- Voipel dish
Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball and other college sports for espnW. Voipel began covering women’s basketball in 1984 and joined ESPN in 1996.
- Charlie Cream.
Charlie Cram predicts the women’s NCAA tournament for ESPN.com.
The NCAA has decided to name four regions in the 2021 women’s basketball tournament after the famous places in San Antonio where the champion will be played on the 4th. April at the Alamodome.
Anyone who thinks of San Antonio, which hosted the Women’s Final Four in 2002 and 2010, thinks of the Alamo, the Riverwalk, the Hemisphere and the Mercado. The names of the regions are a reminder of the beauty of the city, and one team will post a perfect 6-0 record and win the NCAA title.
Will it be Stanford that wins its long-awaited third national championship? Will UConn win the trophy for the 12th time? Lift your foot for a change? Can NC State win its first title? Or will South Carolina take second place? They are the No. 1 seed, but are they the favorites to reach the Final Four? We look at each area, including five players who aren’t necessarily big stars, but could be important keys to their team’s hopes of staying in San Antonio through April.
Navigate to each region:
Alamo: Hemisfair: River Walk: Mercado.
Three weeks in a controlled NCAA environment in San Antonio should be easier for Stanford than any other team on the field. The No. 1 was on the road for a total of nine weeks this season from December to February. This is due to the comprehensive COVID-19 guidelines that prohibit all contact sports in Santa Clara County, California.
So far, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer is the winningest coach in Division I women’s basketball. The Cardinals have an incredible combination of veteran leadership and a ton of talent.
Second-ranked Louisville has also had its ups and downs with COVID-19, including a three-week break and a handful of missed games. The Cardinals still won the ACC regular season championship, and Dana Evans, one of the best players in the country, led Louisville through it all.
Still, Georgia may be the best story in the region. Led by four seniors who worked on their mastery, the Lady Dogs went from a collection to a ninth place finish in the SEC to a third place finish in the NCAA Tournament.
Five players to keep an eye on
Who Morrison, Georgia: Morrison, Georgia’s ardent senior leader, averaged 11.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. More importantly, she and her teammate Gabby Connelly have learned to play hard in the important moments. Morrison also shared SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors with South Carolina’s Alia Boston.
Hailey Van Leet, Louisville: Van Lith didn’t have a year like freshman stars Paige Buchers or Caitlin Clark, but she had a solid freshman season and could be on the verge of a breakthrough. Evans remains the No. 1 guard, but Van Lit is averaging 11.2 points and 5.5 rebounds, which is amazing for a 6-foot guard. If the Cardinals make it to their fourth Final Four under Jeff Walz, the left-handed Van Leet could be the key to success.
Amber Ramirez, Arkansas: Somewhat lost in the shadow of her better-known teammates Chelsea Dungee and Destiny Slocum, Ramirez is the Razorbacks’ best three-point and free throw shooter. Ramirez, who shot 44 percent from 3-point range, could be the lightning rod for Arkansas’ success. At the end of the season, she scored 35 points in an easy win over Alabama. Six days later, the Razorbacks lost to Ole Miss, with Ramirez hitting just 4 of 18 times.
That Morrison helped Georgia score 3 or more points for the first time since 2007. Dawson Powers-USA Sports Today
Kierra Hall, UC Davis: Hall was the Big West Defensive Player of the Year as a junior and was named the league’s Player of the Year this season. She is very versatile, but her scoring on the perimeter is the X-factor. While the Aggies played just 15 games and took a seven-week break, Hall attempted just 53 3-pointers. She scored 47,2%.
Veronica Burton, Northwest: Burton, a two-time Big Ten defenseman, was the Wildcats’ top scorer this season and has switched to offensive mode. Her 159 visits to the free throw line, where she shoots 80 percent, lead the Big Ten. Defense is always their calling card. Burton led the country in interceptions with over four per game.
