I have UConn taking down Louisville to advance to Tampa. In Spokane. let’s show some love to the Big Ten! New arrival Maryland hasn’t lost since December, and while they got a gnarly second-round date with unbeaten Princeton on the Horizon, Coach Freese’s squad has the depth to make it back to the final four. I’ll go with Notre Dame, another perennial power, in Oklahoma City. The Irish have reached the last four final fours, and they are led this year by Niles West graduate Jewell Loyd. In Greensboro, I’ll go with a bit of sleeper and take North Carolina. The Tar Heels will play in their home state against a South Carolina team they beat in the tournament last year and then a Florida State team they beat in Chapel Hill earlier this year. It can’t be all top seeds in the final four, can it?

Ben: Women’s basketball, even more so than men’s basketball, is run by the top seeds.  There’s a line in the sand somewhere between the two or three seeds where there’s just a jump in class.  Because of that, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to go real deep in the seeds to pick your final fours.  In Albany, UCONN is going to roll.  There’s good, there’s John Wooden UCLA good, then there’s UCONN good.  The best dynasty in college basketball history ain’t losing.  In Spokane, the top two seeds are Maryland and Tennessee.  Maryland hasn’t lost a game since the War of 1812 (actually December 3rd, 2014), and Tennessee has injury problems.  Give me Maryland.  For the sake of not picking every one seed, I’ll take Florida State in Greensboro.  In OKC?  GIVE ME THE WILDCATS BABY.  Homerism never killed anyone.

Jason: The formula for making the women’s Final Four is simple. Be UCONN. Or beat Northwestern. Teams that beat the Wildcats this season are a select group. There’s only six of them, and most of them are really good. First, there’s Maryland, a team that went undefeated in conference play during their first season in the Big Ten and finished 30-2. Next, I got Baylor. No more Brittany Griner, but if they get past NU in Waco, they got a good shot at going to Tampa. Then, give me Arizona State. I’m predicting that the Sun Devils will play the most improbable lineup of teams, including Arkansas-Little Rock and Florida Gulf Coast, en route to the Final Four. And finally….  UCONN.

Ari: The 4 No. 1 seeds in the bracket are the 4 best teams in all of Division I, no doubt about it. UCONN and Notre Dame, the two best teams in the nation will cruise to the Final Four while South Carolina and Maryland will have a harder time, but should still make it to the Final Four. The Gamecocks will have to get through Florida State and the Terrapins, Tennessee and Oregon State, but the four No. 1 seeds should all end up the Final Four.

How does the Big Ten do?

Michael: Maryland gets to the final four before losing to UConn, and Rutgers gets to the second round before falling to the Huskies. Nebraska pulls a mini-upset against Syracuse in the first round before falling short against South Carolina, while Ohio State can’t take down the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. Iowa can make a deep run, led by Logic and Doolittle. I’ll take them to get to the sweet 16 by winning two home games before losing to Baylor. Amanda Zahui B. and Minnesota beat DePaul in the first round before giving Notre Dame a scare, and forgetting anyone? Oh yes, NORTHWESTERN beats Arkansas before losing at Baylor.

Ben: The Big Ten is going to be in for a rough March.  With Iowa being knocked out by fellow B1G team Northwestern, Rutgers drawing UCONN in round 2, OSU drawing UNC in round 2, Minnesota drawing Notre Dame in round 2, and Nebraska drawing South Carolina in round 2, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for teams not named Maryland to get to the second weekend.  The good news is that Maryland and Northwestern are Final Four locks.

Jason: As much as I want to see a Northwestern vs. Northwestern State match-up in the second round, I think Baylor wins and then knocks out the Wildcats Sunday. The Bears will proceed to defeat Iowa, who cruises through their subregional. Without Rachel Banham, this is not Minnesota’s year. And without Rachel Theriot, nor is it Nebraska’s. Rutgers has to play UCONN and Rutgers is not South Florida, so they will lose. Ohio State will be the pleasant surprise of the tournament for Big Ten fans. I think Kelsey Mitchell should carry the Buckeyes to the sweet 16 and give them a chance against South Carolina in the regional. Of course, Maryland will stand out as the class of conference by making the Final Four.

