Yesterday, the Swish Appeal staff gave their thoughts on the Sweet 16 leading up to this point. Today, we have a roundtable of bloggers from five of the SB Nation sites with teams still alive in the tournament to offer insight on their teams and who might have the best chance of knocking off one of the nation’s two undefeated teams.
At least once every season, I like to reach out to bloggers from the SB Nation college basketball network to get some different voices talking to us about women’s college basketball.
With the Sweet 16 beginning today, I decided to ping five fellow SB Nation bloggers to get their insight on their own favorite teams as well as who might be best positioned to beat UConn or Notre Dame.
Our panel (with link to their women’s basketball section and site Twitter account):
- Todd Carton, Testudo Times | @TestudoTimes
- Gamecock Man, Garnet and Black Attack | @GABAttack
- Brian Grindrod, The UConn Blog | @TheUConnBlog
- David Hooper, Rocky Top Talk | @RockyTopTalk
- Jim Hu, Good Bull Hunting | @GBHunting
We always try to cross-post or link their content when we catch it, but definitely check out their sites and support the additional coverage of their teams: they can go way more in-depth than we can about their own teams and it’s always great to have some new voices commenting on the game.
And without further ado, our discussion:
1. Give us one reason we should root for your school’s team to make the Final Four.
Todd Carton, Testudo Times: Two words: Alyssa Thomas. Without question, she’s the best player in women’s college basketball never to have made the Final Four.
Gamecock Man, Garnet and Black Attack: Dawn Staley is one of the world’s 50 greatest leaders. She deserves a spot in the Final Four.
Brian Grindrod, The UConn Blog: Rewriting history. Connecticut has the opportunity to win their record breaking ninth national title in the state of Tennessee. This dynasty is approaching equal ground with John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins.
David Hooper, Rocky Top Talk: Because, deep down in the dark recesses of your seemingly charitable heart, you crave the hate and anger of a UT-UConn game.
Jim Hu, Good Bull Hunting: Gary Blair. The press conferences and interviews will be more fun with Blair in the mix.
2. Who is the most underrated player on your school’s team (or the player who deserves more attention than they get)?
TC: This is tough to say. This might seem like a cop out but Maryland’s unsung contributions have been so variable this year. One game it could be Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, another Tierney Pfirman or Katie Rutan. Or then you can see a performance like the Terps got from Malina Howard Tuesday night. For the season, I might lean toward Brionna Jones the freshman center who’s so fundamentally sound.
GM: C Elem Ibiam. She’s the least talked about player in South Carolina’s heralded front court, which also includes Aleighsa Welch and Alaina Coates, but Ibiam has made a big contribution to Carolina’s season, particularly through her defensive effort.
BG: Moriah Jefferson, 5-7 Sophomore Guard. Averaging over 10 points a game, defenses have left the speedy point guard unguarded on a very talented UConn team. Louisville did not guard Jefferson in the first match-up in early February and Jefferson responded with a career-high 18 points. Jefferson is shooting a team leading 58% from the field, and 43% from three point range.
DH: Jordan Reynolds. In the last few weeks, with Ariel out, something has clicked inside her. We’re hoping it’s not a trick elbow that’s clicking, but whatever it is has her scoring, defending, and ball-handling far more efficiently than the dribble-at-armpit-height girl we knew just a few months ago. They grow up so fast. Say, it is getting dusty in here? /sniff
JH: When I listened to the pregame press conferences on Monday, it was pretty clear that the JMU players didn’t know much about Jordan Jones; when asked about the challenge of facing Jones they gave very generic answers that you’d expect to hear about the other team’s leading scorer.
Jones broke Lisa Branch’s single-season assist record at A&M;as a sophomore (for context, Sydney Colson was in second place for the 2011 National Champion season). She’s also a great defender; her harassment of South Carolina’s guards played a big part in A&M;’s win vs the Gamecocks. But locally, Jones has been a fan favorite since she arrived.
3. What team (outside of your own school’s) has impressed you most thus far in the tournament?
Must Reads Swish Appeal staff Sweet 16 roundtable Nate Parham Three Swish Appeal writers who have been covering the tournament for us answer a few questions about their biggest surprises and who might beat UConn. Bracket Challenge leaderboard Nate Parham Our Rocky Top Talk/Swish Appeal bracket challenge has a tie at the top of the leaderboard after two rounds, which should be broken after the Sweet 16. Must Reads Swish Appeal staff Sweet 16 roundtable Bracket Challenge leaderboard
TC: Stanford. Probably because I haven’t seen them much during the season.
GM: Our next opponent, UNC, has my attention. The Tar Heels have been a high-variance team throughout the season, but when they’re on their game, they’re very hard to beat, as we saw in their impressive win over Michigan St. in the second round. They’ll definitely pose a significantly tougher challenge than our last two opponents.
BG: DePaul. The Big East Champions had a weekend for the ages. Look at the offensive numbers they put up. Anytime a team can go into Cameroon Indoor Stadium and beat the home team, well that is impressive.
DH: UT-Martin. They had that game won until the arena officials, the refs, some measly shelter-in-place emergency, and the NCAA all contrived to keep their precious freshman in the tournament on her home court. And Illuminati.
JH: James Madison or BYU. JMU because seeing them live for two full games gives them an edge over wrap-around coverage and streaming video feeds. I wonder if Kenny Brooks will be a coaching candidate for a bigger school soon.
4. Based on what you’ve seen during the tournament or this season, which team has the best shot of beating either UConn or Notre Dame (outside of them beating each other)?
TC: No one beats UConn if they’re playing well. Based on the regular season game, I think MD could beat ND but don’t have a lot of confidence that they get out of the regional.
GM: I’m going to be a homer and say South Carolina. Both ND and UConn are significantly better than South Carolina, but I do think Carolina has the balanced roster necessary to put pressure on the Irish and Huskies.
BG: Baylor. They gave UConn their closest game of the season and I am not sure if the Irish can stop Odyssey Sims.
DH: Tennessee, due to quality depth and the haunting theory that they’ll actually play a 40 minute game once this season. Failing that, maybe we’ll get Lisa Mattingly in Nashville and convince her that Tennessee is the rightful “home” team.
JH: BYU. Yes, BYU. Here’s why: the small chance of winning against UConn or Notre Dame has to be multiplied by the probability of making it to face them. In isolation I’d say Tennessee, but the Vols and everyone else in the Louisville and Stanford regions have to get past each other to have a shot at the Huskies or Irish in the finals. The two teams that are guaranteed a game vs UConn or Notre Dame are BYU and Oklahoma State, who see them in the S16. BYU has taken advantage of teams that have not seen Hamson before, so I give them the edge over OK State.
Big thanks to our panel for taking the time to answer a few questions – stay tuned for a Part II with the final question I asked (that generated a few longer responses) tomorrow. For more on the tournament, check out our 2014 NCAA Tournament section.