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NCAA Women’s Tournament: This is what March Madness looks like

Tennessee celebrates after surviving No. 12 Belmont thanks to freshman Sara Puckett’s 3-pointer. (Donald Page/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The women playing in the NCAA Tournament have no time for the haters. You know, the people who fire off ignorant tweets about how the women’s tournament isn’t as exciting as the men’s, or who write about how it’s lacking upsets.

The only thing that was lacking in the first two rounds was any sense of calm, because the first 52 games were pandemonium.

Eight double-digit seeds won in the first two rounds, and two 10-seeds — Creighton and South Dakota advanced to the Sweet 16.

If you need more proof that there’s parity in women’s basketball, look no further than No. 14 Jackson State, who went wire to wire with No. 3 LSU, or No. 12 Belmont, who nearly knocked off No. 4 Tennessee. And if that’s still not enough, turn your attention to No. 11 Princeton, who lost by one-point to No. 3 Indiana at Assembly Hall.

I don’t think we need to create a competition between the men’s and the women’s tournaments — I eat up every second of both events — but it never hurts to present the facts.

The men’s tournament saw nine double-digit seeds win in the first two rounds — just one more than the women’s — and had the same number of double-digit seeds make the Sweet 16 (two) as the women’s tournament.

Another thing to keep in mind: The first men’s national title took place 43 years before the first women’s tournament. So while men’s basketball was growing, women still spent over four decades fighting for their right to play.

Then, there is the argument that the same teams always win the women’s tournament. Well, UConn has won 11 times, and Tennessee has won eight. Stanford and Baylor are next on the list of repeats, with three each. After that, no team has won more than two. One the men’s side, UCLA has 11 titles, Kentucky has eight and six other programs have three or more.

Those are the facts. I’ll let you decide how to interpret them.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s get back to appreciating the women’s NCAA Tournament for what it is: madness. Starting with the two biggest upsets of the week.

No. 10 Creighton 64, No. 2 Iowa 62

The Bluejays came into Carver Hawkeye Arena and absolutely stunned Iowa. Creighton was able to limit Caitlin Clark — a near impossible feat — to a season-low 15 points.

Coach Jim Flanery’s game plan was relatively simple, but also genius. The Bluejays rotated defenders and had a different player match up with Clark every few minutes. This ensured a constant supply of fresh legs. It also meant that Clark had to adapt to different styles — speed, strength, athleticism, peskiness — every time she had a new player on her. As a result, the National Player of the Year candidate was forced to adjust to the defense, rather than it adjusting to her, which has been the case all season.

Then there was Lauren Jensen, the Creighton sophomore and Iowa transfer who hit the game-winning 3-pointer. The guard says there is no bad blood between the programs, but it still takes a sky-high level of poise to come in as an underdog, against your former team, in their home gym, and do what she did. Jensen finished with a team-high 19 points.

No. 10 South Dakota 61, No. 2 Baylor 47

The Coyotes earned their first Sweet 16 appearance with an upset of No. 2 Baylor, while also ending the Bears’ streak of 12-straight third-round NCAA Tournament appearances.

South Dakota ranks eighth in the country in scoring defense, giving up 53.1 points per game. The Coyotes used that to their advantage and held Baylor — the 16th scoring offense in the country at 76.5 points per game — to its lowest point total of the season. South Dakota also forced 19 turnovers, which turned into 20 points on the other end.

Offensively, the Coyotes went 8-for-16 from 3-point range and had three double-digit scorers. Seniors Hannah Sjerven, Chloe Lamb and Liv Korngable had 16, 15 and 11 points, respectively.

All of that adds up to a historic upset for South Dakota.

No. 4 Tennessee 70, No. 12 Belmont 67

This was the perfect recipe for an upset. Belmont, coming off a first-round win over No. 5 Oregon, averages 8.6 3-pointers per game. Tennessee, according to Her Hoop Stats, ranks 333rd out of 356 teams in opponents’ 3-point makes.

Offensive rebounds kept this one close, as the Bruins had 18 offensive boards and 23 second-chance points. But Tennessee was able to escape and advance to the Sweet 16 thanks to a Sara Puckett 3-pointer with 18 seconds left and Belmont’s missed chances at the free-throw line. The Bruins were 5-for-10 at the line, including two misses with 25 seconds left when they were up 66-64.

No. 3 Indiana 56, No. 11 Princeton 55

Indiana, up 10 points at halftime, scored just six points in the third quarter. The Tigers took advantage, and with 38 seconds left, the game was tied at 52.

