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Everything you need to know about the 2023 NCAA Tournament

Indiana is one of the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament. (The Bloomingtonian/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The NCAA Tournament bracket is set, and the first games tip off Wednesday. From now until April 2, it’s all about college basketball.

Whether you’re a diehard fan or watching for the first time, Just Women’s Sports has everything you need to know about March Madness.

Who will win it all?

This is a season where the favorite has separated itself from the rest of the 68-team field. Of course, March is mad for a reason, so anything can happen. But South Carolina has all the tools to repeat as champions.

The Gamecocks are 32-0 heading into the tournament, and they have answered every test they have faced this season. Led by Aliyah Boston, the reigning POY, DPOY and Final Four Most Outstanding Player, South Carolina has talent and experience. Four of five starters from last year’s squad are back to chase another title.

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Who could play Cinderella?

The best thing about Cinderella teams is that they usually come out of nowhere, so don’t be surprised when someone outside of these selections makes a run. That being said, UNLV, Middle Tennessee, Gonzaga and Princeton all have a create chaos.

UNLV

The Rebels are seeded at No. 11 because of their conference (Mountain West) and their poor strength of schedule. But if you watch UNLV, the talent is clear. All five players can create their own shots, they run the floor well, and can overwhelm opponents with athleticism.

Middle Tennessee

This team has a tough matchup in the first round with sixth-seeded Colorado, but the 11th-seeded Blue Raiders know how to win big games. They topped Louisville earlier this year and took care of business in Conference USA, winning 18 games. Middle Tennessee is dangerous because of the way the team shares the ball. Six players contribute at least 7 points per game, and four of them average double-digits.

Gonzaga

The Zags makes a point to schedule tough opponents outside of conference play. This year, they played Louisville, Marquette, Tennessee and Stanford, so they won’t be rattled by big-name opponents. Plus, they are experienced, with a starting five made up of all juniors and seniors.

Princeton

The Tigers made a splash last season when they beat Kentucky in the first round and then nearly knocked off Indiana. This time around, Princeton is missing Abby Meyers, who transferred to Maryland, but this team still has the goods to surprise its opponents. Kaitlyn Chen, the Ivy League POY, will lead the charge. She’s averaging 15.9 points, 3.9 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game.

Five players you might not know, but should

Desi-Rae Young, UNLV

The Las Vegas native is a problem in the paint, averaging 18.2 points and 10.2 rebounds while shooting 59.7 percent from the field. She anchors a talented UNLV team with strength, athleticism and excellent footwork inside. Young can also face up and take opponents off the dribble, making her a potential mismatch for defenders.

Jaylyn Sherrod, Colorado

The Buffs have had an excellent season thus far in no small part because of their point guard. Sherrod is one of the toughest players in the country. She will attack anyone off the dribble, play through injuries and has a motor that never quits.

Katie Dinnebier, Drake

The sophomore and former Miss Iowa Basketball has a habit of coming up big for her team in the most crucial moments. In the MVC Tournament quarterfinal, when Drake trailed by 8 points in the fourth, Dinnebier went on a scoring rampage, pouring in 13 of her 19 points in the final four minutes and 30 seconds.

Yarden Garzon, Indiana

Despite playing for one of the top teams in the country, Garzon has managed to stay under the radar all season. The 6-3 freshman is a complete player who does a bit of everything for the Hoosiers. She averages 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Garzon has also been a starter all season, and despite being thrust into a big role, her youth never showed.

Gianna Kneepkens, Utah

In high school, Kneepkens scored 3,704 points, an insane number. She took her scoring prowess to college, where she puts up 15.4 points per game for one of the country’s best offensive teams. The sophomore has a true scorer’s mentality and is always hunting her shot. She can score from long range or off the bounce at the rim.

Six teams to watch, and why

Who to watch if you love scoring: Utah

The Utes are fourth in the country in points per game with 83.5, and they score in a variety of ways. Utah is a fun offensive team because it features both posts and guards who can score. Everyone can shoot 3s, and everyone can attack off the dribble. Who could forget the 124 points the Utes dropped on Oklahoma earlier this season?

