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NCAA Tournament: Picking all the Sweet 16 winners

Tennessee is rolling in the NCAA Tournament after a 7-6 start to the season. (Joy Kimbrough/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament busted many a bracket thanks to upsets by Miami and Ole Miss over No. 1 seeds Stanford and Indiana. Now the Sweet 16 is set, with familiar faces like South Carolina and UConn, and unexpected attendees like Colorado and Ohio State.

Expect more chaos and more upsets in the Sweet 16, as well as wins from the season’s most dominant squads. Here are my predictions for the first round of regional contests.

No. 9 Miami vs. No. 4 Villanova

Maddy Siegrist, a Naismith Trophy finalist, will be the best player on the court, and I don’t expect Miami to contain her. But after seeing the way the Hurricanes defeated No. 1 Indiana, I don’t see that being an issue. While Mackenzie Holmes had 22 points and Grace Berger had 17 against Miami, the Hurricanes were able to keep the rest of Indiana’s scorers in check. Against Villanova, I anticipate a similar attack: Siegrist will get hers, but the Hurricanes won’t let the rest of the team beat them.

Miami attacked the paint against Holmes and had success with Lola Pendande (19 points) and Destiney Harden (18 points). They can do the same against the Wildcats, who don’t have the post defenders to contain Miami’s inside presence.

Pick: Miami

No. 3 LSU vs. No. 2 Utah

This game has the potential to be the best matchup of the Sweet 16, with two high-powered offenses squaring off. Utah ranks third in the country with 83.5 points per game, while LSU is just behind them with 83.2 points per game.

Utah has a well-balanced attack, with 29.8 percent of their points coming from 3-point range and 50.4 percent coming from inside the arc. The problem for the Utes is going to be LSU star Angel Reese on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Reese will get hers as she has all season, but Utah has the tools to neutralize her defensively. Alissa Pili can stretch the floor — shooting 42 percent from 3 — and allow Utah to pull Reese out of the paint, opening up driving lanes for the guards. If the Tigers choose to keep Reese as a shot-blocker and put another defender on Pili, she will be able to use her size and strength to score, once again creating a mismatch.

Pick: Utah

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The key to a Colorado upset will be containing Iowa's players outside of Caitlin Clark. (Margaret Kispert/USA TODAY Sports)

No. 6 Colorado vs. No. 2 Iowa

After defeating Duke 61-53 in Cameron on Monday, Colorado guard Jaylyn Sherrod said she likes going on the road, being the villain and feeding off opposing fans. Iowa won’t be the home team in this game, but they will certainly have their share of fans thanks to Caitlin Clark, meaning Colorado will be the villain once more.

The Buffs are a defensive-minded team that has the ability to rattle opponents. They made things difficult for ranked teams like Stanford, Utah and UCLA this season, and they can do it again against Iowa. No one can defend Clark, but the Buffs have the personnel to slow down the rest of the Hawkeyes, including Monika Czinano on the inside with the strength and size of Aaronette Vonleh and Quay Miller.

On offense, Miller will be the most difficult matchup for Iowa. At 6-foot-3, she’s listed as a center, but she also has guard skills. Miller can shoot from long range (averaging 33.3 percent from 3 this season) and attack inside, forcing her defender to consistently play out of position.

Pick: Colorado

No. 8 Ole Miss vs. No. 5 Louisville

After getting tested in the first round by a worthy opponent in Drake, Louisville got the win behind 25 points from junior guard Hailey Van Lith. Van Lith is already a talented guard, but she takes things up a notch in March, and that energy rubs off on her teammates.

Ole Miss surprised Stanford with its defensive pressure, holding the Cardinal to 32.7 percent shooting from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range while also forcing 21 turnovers. After seeing that game, Louisville won’t be caught off guard, but they will still have to handle Ole Miss’ defensive intensity. Van Lith, Chrislyn Carr and Mykasa Robinson should be disciplined and experienced enough to overcome it, but this one will be close.

Pick: Louisville

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Diamond Miller had a game-high 24 points in Maryland's second-round win over Arizona. (Greg Fiume/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Maryland

The last time these teams played in the regular season, Diamond Miller’s last-second heroics propelled the Terrapins to victory. This time around, Maryland likely won’t need a buzzer-beater to win. Dara Mabrey and Olivia Miles are both sidelined with injuries, and without two of their best players, the Fighting Irish are going to run into a wall eventually. Maryland has too many weapons: Miller, Abby Meyers and Shyanne Sellers are leading the way, and Faith Masonius is having an excellent tournament so far.