Grace Berger, IU’s leading scorer, sliced through the Princeton defense for a layup with 29 seconds left. Then, the Hoosiers forced a turnover to seal the victory. Princeton got its last possession down four with one second left. IU came out in a zone, making sure not to foul, and Abby Meyers hit a 3-pointer to bring Princeton within one, but it was too late.

No. 5 Notre Dame 108, No. 4 Oklahoma 64

This was not a double-digit upset, and certainly not a close game, but Notre Dame’s beatdown of Oklahoma is exciting for a different reason. The Fighting Irish put on an offensive clinic. They shot 53.9 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc. Dara Mabrey had 29 points, including seven 3s, tying her with sister Marina Mabrey for the most 3s made by a Notre Dame player in an NCAA Tournament game.

The win also marked the first time a team in either the men’s or women’s tournament has beaten a lower-seeded team by 40 points or more.

No. 1 Stanford 91, No. 9 Kansas 65

Senior Lexie Hull propelled Stanford past Kansas thanks to a career-high 36 points. With the victory, Hull and twin sister Lacie get to play the Cardinal’s next-round game against Maryland in their hometown of Spokane, Wash.

The Hulls won two state championships at Central Valley High School and were 102-6 during their four years there.

Eden Laase is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She previously ran her own high school sports website in Michigan after covering college hockey and interning at Sports Illustrated. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas Re-Signs with Barcelona on Two-Year Deal

Alexia Putellas on the field for barcelona
The two-time Ballon d’Or winner has been with Barcelona for 12 years. (Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Alexia Putellas has re-signed with FC Barcelona on a new two-year deal that will run through 2026. The agreement includes an option for a one-year extension. 

The two-time Ballon d’Or winner has been with Barcelona for 12 years, and her previous contract was set to expire next month. However, she’s spent the better part of the last two seasons battling injuries, starting with an ACL tear that kept her out of the 2022 UEFA European Women's Football Championship and limited her participation in Spain’s FIFA Women's World Cup win last summer. 

Putellas returned in March from her latest injury setback, making 25 appearances across all competitions for Barcelona this season and scoring 10 goals. 

In total, the midfielder has made 400 appearances for Barcelona. Among her 20 major trophies with the club include eight Liga F titles and two UEFA Champions League titles — including helping the team to its first European trophy in 2021. 

She then won the Ballon d’Or in back-to-back seasons in 2021 and 2022. 

Putellas could add a third Champions League trophy next weekend, when Barcelona faces familiar foe Lyon, a team they’ve lost to in two previous Champions League finals. Should they secure the UWCL, they would win the quadruple for the first time, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

WNBA on Pace for Record-Breaking Season

onquel Jones #35 of the New York Liberty rebounds during the game against the Indiana Fever on May 18, 2024 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn
Indiana's game against New York on Saturday was the most-watched WNBA game to ever air on ABC. (Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA continues its historic trajectory one week into the season, with attendance and viewership skyrocketing across the board. 

Indiana’s Saturday game against the New York Liberty was the most-watched WNBA game ever on ABC, drawing 1.71 million viewers. The Sparks vs. Aces matchup that followed became the third most-watched WNBA game broadcast on ABC with 1.34 million viewers.

On Monday, the tense finish between Indiana and Connecticut drew 1.56 million viewers to ESPN, the second most-watched WNBA game to ever air on cable.

Outside of the league’s viewership, both in-person attendance and merchandise sales have also been on a meteoric rise. On Saturday, the game between New York and Indiana shattered the single-game ticket revenue record in the WNBA, with the Liberty pulling in $2 million in sales. 

New York and Indiana played their home openers in front of more than 17,000 fans, with attendance up 14% year-over-year, according to the league. Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Aces, the Liberty, the Wings, the Dream, and others have already sold out of their 2024 season ticket allotments.

Since April’s WNBA Draft, revenue from the WNBA’s official online store is up 2,260%, already blowing past total sales for the entire 2023 season.

While the numbers may cool somewhat as teams settle into their seasons, the pop in demand has already overwhelmingly delivered for the WNBA in 2024.

Angel Reese Adds USL Team Owner to Growing Résumé

chicago sky rookie angel reese speaking at an event
Star rookie Angel Reese is all in on the USL Super League. (JC Olivera/Variety via Getty Images)

Chicago Sky rookie Angel Reese continues to add to her résumé, becoming the newest member of the DC Power Football Club’s ownership group

The No. 7 pick in the WNBA draft joins an group that includes the MLS team DC United as well as other DC-area community members and business owners. One of the USL Super League’s inaugural clubs, DC Power FC is set to begin play in August. 