A team that can ruin your bracket: Missouri State. The fifth-ranked Lady Bears had not lost since the week before Christmas and completely dominated the Missouri Valley Conference. Bryce Cripe, Jasmine Franklin and Abby Hipp are talented and experienced enough to intimidate any large program. Missouri State knocked off Maryland this season, eliminated No. 23 Minnesota State two years ago and knocked off DePaul and Iowa State en route to the 2019 NCAA Tournament Round of 16. If Missouri State goes that far, Stanford, the team that ended the Lady Bearcats’ run two years ago, can wait.
A game we would love to see: Stanford versus Arkansas. If the Lady Bears push through, the Cardinal Razorbacks and the fourth-seeded Razorbacks will make for an exciting Sweet 16 matchup. Arkansas’ style of play is based on three elements: Make lots of 3-point shots, do your makeup, and get to the free throw line. That gives the Razorbacks a chance against any team (see: wins over Baylor and UConn this season). VanDerveer’s strategy to slow down Dungee and the way Arkansas’ Mike Neighbors struggles with the Cardinals’ size, depth and intelligence is a play within a play that will make this game so intriguing.
Which teams are going through? Stanford, Missouri, Georgia and Louisville are what I need to get to the Sweet 16. Stanford advances to the Final Four. -cream
Zia Cook and South Carolina are seeded first for the fifth time in program history. Dawson Powers-USA TODAY Sports
A year ago, South Carolina looked like it could win the national championship. The Gamecocks would be the top seed for the 2020 tournament, with Oregon, Baylor and Maryland also being strong contenders before the coronavirus pandemic canceled the tournament. The disappointment was great in Columbia, South Carolina.
Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks, the #1 seed at the Hemisfair, were once again among the favorites to win the 2021 title. But it’s a crowded region, starting with second place Maryland. The Terps score nearly five more points per game than anyone else in the country, and they have All-American point guard Ashley Owusu.
The region also has some of its best frontcourt players this season in Aaliyah Boston (South Carolina), Michaela Oninvere (UCLA), Charlie Collier (Texas), Laurela Kubage (Georgia) and Esmeri Martinez (West Virginia). Boston and Kubai were the best defensive players in their conference this year. Collier is expected to be the first pick in the WNBA draft, while Onyenwere will likely be a top-10 pick. Martinez averaged a double.
Five players to keep an eye on
Alea Goodman, Oregon: If there’s one player responsible for the turnaround in the Beavers’ season, it’s Goodman. After a four-week KOVID-19 hiatus at Oregon State, his steady hand led the Beavers to an 8-2 record after Week 24. January (both losses were against No. 1 Stanford). The 5-9 senior played more than 35 minutes per game and led the Beavers in scoring, assists and free throw percentage, shooting nearly 50 percent from 3-point range.
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Charisma Osborne, CA: Osborne gets the most attention in Westwood, but Osborne is right behind her in terms of importance to the Bruins. The sophomore is averaging 17 points and nearly four assists per game. Osborne’s 24 points paved the way for UCLA’s biggest win of the season, a four-point victory over Stanford.
Lotta-Mai Lahtinen, Georgia Tech: Lahtinen, the ACC’s best player, went from 9.1 points per game last season to 14.6 in 2020-21 and has played a big role in the Yellow Jackets’ turnaround under coach Nell Fortner. It’s not conspicuous, but it’s a grinder whose work is easy to admire.
Keysre Gondresic, West Virginia: Fearless, enthusiastic and productive, Gondrezick had the kind of senior season that usually wins awards. His 19.9 points, 4.5 assists and 37.4 minutes per game led the Mountaineers as he played through the pain of his father’s death in January.
Angel Reese, Maryland: During the regular season, we didn’t see much from Reese, the number two overall pick in the 2020 class. Her broken leg limited her to just 12 games, but she still managed to score 10 points and grab more than six rebounds per game. He is now a talented addition to an already dynamic offense.
A team that can ruin your bracket: Alabama. The Crimson Tide might be happy to leave the SEC, where they played some top teams, but failed to get over the hump against South Carolina, Texas A&M and Georgia. Now they’re starting over. With a coach (Christy Curry) who made it to the NCAA Tournament, a potent offense and three seniors (Jordan Lewis, Jasmine Walker and Aria Copeland) looking to make one last run together, Alabama could have the ingredients to provide some surprises.
