By ELENA DE ALFREDO & MAURICIO RICH
The 2017 NCAA Division I women’s basketball Championships started the first-round games between March 17 and 18.
UConn Huskies are expected to earn their 12-national title as they recently beat Albany University, with a final score of 116-55, for their 108th victory in the tournament on March 18.
Notre Dame beat Robert Morris with a final score of 79-49 . South Carolina also won against UNC Asheville with a final score of 90-40. Baylor set an NCAA women’s basketball history record for most points scored in regulation by defeating Texas Southern 119-30, and advanced to the second round. The Baylor Bears also set a new margin victory record of 83.
One of the upsets of the first round comes from 12th-seeded Quinnipiac who beat no. 5 Marquette in a close game with a final score of 65-63. Marquette’s sophomore guard Natisha Hiedeman missed the three pointer that would have given the Golden Eagles a chance to win the game in overtime.
Also, on the other side of the bracket tenth-seeded Oregon pulled up a victory over seventh-seeded Temple in a close game with a score of 71-70. The Ducks were led by freshman forward Ruthy Hebard with 23 points and 7 rebounds.
The Big Dance is a knock-out stage format featuring 64 teams, half of which obtained an automatic bid by winning their respective conferences. The other half were selected by the NCAA Championship committee based on factors like the regular-season record and the strength of schedule.
After the first and second rounds of the tournament, there will be 16 remaining teams who will advance to the Sweet Sixteen regional round. Following this round, in the Elite Eight stage, there will be eight teams competing for a place in the final four.
The NCAA Committee selected UConn as the No. 1 overall seed, who had an unbeaten 32-0 record. UConn became the first team in NCAA history to win four consecutive titles from 2013 to 2016. This year, UConn is aiming to win their fifth.
The other three teams selected as No.1 seeds of each region were Notre Dame (30-3), South Carolina (27-4) and Baylor (30-3). Notre Dame, South Carolina and UConn won their respective conferences. Baylor, on the other hand, lost the Big 12 championship game to West Virginia 77-66 on March 6.
Baylor hasn’t won the national title since 2012 and they are looking forward to earning the championship. Notre Dame has won only one time this tournament in 2001 under the directions of Muffet McGraw. South Carolina has never been crowned national champions in their program history.
After 35 years of NCAA Division I women’s basketball, University of Tennessee and UConn lead the all-time championship titles list. Under head coach Geno Auriemma, UConn has a total 11 national titles, the most in NCAA women’s basketball history. Following the Huskies’ record, the University of Tennessee has won a total of eight national titles under head coach Pat Summitt.
Even though the Huskies have the most all-time titles, University of Washington’s senior guard Kelsey Plum is the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history with 36.7 points per game (PPG), while shooting 53.3 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from 3-point line and 88.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Plum is one of the four finalists of the Naismith Trophy Women’s College Player of Year along with sophomore forward Napheesa Collier from UConn, sophomore small forward Katie Lou Samuelson from UConn, junior forward A’ja Wilson from University of South Carolina.
The UConn duo were both named 2017 American Conference Co-Player of the Year. Collier is the second nationally ranked at 67.9 percent field-goal (FG) shooting.
Samuelson led UConn in scoring during the regular averaging 20.7 ppg. She was also named most outstanding player of the 2017 American Athletic Tournament.
Wilson earned her second consecutive Southeastern Conference (SEC) Player of Year and was named SEC Tournament MVP. She also led the Gamecocks in scoring this year with 17.4 ppg, and ranked ninth in rebounds with 7.6 and third in blocks with 2.2.
The final four games will take place on March 31. The American Airlines Center in Dallas will host both rounds, including the NCAA national championship final on April 2.