"I want to help grow women's sports and elevate female athletes across the board," Reese, who's from Maryland, said in a statement. "We're taking over, and I'm honored to be able to support Power FC and invest in women's soccer in the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia) community."

The USL is a sanctioned Division I league, meaning that it is on par with the NWSL and MLS in the United States. The league's eight current clubs are Brooklyn FC, Carolina Ascent FC, Dallas Trinity FC, DC Power FC, Fort Lauderdale United FC, Lexington SC, Spokane Zephyr FC, and Tampa Bay Sun FC.

DC Power FC will also be playing their home games in a familiar location: Matches will be hosted at DC’s Audi Field in partnership with MLS side DC United. Audi Field also home to the NWSL’s Washington Spirit.

"Angel's decision to be a founding investor alongside us in Power FC is groundbreaking," Jason Levien, DC United's CEO and co-chair, said in a statement. "As a Maryland native, Angel is so passionate about being a catalyst for positive change in women's sports in the DMV as well as globally while inspiring the next generation of female athletes. We're looking forward to her partnership in the boardroom as an equity partner."

It's been speculated that the Super League ultimately intends to compete outright with the NWSL. But in its first year, the league will focus on featuring the depth of women's soccer talent in the US.

Former NWSL players like Taylor Aylmer (Spokane), Jordyn Listro (Tampa Bay), Erika Tymrak (Tampa Bay), and Domi Richardson (Tampa Bay) have already announced a return to professional soccer via the USL.

The league is aiming to provide counter-programming to summer women's sports in the States, with a season running from fall to spring like the European calendar.

In a social media post, Reese said that she’s "grateful & blessed" to be part of the new ownership group. It’s the latest move in what has been a whirlwind spring for Reese, which included getting drafted, attending the Met Gala, signing a new partnership with Good American, and debuting with the Chicago Sky, among other achievements.

"Looking forward to creating new opportunities for women in professional soccer," she tweeted. "I’ve always had to desire to invest in a local team as a Maryland native!"

Reese is the latest female athlete to buy into a women’s sports team, joining the likes of Naomi Osaka, who owns a stake in the North Carolina Courage, and Serena Williams, who's part-owner of Angel City FC. 

Other pro athletes involved in women's sports team ownership include Patrick Mahomes, who shares ownership responsibilities of the Kansas City Current with his wife Brittany. Kevin Durant and Eli Manning are part-owners of Gotham FC, while NFL superstar Tom Brady is part-owner of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces.

Nelly Korda Continues Unprecedented LPGA Run

LPGA golfer Nelly Korda poses with Mizuho Americas Open trophy
Nelly Korda took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open on Sunday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Nelly Korda continued her unprecedented LPGA run on Sunday, winning her sixth tournament in the last seven starts. 

The 25-year-old Florida native took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first LPGA player to record six wins in a single season since 2013 — and that’s with three majors and a little over half the season left to play.

"Oh, my gosh, six," Korda said after the win. "I can't even really gather myself right now with that, the head-to-head that Hannah and I had pretty much all day. Wasn't my best stuff out there today, but fought really hard on the back nine."

Korda is just the fourth player on tour to win six times before June 1st, joining LPGA Hall of Famers Babe Zaharias (1951), Louise Suggs (1953), and Lorena Ochoa (2008).

Should her victory run continue, Korda could break the current record for single-season wins, currently set at 13 by Mickey Wright in 1963.

Korda ended Sunday's tournament one shot ahead of Hannah Green, finishing the 18th with a par putt to win it all.

"I mean, to lose to Nelly kind of like is — it's sad, but then it's also Nelly Korda," Green said of her second-place finish. "You know, like she's obviously so dominant right now. To feel like second behind her is quite nice. Unfortunately the bogey on the last has a little bit of a sour taste."

Next up is the US Women’s Open, a tournament that Korda has yet to win in her career. 

"Obviously it's on the top of my priority list," she said. "I just know there is never any good when you put more pressure on yourself. Just going to stay in my bubble that week and take it a shot at a time."

Earlier this year, Korda became the fastest player to collect $2 million in prize money over a single season. This latest win earned her an additional $450,000, bringing her season total up to $2,943,708.

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