A game we would love to see: Maryland versus South Carolina. No race in this region can match this epic Elite Eight encounter. The best scoring offense against one of the best and most physical defenses in the country, this is going to look like a national championship game. Both coaches would have liked to see a high tempo, which amounts to 94 feet of non-stop action. To add to the excitement, Maryland welcomes two transfers, Mimi Collins and Chloe Bibby, who began their careers against South Carolina in the SEC.
Which teams are going through? South Carolina, Maryland, UCLA and West Virginia are what I need to get to the Round of 16. South Carolina advances to the Final Four. -cream
Regional River Route
We said on selection day that this will be the toughest of the four regionals, and that has a lot to do with the top two in this corner of the table. First-seeded UConn and second-seeded Baylor were already scheduled to play on Jan. 7, but the game was cancelled because the Lady Bears were on a COVID-19 break. They could face each other in the Elite Eight (their series is tied 4-4), and in that match two first-team All-Americans will play in Paige Buchers (UConn) and NaLyssa Smith (Baylor).
Both teams face major challenges between now and then, and VDOC-19 has already impacted UConn with the absence of head coach Geno Auriemma and assistant Shea Ralph. Auriemma tested positive on Sunday, while Ralph tested positive for a family member on Wednesday.
If the rankings are correct, there are two interesting games in the second round: No. 4 Kentucky vs. 5 Iowa and No. 3 Tennessee vs. 6 Michigan. The Wildcats have lost three of their last five games, but still have SEC Player of the Year Ryan Howard (20.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG) and wins this season against other NCAA Tournament teams like Indiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. Iowa, led by another freshman phenom in Caitlin Clark, Division I’s leading scorer (26.7 PPG), reached the Big Ten Tournament final.
Tennessee-Michigan could showcase Big Ten Player of the Year Naz Hillmon (25.1 PPG, 11.4 RPG) against Lady Vols senior Rennia Davis (17.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG).
Five players to keep an eye on
Anastasia Hayes, Middle Tennessee: The junior guard has been close to the Division I leader in scoring all season and is currently second behind Clark with 26.5 PPG. Middle Tennessee, ranked No. 14, will be in the field for the 19th time. This is the team’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament and first since 2016.
Conference USA Player of the Year Anastasia Hayes’ 26.5 PPG is second only to Paige Bucher (26.7 PPG). AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Monica Chinano, Iowa: The junior forward/center leads Division I women’s basketball in field goal percentage with 67.8 (230-of-339) and is averaging 19.5 points and 5.9 rebounds this season. She averaged 26.8 points in the Big Ten tournament.
Elizabeth Keatley, Virginia Tech: The sophomore was named to the All-ACC first team and had a double-double average (18.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG). Since 2006, she has helped lead No. 7 hockey to its first NCAA tournament.
Leigh Brown, Michigan: Teammate Hillmon had a great season, but Brown also played a big role. The junior defender/forward averaged 16.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 3.2 APG.
Camille Cardoso, Syracuse: The 6-7 center has been the focal point for ACC starters, averaging 13.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG and 2.6 PSU.
A team that can ruin your bracket: The Florida Gulf Coast. The 11th-ranked team has a 26-2 record and a 25-game winning streak, led by Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Kirstan Bell (24.3 PPG, 10.8 RPG). The Eagles were 16-0 in the Asuna Conference and won the conference tournament. This is the seventh tournament for FGCU and the Eagles are still looking for their first Sweet 16. They would have to go through Michigan and eventually Tennessee to get there this year.
A game we would love to see: Baylor versus Tennessee. The first thing everyone noticed was the possibility of a Boozer showdown if UConn and Iowa reach the Sweet 16. But let’s look at the end of the series. A regional semifinal between Baylor and Tennessee would be interesting. The Lady Bears lead the all-time series 6-2, with three meetings in the NCAA Tournament. The last time was in 2012 during the Elite Eight, the last game in which Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt was on the bench. Baylor won the NCAA title that year and went 40-0.
