Hottest girls’s NCAA basketball groups forward of March Insanity

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By Calvin S. Nelson

By this level in February, issues begin to get actual for school basketball groups throughout the nation. Common-season convention championships are at stake. League tournaments, and thereby automated bids to the NCAA event, are proper across the nook. After which a nationwide title can be on the road for the 68 groups that compete in March Insanity.

Championships aren’t received or misplaced in February, one thing we noticed as just lately as final yr. LSU, for instance, dropped two late contests in SEC play, routed by South Carolina on Tremendous Bowl Sunday after which upset within the convention event semifinal by Tennessee. However the Tigers emerged as the most effective model of themselves in late March and early April, making this system’s first Last 4 in 15 years and successful its first nationwide championship.

It is significantly better to be jelling and have issues discovered presently of yr than nonetheless trying to find solutions. In order March creeps up, listed below are 5 sizzling groups choosing up momentum on the proper time, some which have shaken issues up in ESPN’s Bracketology and may be poised for deep runs this spring.

Recent off its first Elite Eight look in 30 years, Ohio State did not meet expectations early on, dropping marquee nonconference contests to USC and UCLA, however the Buckeyes have taken care of enterprise in Large Ten play. After falling at Michigan on Dec. 30, the Buckeyes have not misplaced within the 2024 calendar yr, most importantly beating Iowa in additional time in Columbus. Final week they pulled off a 80-47 rout over Nebraska, who the sport prior had upset Iowa, in maybe probably the most full sport of the season for Kevin McGuff’s squad.

A 13-game win streak has propelled Ohio State into the No. 2 rating within the Related Press ballot, whereas the Buckeyes have additionally assumed a 1½-game lead over Iowa within the Large Ten standings and a No. 1 seed within the NCAA choice committee’s first high 16 reveal. At this price, no remaining regular-season sport may need as a lot juice as their rematch in opposition to the Hawkeyes in Iowa Metropolis on March 3.

The Buckeyes have thrived with Jacy Sheldon (17.8 PPG) again into the fold (she performed in simply 13 video games final yr resulting from damage), and in the event that they get the model of Cotie McMahon that dropped 33 factors in opposition to Iowa final month, they might attain Cleveland and the Last 4. Whereas they’ve a number of choices for find out how to rating offensively, their protection has precipitated the most important issues within the Large Ten. By forcing over 20 turnovers per sport and boasting the most effective defensive score in convention play (89.1 factors allowed per 100 possessions in keeping with CBB Analytics), Ohio State has solely allowed three Large Ten groups to attain greater than 72 factors.



Oregon State tops UCLA’s heroics on Talia von Oelhoffen’s buzzer-beater

Lauren Betts’ bucket in ultimate seconds places UCLA up, then Talia von Oelhoffen drills a 3-pointer on the buzzer to present Oregon State the win.

Following a 13-win season that included simply 4 victories in convention play, the Beavers have been picked to complete tenth within the Pac-12 preseason ballot. As an alternative, Scott Rueck has led his staff right into a tie for second place within the convention standings and a No. 2 seed in Charlie Creme’s newest Bracketology. After going undefeated in nonconference play, Oregon State dropped early video games to the L.A. colleges however has since received 9 of its final 11, sweeping Colorado, defeating Utah in Salt Lake Metropolis and presently coming off a very thrilling weekend through which they beat UCLA on the buzzer in among the best finishes to a basketball sport.

With high scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers (17.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG) unavailable resulting from a facial damage she suffered in opposition to UCLA, the Beavers fell to USC the following sport — their sole loss at Gill Coliseum this yr — however they gave the Trojans and JuJu Watkins the whole lot they might deal with.

Beers offers a paint presence inside, and the Beavers encompass her with gamers who can knock down 3s (Timea Gardiner, Talia von Oelhoffen and Lily Hansford have every made not less than 30 on the season). However their bench unit has been a separator, and whereas their protection is not flashy it’s nonetheless robust to go in opposition to (in convention play they’re holding opponents to a league-best 40.1% efficient discipline aim share, in keeping with CBB Analytics).

Oregon State hasn’t performed within the NCAA event since 2021, however the Beavers are wanting like a staff few will wish to face in Corvallis after which probably Portland. And Rueck is aware of a factor or two about deep postseason runs, taking the Beavers to 2 Candy 16s, one Elite Eight and a Last 4 from 2016-19.



Georgia Amoore sinks a easy reverse layup

Georgia Amoore makes a reverse layup to increase Virginia Tech’s lead.

ESPN School GameDay’s third cease of the season comes Sunday in Blacksburg, Virginia, and the go to comes at an ideal time. After falling to Iowa and LSU in nonconference play after which struggling consecutive losses to Florida State and Duke, Virginia Tech enters Sunday’s matchup in opposition to North Carolina on a nine-game win streak. The run mirrors how the Hokies took the ACC by storm final February on their strategy to reaching this system’s first Last 4. Most impressively this season, they swept the regular-season collection in opposition to NC State and have received 4 consecutive street matchups in opposition to ranked ACC groups.