Who to watch it you love efficiency: Indiana

Indiana just plays good basketball. Things start inside with Mackenzie Holmes, who shoots 68.8 percent from the field (second in the country) and scores 22.3 points per game. But the efficiency doesn’t stop with Holmes. As a team, Indiana shoots 49.8% from the field (also second in the country) and has a 1.42 assist to turnover ratio (seventh in the country).

Who to watch if you love 3-pointers: Florida Gulf Coast

The Eagles make 11.7 3-pointers per game, which is first in the country. The closest another NCAA Tournament team comes to that mark is Creighton, which makes nearly two less a contest at 9.8.

Who to watch if you love star power: Iowa

Between her overall talent and the way she interacts with the crowd, Caitlin Clark is a bonafide star. Tune in to watch her shoot from the logo, throw full-court passes and put up triple-doubles. In her last outing, Clark led Iowa to the Big Ten title with 30 points, 17 assets and 10 rebounds.

Who to watch if you love a favorite: South Carolina

The Gamecocks won last year’s national title, and they are favored to do the same this season. They enter the tournament with an undefeated 32-0 record, and are beating their opponents by an average of 30.3 points (first in the country).

Portland Thorns reassign head coach after winless NWSL start

Head coach Mike Norris of Portland Thorns FC watches practice before a 2023 match against Orlando Pride
Mike Norris' tenure as Thorns head coach has come to an end. (Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images)

The Portland Thorns are looking for a new head coach after a winless start to the NWSL season. 

The organization has reassigned head coach Mike Norris to a newly created technical director position. Assistant coach Rob Gale is set to take over as interim head coach while the club conducts a "global search" for its next head coach. 

Norris began his time at the club as an assistant coach before taking the reigns after former head coach Rhian Wilkinson abruptly resigned in 2022. Under Norris, the Thorns finished second in 2023's regular season standings, but suffered three losses in their last five games in a spell that saw them knocked out of the running for the NWSL Shield. They went on to lose their first playoff game in postseason play. 

At the start of the 2024 season, the Thorns went winless through four games for the first time in club history. 

"The results have not gone our way, and in a head coach position, the results do matter," Thorns GM Karina LeBlanc told The Athletic's Meg Linehan shortly after the Tuesday afternoon announcement. “But the results that we have, you can’t just pinpoint it on one position.”

Norris' reassignment marks the first major personnel decision made under the club’s new ownership. RAJ Sports' Lisa Bhathal Merage and Alex Bhathal, who also own the NBA's Sacramento Kings, bought the club in January from Merritt Paulson, who sold the Thorns amidst the fallout stemming from reports of misconduct within the NWSL.

Both the Bhathal family and the Thorns front office have been looking to make changes, and establishing a technical director topped the list. According to LeBlanc, Norris has what it takes to assume the position. 

"Where can we grow? Where are the gaps? How do we move forward with being the standard that people are used to with the Thorns?" LeBlanc continued. "One of [Norris’] strengths is to analyze and process, then come down to communicate what needs to happen."

Despite the dismal start, a quick turnaround could certainly be in the cards for Portland. The club currently leads the league in shots and shots on goal, as does star forward and USWNT standout Sophia Smith

"These changes will help us maximize our strengths as we continuously pursue championship-level success," LeBlanc said, voicing full support for the staffing shakeup.

Serena Williams is ‘super interested’ in owning a WNBA team

Serena Williams speaks on stage during keynote conversation at 2019 conference in San Jose, California
The tennis icon is all in on women's sports — and the WNBA is right on her heels. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/WireImage via Getty Images)

Could Serena Williams co-own a WNBA team in the near future? 

Speaking with CNN on Monday, Williams expressed her interest in that potential — as well as the mounting enthusiasm for women’s sports around the world. 

"I think women’s sport is having a moment that it should have always had," Williams said. "I feel like tennis has had its moment. It’s international, and it’s huge, and it’s always gonna be there.

"Now it’s time to lift up other sports — women’s soccer, women’s basketball — there’s so many other sports that women do so great, let’s put it on that platform. Women’s basketball is getting there, and it’s arrived."

When asked if she had any interest in adding a WNBA team to her roster of ownership stakes, the tennis great welcomed the idea. "I absolutely would be," Williams said. "With the right market, I would definitely be super interested in that."

