If the Duke-Marist game had been a heavyweight fight, then the Red Foxes would have been leading on all cards for most of the game. Marist overcame Duke's superior size, strength and speed thanks to spacing, screening and good shooting. Marist quickly double-teamed Duke's posts when they got the ball and forced turnovers. Duke started rushing its shots
while patient Marist frequently used the entirety of the shot clock in order to get the best available shot. Marist was able to chase Duke's bigs off the floor due to their ineffectiveness at both ends, forcing coach Joanne P. McCallie to reach deep into her bench in a desperate attempt to find a spark. Two quick fouls on Karima Christmas helped to negate Duke's effectiveness on the offensive boards, twice allowing the Red Foxes to build double-digit leads.
That is, until the second-seeded Blue Devils scored a fifteenth-round knockout, taking a hard-won win over the 10th-seed, 71-86, and with it a trip to the Sweet 16 in the Philadelphia Regional, where they will take on third-seeded DePaul on Sunday, March 27.
The opening rounds in the Dallas Regional progressed according to chalk as Texas A&M, Rutgers, West Virginia, Baylor, Florida State and Georgia -- each the upper seed in its match-up -- advanced to the second round, most of them with ease. Things should get tougher come Tuesday, as these upper seeds begin to vie with one another for a trip to the Sweet 16 in Dallas.
Let's recap Sunday's Round One action and look ahead to Tuesday's second round.
The opening round of 2011 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament play in the Wichita Subregional saw two outstanding games, and crowds are likely to witness more of same when the second round tips off Tuesday with a trip to the Sweet 16 in the Dallas Regional up for grabs.
For 40 minutes on Sunday, bigger, higher-seeded Michigan State kept pushing Northern Iowa around, only to watch the Panthers push right back. In a first round in which competitive games where scarce, this one came right down to the final buzzer as UNIs Erin Brockas desperation three-point attempt was partially blocked. The fourth-seeded Spartans advanced, 69-66, but the talk afterward was of the Panthers big comeback that fell just short.
The Spartans will be facing fifth-seeded Green Bay (33-1) on Tuesday, after the Phoenix overcame No. 11 seed Arkansas Little Rock, 59-55, in another game that was far more competitive than the seeds would have suggested.
Which means both teams had better bring their A games Tuesday if they want to see their seasons continue.
The third round of the WNIT starts Tuesday night when Alabama (SEC) travels to Toledo to take on the Rockets. Sixteen teams remain and that list does not include defending champion California who lost to Colorado Monday night. The championship game is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 2.
Looking at the key statistics for all the 16 remaining teams, you will notice both similarities and differences among the among them. Yet, the pack is close enough that there is no clear-cut favorite in this tournament, though Syracuse looks very strong, as does Oral Roberts.
Its hard enough to take complete ownership of an NCAA Tournament game. Its even harder to do so as an underdog in the face of a formidable opponent with decorated players. Its still more daunting to perform at the peak of ones powers in a true road game against a highly-motivated squad desperately sinking redemption after a haunting setback one year ago.
Yet, Shoni Schimmel did all of those things and then some for the Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday night in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament's Cincinnati pod. What's more, she did it as a freshman. Schimmel's performance in carrying her seventh-seeded Louisville team past home-standing Xavier, the No. 2 seed in the Spokane Regional, and into the Sweet 16 with an 85-75 victory, was a truly stunning individual performance, a feat of basketball brilliance that will resonate all the way to Spokane, Washington.
One year after missing the womens NCAA Tournament, the Louisville Cardinals the 2009 national runners-up played with the hunger of a team that so desperately wanted to reclaim the sweet taste of triumph in March, taking an 81-62 win over 10th-seeded Vanderbilt to move on to the second round in the 2011 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament's Cincinnati pod.
There, they will meet hosting Xavier, the No. 2 seed in the Spokane Regional, on its own home court, after the Musketeers advanced to the second round with a 72-56 win over No. 15-seed South Dakota State. Welcome to "X-Ville," everybody. It should be an intriguing second-round encounter.
There were No surprises at the University of Marylands Comcast Center, in the Maryland Subregional of the 2011 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament, on Sunday, March 20, 2011, as the top seeds won handily in both contests. The No. 4 seed from the Philadelphia Region, Maryland, solidly defeated the No. 13 seed, St. Francis University, 70-48, in the first match-up. In the second game of the day, the Regions No. 5 seed, Georgetown (23-10), decisively ended the season for No. 12 seed Princeton (24-5).
The two winners at the Storrs, Conn., pod followed a similar success path Sunday.
UConn and Purdue each shot a better percentage than did their foes which means each teams defense showed up.
And now they meet on Tuesday for a chance to play in the Sweet 16.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma is keeping the fire setting on low. Purdue coach Sharon Versyp has joined the chorus of his opponents who see the chance to play the dominant team in the tournament as a chance to be a part of womens basketball history, just being on the court with them.
Its an opportunity for us to play at the highest level, to compete, to play as hard as possible and enjoy the experience and make it extremely competitive -- the best that we can, said Versyp.
Perhaps the subliminal theme is that an upset win would also be history.
If anything, No. 1 overall seed UConn showed its depth is improving, as the Huskies rolled over No. 16 seed Hartford, 75-39, while Purdue needed everything it had to eliminate Kansas State, 53-45.
Aint no stalling in Virginia this weekend. In two exhausting and frenetic games, fans were treated to two unexpectedly competitive games, both of which featured the great guard play we predicted. Third-seeded Miami and sixth-seeded Oklahoma both faced underdogs -- 14th-seeded Gardner-Webb and 11th-seeded James Madison, respectively -- that matched their competitiveness and aggression. In the end, however, the seedings held, based on Miamis defense and Oklahomas poise down the stretch.
The Hurricanes and the Sooners will toe the line on Tuesday with a trip to the Sweet 16 as the prize.