Virginia Tech presently sits on the No. 3 seed line in Bracketology and atop the ACC standings. The Hokies are 13-2 with three regular-season video games remaining, together with only one in opposition to a High 25 opponent.

Elizabeth Kitley (22.9 PPG, 11.8 RPG) and Georgia Amoore (17.8 PPG, 7.5 APG) are on the shortlist for greatest duos within the nation. With each placing up profession numbers this season, Kitley might turn out to be a three-time ACC participant of the yr whereas Amoore is likely one of the greatest level guards within the faculty sport. As a gaggle that has wanted to be affected person as its newer gamers develop into their roles, the Hokies’ X issue stays which participant will assist their all-American pair. Matilda Ekh appears to have gotten extra snug as a 3rd scoring choice, and Kenny Brooks will want her, Cayla King and the remainder of their complementary items to be at their greatest to make it deep into March.



Oklahoma cruises on the street with win over Cincinnati

Oklahoma cruises on the street with win over Cincinnati

With three starters from final yr graduated and a fourth out for the yr with an damage, the Sooners have been picked to complete fifth within the Large 12 preseason ballot. Most onlookers assumed it will be a down yr for Oklahoma, particularly after the Sooners went 6-5 in nonconference play, most shockingly dropping to Southern by 9.

However Jennie Baranczyk’s squad appears to have turned a nook in Large 12 competitors, as Oklahoma tops the convention standings with three video games remaining. The Sooners have received 10 of their final 11 contests, together with placing up 91 factors in a win over Texas in Austin.

Skylar Vann (15.5 PPG) and Payton Verhulst (12.0 PPG) have emerged as its high scorers, however Oklahoma has no points sharing the ball. In actual fact, their 71.4% help price is the most effective within the nation, in keeping with Her Hoop Stats. And whereas they are not essentially elite defensively, the Sooners have improved on that finish of the ground. They rank No. 5 in league play in defensive score by permitting 90.9 factors per 100 possessions with an opponent efficient discipline aim share of 44.0% (second greatest within the league), in keeping with CBB Analytics.

If the Sooners — who have been co-regular season champs final yr with Texas — keep on this monitor, they might win back-to-back Large 12 titles for the primary time since 2006-2007, vital contemplating previous to final yr, they hadn’t received a convention crown since 2009. Oklahoma is a No. 6 seed within the newest Bracketology.

We would be remiss if we did not point out the three groups within the nation who’ve received not less than 20 consecutive video games: South Carolina, Gonzaga and Fairfield. Whereas the Gamecocks and Bulldogs are perennial event groups, the Stags went 20 years in between appearances within the Large Dance (2001 to 2022). However they’re the clear favorites to characterize the MAAC come March beneath second-year coach Carly Thibault-DuDonis.

Their present 21-game win streak has garnered some consideration within the AP ballot (they’re the No. 2 staff receiving votes exterior the High 25 behind UNLV), with their sole loss on the yr to projected NCAA event staff Vanderbilt within the second sport of the season.

Loads of freshmen have made waves across the nation this season, and Fairfield has one among its personal: Meghan Andersen leads the staff in scoring (15.9 PPG), rebounding (5.1 PPG) and blocks (1.3 BPG).

What to observe this weekend

No. 11 Colorado at No. 7 USC
10 p.m. ET Friday, Pac-12 Community

USC is on the rise with six straight Pac-12 wins, together with one just lately over Oregon State in Corvallis, and the Trojans will look to increase that streak after they host the Buffaloes on Friday. Colorado, in the meantime, might use a confidence-boosting week in L.A. after dropping two straight to Oregon State and Utah, losses which bumped them off the No. 1 line in Bracketology and has allowed Stanford to strengthen its stronghold atop the Pac-12 standings.

No. 24 Baylor at No. 22 West Virginia
2 p.m. ET Saturday, Large 12 Community/ESPN+

The Large 12 has been unpredictable this season. After each groups went undefeated in nonconference play, the Bears are in the course of the pack within the league at 9-6, whereas West Virginia sits in fourth at 11-4, with each projected as No. 6 seeds within the NCAA event. Baylor received the primary assembly 65-58, however the Mountaineers, who’re coming off a troublesome additional time loss at Kansas State, will not wish to drop two in a row.

No. 13 LSU at Tennessee
Midday ET Sunday, ESPN/ESPN App

This battle of the second- and third-best groups within the SEC ought to inform us extra about the place every squad is basically at. The Tigers have been up and down in convention play, practically beating South Carolina however dropping video games to unranked Auburn and Mississippi State. Tennessee has 4 convention losses after struggling 5 in nonconference play however has had a great previous two weeks or so, additionally competing with the Gamecocks. The Woman Vols are nonetheless lacking a marquee win this season, so capitalizing off internet hosting the Tigers would go a good distance.

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