Elite Eight: Five points to ponder
On Sunday night, Louisville pulled off perhaps the greatest upset in the history of the women's NCAA tournament, defeating Baylor 82-81 in the semifinals of the Oklahoma City Regional. Now we're down to only eight teams -- and no Baylor! -- remaining in this year's tournament. Here are five things to ponder going forward.
1. Baylor's gone -- now what?It's going to take some time to let this fact sink in. Everyone in the women's game assumed No. 1 seed Baylor would advance to the Final Four and likely win a second consecutive national title. Louisville, a 5-seed, blasted the tournament wide open. Now we're left with eight teams, all of whom, realistically, have a chance at the national title. The favorite becomes Notre Dame, the top seed in the Norfolk region, but the race is much more even than it was 24 hours ago.
2. Will Kentucky take its first big step toward becoming an elite program?Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell wants his program to be the best in the nation; he's made no secret about that. But for the Wildcats to even be included in the conversation with the likes of Tennessee, Connecticut and Stanford, they need to punch through to the Final Four. That becomes tough when you're facing UConn in a regional final for the second consecutive year. Still, Mitchell made it clear he knows his team can't be considered elite until it beats the Huskies, or a team like them. "We just have to keep showing up and having these experiences," he said.
3. Can California carry the Pac-12?The big thing out west is the Pac-12 Conference doesn't get the respect it deserves, that all too often the at-large bids are given to teams from, say, the Big 12 Conference or the ACC. Well, the Pac-12 really needs Cal to advance to the Final Four so it can keep that argument alive. The Pac-12 has underperformed so far. Colorado, seeded fifth, was upset in the first round by No. 12 seed Kansas. In the second round, No. 3 seed UCLA lost to No. 6 seed Oklahoma. And on Saturday night, top-seeded Stanford, a favorite to advance to the Final Four, lost to No. 4 seed Georgia.
4. Duke's 3-point shooting -- how hot can the Blue Devils get?The Blue Devils are the best 3-point shooting team in the country. And guess what? They're going to need all the outside shooting they can get against top-seeded Notre Dame. Duke comes into Tuesday's game (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET) shooting 40.6 percent from beyond the arc, while opponents are only shooting 28 percent. The Blue Devils have four active players (Tricia Liston, Haley Peters, Alexis Jones and Chloe Wells) who have made 20-plus 3-pointers this season. To beat Notre Dame, which is playing some of the best basketball in the country, Duke is going to need an eye-opening stat line from long distance.
5. Who's the best tweeter in the Elite Eight?Even though most people would nominate Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins (@skydigg4), there are other players running some under-the-radar feeds. Duke has a number of active tweeters on its roster, including Liston (@TriciaListon32) and Peters (@HaleyPeters), and Tennessee senior Taber Spani (@Tcstruth13) has to be in the running, as well. Diggins gets all of the publicity, but there are a number of players worth following as the tourney continues.
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