"There is no risk — women’s sport is exciting," Williams added, citing the 2024 NCAA women's tournament's record-breaking viewership as evidence. "People are realizing that it is exciting to watch, so it's an overly safe bet."

Williams may not need to wait long to act on that bet. On Monday, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that she is "pretty confident" the league will expand to 16 teams — up from its current 12 — by 2028. 

The goal, she said, is to reach 14 by 2026. Oakland's Golden State is already on track to launch the league's 13th team in 2025. The move will mark the WNBA's first new franchise since the Atlanta Dream debuted in 2008.

"It's complex because you need the arena and practice facility and player housing and all the things," Engelbert said at a press conference before Monday's WNBA draft. "You need committed long-term ownership groups, and so the nice thing is we're getting a lot of calls."

Engelbert went on to name a few of the cities behind those calls, saying that the league continues to engage in discussions with Philadelphia, Toronto, Portland, Denver, and Nashville, as well as South Florida.

"These can either take a very long time to negotiate or it can happen pretty quickly if you find the right ownership group with the right arena situation," Engelbert added.

The Commissioner's 16 team goal is not only good news for WNBA fans, it's great news for current and future WNBA players. At 12 teams with just 12 roster spots each, the league is held to a total of 144 players for any given season. An abundance of fresh talent coming up through the NCAA ranks has put pressure on the organization to make room for more worthy competitors, and four additional teams might be just the ticket.

Hellen Obiri claims back-to-back Boston Marathon wins

Hellen Obiri, winner of the women's division of the Boston Marathon, poses with the Boston Marathon trophy
Hellen Obiri, winner of the 2024 Boston Marathon's women's division, poses with her trophy. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Kenyan runner Hellen Obiri won the 128th Boston Marathon on Monday, becoming the first woman to claim back-to-back titles since 2005.

She clocked a total time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, and 37 seconds in a women's division that race organizers described as "historically fast."

"Defending the title was not easy," Obiri said. "Since Boston started, it's only six women [that have repeated]. If you want to be one of them, you have to work extra hard. And I'm so happy because I'm now one of them — I'm now in the history books."

A two-time Olympic silver medalist and two-time 5000m world champion, Obiri is a clear favorite in this summer’s Paris Olympics.

“Last year I was pretty familiar to the marathon, but this year my training was perfect — we trusted everything we were doing,” Obiri said. “When we won last year, of course I was saying I’m going to win this one. Winning is like love. It’s something precious to me.”

Though, she wasn’t without a challenge. Fellow Kenyan Sharon Lokedi finished a mere eight seconds behind Obiri. Edna Kiplagat, who won the 2017 Boston Marathon, completed the podium sweep for Kenya with a third place finish.

Emma Bates, the race's top American finisher, came in 12th.

Obiri wasn't alone in making Boston Marathon history this year. The repeat champ walked away with $150,000 in total prize money allocated from a purse that topped $1 million for the first time ever. 

College rivals Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso drafted to the Chicago Sky

Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso competing at the NCAA SEC Conference Tournament Championship
Once rivals, Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso are now teammates. (Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports)

The Chicago Sky made a splash in Monday night’s WNBA draft, taking Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese in the first round. 

South Carolina’s Cardoso, who was the 2024 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, went third to the Sky. The day before, the team had swapped picks with the Minnesota Lynx to land the No. 7 pick as well, which they used on Reese, the 2023 Final Four MOP.

Now, the two will team up in Chicago after battling each other in both college and high school

"She’s a great player, and I’m a great player. Nobody's going to get no rebounds on us," Cardoso joked afterwards, while Reese expressed excitement about playing under new Sky head coach Teresa Weatherspoon.

"Being able to be a Black woman and as a head coach, and everything she's done at the NBA level, I just knew everything they were bringing to the table," Reese said of the Sky. "Player development is something that I was looking for and they looked for in me. I'm super excited for this move."

Former NBA star and Chicago Sky co-owner Dwayne Wade welcomed the pair to Chicago.

“The foundation is set,” he wrote.

The Sky have entered re-building mode after winning a WNBA title in 2021. This offseason, they traded franchise cornerstone Kahleah Copper to the Phoenix Mercury for a package that included the No. 3 picked used on Cardoso.

Now, Cardoso and Reese will be looking to jump-start the team's return to contention.

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