SLAM’s March Madness Preview: Women’s Basketball Matchups You Won’t Want to Miss

This section is featured in SLAM’s 2022 WBB March Madness Preview. Here, we take a look at some exciting first-round matchups.

No. 2 UConn vs. No. 15 Mercer

UConn will be going against Mercer in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Mercer enters the competition with an impressive 23-6 record after coming off a win over Furman in the Southern Conference Championship. The Bears are led by senior guard Amoria Neal-Tysor, who averages 17.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.1 assists while shooting at 43.4 percent from the field. Alongside her is fellow guard Shannon Titus and senior forward Jaron Dougherty, who average 11.7 and 10.9 points per game respectively.

As for the UConn Huskies, this is far from their first time in the tourney. Their win over Villanova in the Big East championship game gives the Huskies the necessary momentum entering the tournament. The Huskies have relied on several contributors, including Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa while Paige Bueckers missed most of the season due to a knee injury—Williams is currently averaging 14.6 points per game, with Nelson-Odada adding on 9.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 11 Princeton

It wouldn’t be a proper preview without respectfully acknowledging the incredible game-winning shot by Wildcats’ own Dre’una Edwards. Edwards, who averages 16.9 points per game, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists, banked in the buzzer-beater three-pointer to upset No. 1 South Carolina in the SEC Championship, marking their first title since ’82. Hoopin’ alongside Edwards is senior guard Rhyne Howard, who is continuing to solidify herself as one of Kentucky’s greats. She averaged 20.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.4 dimes, and 2.4 steals per game this year season.

On Princeton’s side are guards Abby Meyers, who is averaging 17.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.6 assists, and Julia Cunningham, who adds in 13.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.9 assists to the team’s depth. With both teams coming in hot off conference championship wins, look for one of these two teams to play this year’s Cinderalla in the national tournament. There’s no telling who will come out as the winner in a matchup of this magnitude.

No. 5 Virginia Tech vs. No 12. FGCU

“I’m surprised where we’re seeded, but we’re excited to be in the tournament. We know Virginia Tech has an excellent program and is really well coached. We can’t worry about the seedings; we know we’re capable of winning games away from home,” said head coach Karl Smesko.

After holding their own throughout the ACC Tournament, ultimately losing to NC State, Virginia Tech enters the tournament with a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. For the Hokies, this makes it their 11th appearance in the National Tournament, entering with a 23-9 overall record (13-5 ACC). They’re led by junior center Elizabeth Kitley, who averages a team-high 17.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Then there’s graduate student guard Aisha Sheppard, who is posting 13.4 points in 30.8 minutes per game and 2.6 assists.

With the 69-54 victory over Jacksonville State on Saturday night, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles now have their eighth ASUN championship title. They’re led by Kierstan Bell, an All-American candidate who is now averaging 23.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, as well as Kendall Spray and Tishara Morehouse, who average 11.1 and 15.0 points per game, respectively.

No. 7 Ole Miss vs. No. 10 South Dakota

For South Dakota University, this trip to the NCAA Tournament marks their third consecutive appearance under head coach Dawn Plitzuweit. South Dakota (27-5) is led by Summit League Player of the Year Chloe Lamb, who averages the Coyotes with 15.9 points per game. Playing alongside her is Hannah Sjerven, a three time Summit League Defensive Player of the Year who is averaging 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks. The league’s Sixth Woman of the year, Grace Larkins, brings along 6.8 points per game.

On the other hand, Ole Miss (23-8) (10-6 SEC) is a force to be reckoned with. The Rebels will be entering this matchup with a 23-8 record, and are led by senior center Shakira Austin. The 6’5 forward is averaging 15.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Alongside the two-time First Team All-SEC honoree is senior Angel Baker, who is averaging 10.7 points per game. The Rebels finished fourth in the SEC.