March Madness descends on women’s NCAA Tournament

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March Madness is finally part of the women’s NCAA Tournament vernacular and the first round has so far aptly fit that phrase.

Six double-digit seeds have already advanced to the round of 32 – just short of the record seven set in 1998. That doesn’t include the two near-upsets by two 14 seeds.

South Carolina, Stanford and UConn also made history on the defensive end. The Gamecocks shattered the previous marks for points allowed in a game and in a half in their rout of Howard. The Cardinal and the Huskies became the second and third teams to not allow a point in a quarter in their easy victories.

Stanford added another piece of history: Fran Belibi’s dunk on the break. She became the third women’s basketball player to dunk in an NCAA Tournament game, joining Candace Parker and Brittney Griner.

And earlier in the week, the women’s basketball tournament had its first-ever First Four; The men’s field expanded to 68 teams in 2011.

It was a long time coming according to Florida State coach Sue Semrau, whose team lost to Missouri State in it.

“It’s been way too long that this hasn’t been part of the women’s tournament,” Semrau said. “It’s a learning process, but it was so vital.”

Two 14-seeds, Jackson State and UT Arlington vied to pull off the first wins ever in the women’s tournament for that seed, holding leads in the fourth quarter before falling short.

Not all was crazy in the opening rounds. The No. 1 and 2 seeds all cruised to easy victories, winning by an average of nearly 38 points a game.

Here are a few other highlights from the first round of 64:

HOLD THAT TIGER!

The 11th-seeded Princeton Tigers won their second-ever NCAA tourney game by taking down sixth-seeded Kentucky. The Tigers have won 18 consecutive games and will try and advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time when they face Indiana on Monday night. Princeton was undefeated in 2015 heading into the NCAAs before beating Wisconsin-Green Bay in its NCAA opener, but fell to host Maryland in the second round. The Ivy League has one other victory in NCAA play – when Harvard pulled off the only win for a 16-seed by topping Stanford in 1998.

AID FOR UKRAINE

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer announced she’d donate $10 for every 3-pointer made in the tournament to Ukrainian aid efforts, and some of her coaching friends in both the men’s and women’s fields agreed to jump in as well, including Bruce Pearl and Dawn Staley. Staley hoped that coaches could use their platform to also raise money with each tournament rebound to help homelessness in places like Columbia, South Carolina, or Staley’s hometown of Philadelphia.

A CONFERENCE SUPREME

It’s been a great start to the tournament for the Big 12, which won its first five games. Baylor, Texas, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State were all victorious. Oklahoma played later Saturday night.