Notre Dame will need huge performances from Sonia Citron, Maddy Westbeld and Lauren Ebo inside to pull off a victory. Ultimately, I think Maryland’s talent will win out, sending them on to the Elite Eight.

Pick: Maryland

No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 1 South Carolina

UCLA stuck with South Carolina the last time these teams played, before Bruins mistakes and timely Gamecocks plays allowed South Carolina to secure a 73-64 win. UCLA had an excellent game plan, packing the paint to pressure Aliyah Boston and forcing the rest of South Carolina’s players to shoot from the outside. It was successful in November, but Dawn Staley is too smart of a coach to let it happen again.

The Gamecocks will adjust and use their depth to overpower UCLA. Kamilla Cardoso was a big factor in the first matchup, scoring 16 points and grabbing nine rebounds, and will likely play a key role again. Senior guard Brea Beal, who didn’t score in the first matchup, is also poised to step up this time around.

Pick: South Carolina

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Azzi Fudd's return from injury gives UConn a scoring boost in the postseason. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 UConn

Despite having very different histories, these programs have had similar seasons. Both started with high expectations, suffered a rash of injuries, and now are enjoying success when it counts. Jacy Sheldon, back for Ohio State, made her mark in the second-round win over North Carolina with a game-winning shot, 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals. For UConn, Azzi Fudd was absent for most of the season before making her return in the Big East tournament. Fudd also came up big for her team in the second round, scoring 22 points to lead UConn past Baylor.

With Fudd back and playing well, UConn will be difficult to beat. In her absence, players like Aaliyah Edwards and Lou Lopez Sénéchal stepped up and have continued to play at a high level with her back in the lineup. Add in Dorka Juhász, Aubrey Griffin, Nika Mühl and Caroline Ducharme, who is capable of having a breakout scoring game, and the Huskies have too many weapons for Ohio State to handle.

An added point of interest in this game is Juhász, who started her career with Ohio State before transferring to UConn in 2021.

Pick: UConn

No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 1 Virginia Tech

When it comes to teams peaking at the right time, Tennessee and Virginia Tech are at the top of the list. The Hokies have won 13 games in a row, dating back to Jan. 29, while the Vols started their season 7-6 before going 18-5 the rest of the way.

One of Tennessee’s early losses came at the hands of the Hokies, 59-56 on Dec. 4. But Rickea Jackson didn’t play in that game, and the Vols had to rely on Jordan Horston for nearly all of their scoring. Now, Jackson is back and going to be a problem for the Hokies. The 6-2 forward is averaging 19.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game and can score all over the court. On the other side, Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley had trouble against the size of Tamari Key in the teams’ first meeting, finishing with just six points. Now, with Key sidelined due to blood clots, the Hokies will have an advantage inside.

This game could go either way, but Tennessee is playing with such cohesiveness right now and Jackson has the ability to be the best player on the floor. My gut tells me the Vols pull off the upset.

Pick: Tennessee

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Kansas City, Orlando Raise the NWSL Bar With Weekend Wins

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda in action during a NWSL match against Seattle Reign
Banda registered a brace on Sunday, bringing her NWSL total to 10 goals in just 10 games. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Pride star Barbra Banda continued on her historic NWSL trajectory this weekend, scoring twice in Orlando’s 6-0 win over Utah on Friday. 

She’s the first NWSL player to register 10 goals in their first 10 league appearances. It was also her fourth brace this season, and marked her first goals in two games after her first multi-game scoring drought.

"For me when I have an opportunity and a chance, I have to take it wisely," Banda said in her postgame remarks. "When I get a chance, I have to put the ball in the back of the net. If any game I didn’t score, I just have to go to my drawing board and work hard so that in the next game so I can find a goal."

Meanwhile, Kansas City also kept up their winning ways, beating Portland 4-1 behind a brace from midfielder Lo'eau Labonta on Sunday.

Later that day, the Washington Spirit, who sit just a point behind KC in third place, topped fourth-place Gotham FC in a decisive 2-0 victory.

And after drawing with Seattle, eighth-place Louisville has 16 points on the season — representing a growing gap between the league’s top and bottom teams. Bringing up the bottom of the ladder, both Seattle and Utah have yet to surpass 10 points this year.

Sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson Punches Ticket at US Olympic Track & Field Trials

Sha'Carri Richardson poses with her gold medal after winning the women's 100 meter final at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Track & Field Trials
Sha'Carri Richardson punched her ticket to Paris on Saturday by winning the 100-meter dash at the US Track & Field Trails. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Sha’Carri Richardson has punched her ticket to the Paris Olympics after finishing first in 100-meter final at the US Olympic Track & Field Trials over the weekend. 

