With the official March Madness sticker finally slapped onto the women’s NCAA basketball tourney, this year’s field has truly embraced the name of the game. As fiscal, concrete, and abstract changes have been implemented into the women’s tournament this year in an attempt to make it more equitable with the men’s, the madness of it all is also proving equitable. The women’s first-ever 68-team field also happens to be one of the most wide-open fields in recent memory with upsets and near-misses piling up.
The first two rounds of the women’s tourney, which took place between Friday and Monday at on-campus locations throughout the country, set an all-time tournament record for attendance at 216,890 fans — but attendance isn’t the only thing going into the record books for 2022.
The 5-seeded Notre Dame women’s team beat 4-seed Oklahoma by 44 points on Monday, making them the first team in both men’s and women’s tournament history to beat a higher-seeded team by over 40 points. ND guard Olivia Miles broke a record of her own, becoming the first freshman in the history of the tournament, again, both men’s and women’s, to ever record a triple-double in a game, which she achieved in the Irish’ first round game against UMass.
Kim Mulkey’s LSU Tigers came oh-so-close to marking their name in the history book for all the wrong reasons in the first round, just barely avoiding what would have been the first 3-14 upset in women’s tournament history against Jackson State. LSU fell to Ohio State in the second round and won’t move onto the Sweet 16.
Mulkey may take some comfort in the fact that her former team won’t see sweetness this year either. Down went 2-seed Baylor in a shocking second-round upset to 10-seed South Dakota, who will make their way to the Sweet 16. The Coyotes have yet to trail in a tournament game, taking down 7-seeded Ole Miss in the first round with relative ease.
The lowest seed to ever reach a Final Four in the women’s tournament was 9-seeded Arkansas in 1998, but with the way South Dakota has been shutting down Power 5 opponents, they may be well on their way to breaking that record if they can overcome Michigan and the winner of Louisville-Tennessee. They’re joined by 10-seed Creighton in the third round of the tournament.
UConn extended its record-shattering streak of 28 straight seasons in the Sweet 16 after pulling out a very close one over UCF, who gave the Huskies a run for their money in a 52-47 win. This game was a reflection of the wider belief that this year’s tournament has had more parity throughout the field than any in recent memory. The blue bloods aren’t as presumptively dominant as they used to be, following the trend of the last five tournaments producing five different champions.
The action will continue this Friday as the tournament moves onto neutral courts in their designated regions for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.