Before proceedings start up again on Friday, let’s unpack all the action thus far.
Welp, that just happened. The first two stages of the 2022 D1 Women’s Basketball Tournament came and went––and brought thrillers and upsets aplenty. There’s a lot to unpack from the last week and a half, from Iowa’s and Baylor’s shock exits to the mind-boggling attendance records set, so let’s go over four key takeaways from rounds one and Two.
Two is (Not) A Magic Number
Aside from the Longhorns, every No. 2-seeded team has struggled with inconsistency during the competition. For example, UConn crushed Mercer in their first game of the tournament; however, they just barely scraped through the next, and probably would’ve been eliminated had UCF not missed a boatload of free throws. The Hawkeyes weren’t so lucky. Say what you want about inconsistent refereeing, but Iowa’s rebound game was incredibly weak against Creighton, and that’s what sunk them in the end.
Now for the real cringefest: Baylor’s showing against South Dakota. Criticism of the Huskies and Hawkeyes is well-deserved, but at least they tried, darn it. As for the Bears? They showed zero fight, zero skill in transitions, and zero inclination to work as a team, and it cost them to the tune of 61–47. Looking at how easily they got stomped, you’d think that they were the underdogs heading into the match.
Of course, all of this must mean that the number two is now cursed. Did you buy a hotel room on the second floor? Look forward to getting tossed off the balcony. Do you, by chance, live on 2nd Street? Your house is getting robbed, sorry. Going on a camping trip with a friend? Bring along a third, or else you’ll get attacked by bears––or maybe not, since the Bears’ attack was slow as molasses on Sunday.
Hull and Boston Shine
A definite standout this past week was Stanford’s Lexie Hull, who scored a team-high 36 points against Kansas on Sunday. She also managed six steals, managing to put her aggressive guarding style to good use.
”I think it’s just I really wanted it,” said Hull when asked about how she mustered such a performance. ”In the back of my head I was like, ‘All right, I want to play in Spokane, my entire body wants to play in Spokane.”’ Thanks to her––as well as her twin sister, Lacie––the Cardinal might just get that chance.
Aliyah Boston also had a night to remember, but for different reasons. Despite a relatively off night offensively, she recorded her 26th consecutive double-double. If she keeps this impressive streak up, there’s no reason why she wouldn’t be the favorite for the Wooden Award.
Which brings us to our next takeaway…
The Boston-Clark Showdown That Never Was
Two teams. Two superstars. One top-seeded team with a rock-solid defense, one No. 2 with attacking flair to spare. One Wooden Award potentially on the line. One Final Four matchup on the cards. Five sentences––rather, one paragraph––that probably serve no purpose now, since the Iowa-South Carolina matchup we were all waiting for will never happen.
But seriously, the fact that we won’t see Aliyah Boston and Caitlin Clark face off in the Final Four thanks to the Hawkeyes’ loss is a huge shock to the senses. Serves us right for talking about this game as if its existence was guaranteed. March Madness is a cruel mistress…
Keep the Wins Coming
Despite the loss of a chance to see the Gamecocks and Hawkeyes duke it out (seriously, we’re never going to let this go), there was another big win last week: the ever-increasing investment in the competition. Per the New York Times, the NCAA revealed that “the first and second rounds of the women’s tournament set an attendance record of 216,890 people.” What’s more, ESPN recorded a 67% increase in bracket contest submissions from last year, suggesting that interest in the sport is both growing beyond just casual viewership.
“That was the most special environment I’ve ever played in, by far. It’s really, really special for the sport,” said Creighton guard Payton Brotzki after their second round match. No one can deny that these first two stages of the tournament have been a victory for women’s collegiate hoops. Let’s hope that the wins keep on coming.