Ari: Coming out of a tough conference, I predict all Big Ten teams will win at least one game in the tournament. No. 8 seeds Minnesota and Rutgers and No. 9 seeded Nebraska all fall in the second round to No. 1 seeds, while No. 7 Northwestern pulls the upset over No. 2 Baylor in Waco to move on to the Sweet 16. The ‘Cats hung with Maryland for a half and I think they have a fighting shot against the Big 12 Champ. Ohio State loses in the Sweet 16 as well to South Carolina, while No. 3 Iowa, after beating Northwestern for the third time in the Sweet 16, loses in the Elite Eight to Notre Dame. Maryland, a No. 1 seed, advances to the Final Four where they lose to eventual champ UCONN.

Any sleepers/cinderellas?

Michael: I got a couple. I’m not sold on the Pac-12 and love the ACC, so try Miami over Washington in an 11-6 game. I was impressed by Gonzaga when they played Northwestern, so I’ve got them beating George Washington. Aaron Lieberman goes to Tulane, so I have them beating Mississippi State in a 5-12. My big (and legit) Cinderella is Chattanooga. The Mocs beat Stanford and Tennessee earlier this year, and would face the Volunteers again in the round of 32…so they’ll beat ‘em again. UT-C beat Stanford, so why can’t they beat Oregon State? Stanford beat Oregon State. I have to end the Mocs’ run in the elite eight against Maryland because Big Ten, but shout-out to Chattanooga…Alma Mater of Terrell Owens.

Ben: For sleeper teams not named Northwestern, I’m sticking with a Big Ten team.  Minnesota might have the best women’s basketball player in the country with Amanda Zahui B (remember when she went 39 points 29 rebounds?).  With her and Shae Kelley in the frontcourt, all they need is one or two people to get hot from the outside to sink a top seed.

Jason:  As I mentioned, Little Rock and Dunk City will make runs, but they’ll be outdone by Arizona State. I think there’s potential for the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State to be a true Cinderella, but it’s more likely that South Florida goes deep. They beat Oklahoma and competed with Kentucky, and most importantly they’ve played UCONN three times. And every time the game was closer than the time before. If South Florida can make a run and beat UK this time, they are the most likely to take down Geno.

Ari: The Pac-12 Champ, Oregon State lost just four games this season, including to the No. 2 seed in their region, Tennessee. But the Beavers are ready for the rematch and could make a run to the Elite Eight or Final Four, should they pull some upsets. Princeton went undefeated in the Ivy League, but with the 131st Strength of Schedule, was seeded as an No. 8 and will have to face Maryland should they win in the first round. But you can never count out an undefeated team, who especially feels disrespected by the committee. Northwestern, on the other hand, only runs 7 deep, but the combination of Nia Coffey, Ashley Deary and Maggie Lyon could be lethal against any team in the tournament, if they’re hitting their shots.
Who wins it all?

Michael: Stop me if you’ve heard this before. UConn knocks off Notre Dame 79-58, as Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart combine for 39 points. You should stop me, since this is exactly what happened in last year’s national title game.

Ben: National champs?  Got to be UCONN right?  I mean they are the best offensive and defensive team in the country and it’s by a pretty wide margin.  They only slipped up against Stanford, and they’re not going to slip up again, right? WRONG.  NORTHWESTERN IS WINNING THE NCAA TOURNAMENT BECAUSE YOU CAN’T STOP NIA COFFEY.  I will remind people that it’s been 15+ years since NU fans have been allowed to be homers, and infinite years since they’ve been able to be homers for the men’s team.  I only have one shot, I’m taking it.

Jason: As much as I just want to write UCONN and be done with it, I feel I must give you some reasoning. Perhaps the words of Dan Hicks can explain.

Ari: UCONN and Notre Dame are the two best teams in the NCAAW and each should make the Final Four pretty easily, and face off for the championship. UCONN lost one game this year and isn’t going to lose another as they already beat Notre Dame earlier in the season

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