After a 23-6 regular season that featured 13 ACC wins and a victory over then #3 Louisville, the North Carolina Tar Heels women’s basketball team is going dancing. UNC received the #5 seed in the Greensboro Regional of the NCAA Tournament, getting them a first round matchup against #12 seed Stephen F. Austin on Saturday.
The Tar Heels just missed out on getting to host the opening two rounds, and will instead head to Tucson, Arizona for the first weekend.
Their opponent in the first round will be the Ladyjacks of Stephen F. Austin, who went 28-4, including a 17-1 record in the WAC, with a conference tournament win. SFA boasts a fairly balanced lineup, with their five leading scorers averaging somewhere between 8 and 14.3 points per game. Their leading scorer is Stephanie Visscher, who goes for 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, leading the team in both.
UNC will go in as favorites, but Stephen F. Austin will be far from pushovers, having put up an impressive record. Plus, their women would likely love to join their men in taking down a Tobacco Road program. (Did I bring that up just to link to that video? Maybe.)
Should seeds hold to form, the Heels would get a second round meeting against #4 seed Arizona. The Wildcats lost in the National Championship Game last season, coming agonizingly close to the first women’s basketball national title in school history.
They’ve had another good season this year, going 20-7, but they’ve been on a bit of a slide recently. They’re 1-3 in their last four games, a run with coincides with a major injury. The Wildcats’ leading scorer Cate Reese was injured in the fourth quarter of the game that started that four game stretch and hasn’t played since, having suffered a dislocated shoulder. However, she is expected to return for the NCAA Tournament, and the Wildcats are going to be a much tougher out as a result. Reese is Arizona’s leading scorer and rebounder, going for 14.6 and 6.2.
Between that and the homecourt advantage that Arizona gets as the high seed, it would be a tough but very intriguing second round contest, should it happen.
Should Carolina get out of the first weekend, they would get a bit of a homecourt advantage, with the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 being held in Greensboro. The other high seeds in this region include #1 (and #1 overall) South Carolina, #2 Iowa, and #3 Iowa State.
With a #5 seed, this is the highest a UNC women’s team has been seeded since 2015, when they were a #4. That tournament included two wins and a Sweet 16 meeting against South Carolina, so there are some interesting parallels.
Overall, it was a strong showing for the ACC, who got eight teams into the field, tied with the SEC for the most. This is also the first season that the women’s tournament is 68 teams, as the NCAA has added play-in game for their field as well.
At time of writing, a tip-off time has not been announced, but the Heels will take the court sometime on Saturday.