Which teams are going through? UConn, Baylor, Tennessee and Iowa are what I need to get to the Sweet 16. Baylor advances to the Final Four. — Voipel
Ashley Joens averaged 23.6 points per game and shot 46.7 percent per game. Amy Kontras-USA Today’s Sports
This is the 10th. It’s the 50th anniversary of Texas A&M’s national championship, and the year the Aggies won the SEC regular season title. Georgia’s loss in the SEC semifinals likely cost them the #1 spot, which could give #2 Texas A&M a tougher road to the Elite Eight than #1 NC State.
The Wolfpack are once again the ACC Tournament champions after winning last year for the first time since 1991. Their spot in the NCAA Tournament is the first in the program’s history, and if they play well, there’s not much stopping them from reaching the regional finals.
In the first round, South Florida (No. 8) and Washington State (No. 9) will play two of the most multicultural teams. The Bulls have 11 players from eight countries outside the United States and the Cougars have nine players from seven countries outside the United States. Both teams have made history this season: South Florida won its first American Athletic Conference tournament and Washington State is back in the NCAA for the first time since 1991.
Arizona’s No. 3 wasn’t on the field that long. But Aari MacDonald, the Wildcats and Pac-12 Player of the Year, is making his first NCAA appearance since 2005.
Five players to keep an eye on
Ashley Jones, Iowa: The junior forward has been one of the star players in the Big 12 the past two years, averaging 23.6 PPG and 9.2 rebounds this season. She still carries a heavy burden for the Cyclones.
Kayla Jones, NC: Junior center Elissa Coonan (16.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG) is the driving force for NC State, but others have surrounded her well. That includes Jones, a senior forward who ranks third on the team in scoring (12.3 PPG) and second in rebounding (7.3 RPG).
Diamond Johnson, Rutgers: She is the team’s second-leading scorer (17.9 PPG) behind senior Arella Girantes (20.8 PPG) and leads the Scarlet Knights in 3-point shooting (49) with a shot percentage of 45 percent.
McKenzie Holmes, Indiana: The sophomore forward is the team’s leading scorer (18.1 PPG), leading rebounder (7.8 RPG) and leading blocker (65). She was a member of the first Big Ten team and the All-Defensive team.
Charlissie Leger-Walker, Washington: The New Zealand guard played with her older sister Crystal for the Cougars and was a Pac-12 sensation. She was named freshman of the league with 18.9 PPG.
A team that can ruin your bracket: Rutgers. The No. 6 did not look his best in the 73-62 quarterfinal against Iowa in the Big Ten, especially on the defensive end. But before that, the Scarlet Knights had won nine consecutive games. If Rutgers goes back to that amulet, it could be dangerous.
A game we would love to see: NC State v Texas A&M. If the chalk stays up – and that seems likely – we’ll get a game between a Wolfpack team that dominates at center and an Aggie team led by a guard. It wouldn’t exactly be an all-star game, but that doesn’t make it any less intriguing. Texas A&M’s depth is on the perimeter, but forward N’dea Jones averages double figures in scoring (12.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG). And if Coonan is the focus of the Wolfpack, guard protection could be crucial.
Which teams are going through? NC State, Texas A&M, Indiana and Rutgers are my choices to go to the Sweet 16. NC State advances to the Final Four. — Voipel
frequently asked questions
Where can I watch NCAA women’s basketball?
The games will be broadcast on ESPN and you can watch the entire tournament live on WatchESPN or through the ESPN app. You will need a cable connection to access it. If you don’t have one, you can try YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, AT&T TV Now, FuboTV or Sling TV for free.
Where are the Final Four for women in 2021?
Why not women? First, at 6:00 p.m. ET on ESPN, Dawn Staley and the South Carolina Gamecocks take on the Stanford Cardinals at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Where will the NCAA tournament be held in 2021?
The 2021 NCAA Tournament features the Final Four and National Championships in 3rd and 5th place, respectively. April completed. All games will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.