Her time — 10.71 — sets a record as the fastest time in the world this year. After finishing, she dropped to one knee and bent her head to savor the moment.

"Definitely still confidence, still my exciting normal self, but more so overwhelmed with just emotions of joy," Richardson said of her post-race celebration. "I know that the hard work I've put into, not just physically on the track but as well as mentally and emotionally to grow into the mature young lady that I am today and that I'm going to grow into was a full-fledged surreal moment for me to actually embrace and be able to show to the world and on the track."

It was a statement-making turn in a comeback story that saw Richardson disqualified from the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC after that year's Olympic Trials.

"Everything I've been through is everything I have been through to be in this moment right now," Richardson said. "There's nothing I've been through that hasn't designed me to sit right here in front of you to answer this question."

Now, Richardson is expected to bring home some hardware from Paris, having grown into one of the greatest sprinters in the world. She won the 100-meter and 4x100-meter relay events at the World Championships last summer. And before this year's Olympic Trials conclude, she’ll look to also qualify for the 200-meter event. 

"In the past three years, I've grown a better understanding of myself, a deeper respect and appreciation for my gift that I have in the sport, as well as my responsibility to the people that believe in and support me," Richardson said. "I feel like all of those components have helped me grow and will continue to help me grow into the young lady that I have been divined and by God been blessed to be."

Rookie Angel Reese Shines in Sky’s Tight Win Over Fever

WNBA star Angel Reese of the Chicago Sky shoots a free throw during the game against the Indiana Fever
Angel Reese posted a career-high 25 points and 16 rebounds in the Sky's comeback win over Indiana. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty are now the top team in the WNBA, leading the league with a franchise-best 15-3 start to the season. 

Breanna Stewart leads the team in points (19.9), while Jonquel Jones leads in rebounds (8.7), and Sabrina Ionescu in assists (6.4). On Sunday, Ionescu had her fifth career game with 25+ points and 10+ assists.

Meanwhile, Connecticut stumbled over the weekend, suffering back-to-back losses for the first time this season. They’re now tied for second in the league with a 13-3 record. 

Las Vegas's win over Connecticut began a two-win run for the reigning league champs, who look to regain their rhythm with the return of starting point guard Chelsea Gray. The team also became the first team in WNBA history to sell out all of its regular season home games. 

"I do think that the growth is just the beginning," Aces chief operating and chief financial officer Matt Delsen when asked about the surging ticket sales. "And I think that, you know, the viewership can and is going to continue to grow because these athletes are the best in the world at what they do."

On Sunday, the Chicago Sky got the tight 88-87 win over Indiana while Angel Reese posted a career-high 25 points and 16 rebounds in the win. Caitlin Clark was also impressive despite the loss, scoring 17 points and a franchise-record 13 assists, as well as six rebounds and four steals. 

"This is what I do: I come out and perform," Reese said after the game. "I do what it takes to win every single day."

A number of celebrities were spotted enjoying the matchup inside Wintrust Arena, including Chance the Rapper, Jason Sudeikis, Sheryl Swoopes, and Knicks star Jalen Brunson. 

"It's good for the game, good for women's basketball, but also good for women's sports," Reese said of the buzzy crowd. "You see NBA players, rappers, legends that played in the league for a great long time come out and show support. You know everybody's watching right now.

"I think this is one of the most important times right now, and we just continue to keep putting on. I think both teams tonight did an amazing job putting on a show. It was fun. I had a great time, I'm sure the other team had a great time. I'm just happy we won tonight."

Amy Yang Wins First Major Title at KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

2024 KPMG Women's PGA Championship winner Amy Yang poses with the trophy
Amy Yang won the 2024 KPMG Women's PGA Championship on Sunday, marking her first LPGA major win. (Darren Carroll/PGA of America via Getty Images)

Amy Yang won her first LPGA tour event on Sunday, taking home the title at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

At 34 years old, Yang is the oldest major winner in the LPGA since 2018 when Angela Stanford won the Evian Championship at age 40.

"At one point I thought, 'Will I ever win a major championship before I retire?'" Yang said after securing the victory. "And I finally did it and it's just amazing. Golf is really just like a fight against myself. I think I proved myself that I can compete and I can do this."

The South Korea national ended the tournament with an even-par 72 to finish at seven-under 281. At one point, she was at 10 under and held a seven-shot lead that no challenger was able to overcome. 

It was also Yang’s 75th major start, the most before a player’s first major win since Stanford won hers in her 76th major start.

"It's been incredible all this week — everyone was rooting for me," Yang said. "I want to go sign some autographs for them."

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