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Seattle Regional Preview
The Sweet 16 is set and eight teams are heading to Seattle.
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Despite all the chaos so far in this year’s NCAA Tournament, including the first-round upset of 5-seed Iowa State in the Seattle 3 region, chalk held for the Sweet 16. The top four seeds in the region will compete for a trip to the Final Four.
1-seed Virginia Tech vs. 4-seed Tennessee, Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Virginia Tech arrives in Seattle on a 13-game winning streak following its wins over 16-seed Chattanooga and 9-seed South Dakota State in the opening two rounds of the tournament. The Hokies’ offense struggled in the first round, but their defense held Chattanooga to just 33 points. Virginia Tech then went on to score 72 points against the Jackrabbits in the second round, behind seven triples from Georgia Amoore.
Amoore has already made 12 three-pointers in the tournament, shooting 44 percent from deep through the opening two rounds. Her perimeter shooting has been the catalyst for Virginia Tech’s recent success. That’s a difference from the last time these two teams met in early December, when Virginia Tech took home a three-point victory despite Amoore shooting just 2-for-12 from deep.
Tennessee is also a different team than it was in the early season matchup. The Vols’ leading scorer Rickea Jackson, who is averaging 19.3 points per game this season, did not play in the game. Additionally, Tennessee has really seemed to find its footing down the stretch of the season. The Vols picked up a signature win over LSU in the SEC tournament before eventually falling to South Carolina. That win likely secured their right to host the first two rounds, and the Vols took care of business in the opening games, winning by an average of 46 points. Jackson and Jordan Horston have combined for 61 points in the tournament and will be a challenging duo to contain for Virginia Tech’s defense.
What our predictor thinks: Tennessee and Virginia Tech rank eighth and ninth, respectively, in Her Hoop Stats rating for this season. Our model gives the Vols the edge in this matchup, with a 54.2 percent chance to secure the win with a predicted margin of victory of 1.2 points.
2-seed UConn vs. 3-seed Ohio State, Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET on ABC
UConn continued to look like the revived squad we saw in the Big East Tournament in their opening two games of the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies had no issues taking care of 15-seed Vermont in the opening round, and third-quarter surges from Azzi Fudd and Aubrey Griffin propelled UConn to a 19-point win over Baylor in the second round. Fudd scored 22 points in the win, her most since a November meeting with Iowa prior to the knee injury.
Aaliyah Edwards has also continued to dominate in the lane for UConn. She scored a career-high 28 points in the first round on 13-for-15 shooting from the floor and followed it up with 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting against Baylor despite being limited by foul trouble. Edwards may be the key to the Huskies’ chances of advancing to a Sweet 16, as Ohio State has struggled to guard the low post all season long.
The Buckeyes, however, have a chance to exploit one of UConn’s main weaknesses with their press. The Huskies have struggled with turnovers all season long, averaging 16.2 per game. If Ohio State can force that number to upwards of 20 in the Sweet 16 and also knock down looks from deep, they could threaten the upset.
Ohio State’s road to Seattle has not been quite as smooth sailing as UConn’s. The Buckeyes had to come back from a double-digit deficit in their first-round game against 14-seed James Madison. The second-round game against 6-seed North Carolina was close throughout, and a game-winner from Jacy Sheldon sent Ohio State to the Sweet 16. Sheldon, who returned for the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Tournament, is averaging 16.5 points and seven assists per game so far in the NCAA Tournament.
What our predictor thinks: The Huskies are favored to move on to the Elite Eight in this matchup. The Her Hoop Stats model gives UConn a 74.3 percent chance to win the game, with a predicted margin of victory of 8.4 points.
What our predictor says about the possible Elite Eight matchups:
Unlike Seattle 3, just one of the top four seeds in the Seattle 4 region advanced to the Sweet 16. The 8-seed, Ole Miss, pulled off the most exciting of the upsets, stunning 1-seed Stanford on its home floor.
8-seed Ole Miss vs. 5-seed Louisville, Friday at 10:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
Ole Miss shocked the world in the round of 32, becoming the first of two teams to knock off a 1-seed prior to the regional rounds in this year’s tournament. The Rebels’ suffocating defense held Stanford to just 49 points on its home floor and was enough to weather a five-minute scoring drought of their own in the fourth quarter and pull off the upset. Ole Miss also dominated in its opening-round game, holding 9-seed Gonzaga to just 48 points and winning by 23 points.
In the win over Stanford, Ole Miss forced two of the country’s best players - Cameron Brink and Haley Jones - into inefficient shooting nights. They’ll look to do the same against Louisville guard Hailey Van Lith on Friday to try and advance to the program’s first Elite Eight since 2007.
The Cardinals enter the matchup with a narrow win over 12-seed Drake in the first round, followed by a dismantling of 4-seed Texas in the second round. Louisville defeated the Longhorns by 22 points, behind a 21-point performance from Van Lith. After an up-and-down start to the season, Van Lith has topped 20 points in five of her last seven games. She scored 26 in the Cardinal’s opening-round win, and has shot 50 percent or better from the floor in both NCAA Tournament appearances so far this season.
What our predictor thinks: Ole Miss and Louisville rank 21st and 22nd, respectively, in Her Hoop Stats rating. Our model gives the Rebels a slight edge, with a 51.2 percent chance to win and a predicted margin of victory of 0.3 points. This game could very well come down to the final possession.
2-seed Iowa vs. 6-seed Colorado, Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Iowa avoided repeating history and closed out the win over 10-seed Georgia at home on Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16. Georgia was able to frustrate Caitlin Clark into shooting 35 percent from the floor, but Clark’s facilitation (12 assists in the game) and the balanced scoring effort from the Hawkeyes carried them to victory.
Balanced scoring has been the secret to Iowa’s success in the final stretch of the regular season, in the Big Ten Tournament, and now the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes are much harder to beat when they’re getting significant offensive contributions from players other than Clark and Monika Czinano. Against Georgia, McKenna Warnock scored 14 points and Gabbie Marshall made five triples.
Georgia did not make it easy on Iowa, however, and Colorado is statistically a very similar team to the Bulldogs. Both teams have top-15 defenses based on Her Hoop Stats defensive rating, and the Buffaloes’ offense is a little better than the Bulldogs’. Four players average double figures for Colorado, with Quay Miller’s 13.1 points per game leading the way.
Miller had a quiet performance in Colorado’s 22-point win in the first-round over 11-seed Middle Tennessee, but she led the Buffaloes with 17 points in their overtime upset of 3-seed Duke in the second round. Through the first two rounds, Colorado is holding its opponents to just 56.5 points per game. The contrasting styles of play should make for an interesting matchup with Iowa.
What our predictor says: The Her Hoop Stats model gives Iowa a 75.7 percent chance to win, with a predicted margin of victory of 9.0 points.
What our predictor says about the possible Elite Eight matchups: