Opening round of women's NCAA tourney goes to plan
The opening round of the women's NCAA tournament went true to form.
Stars Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne shined. The top seeds cruised. There was a thriller or two, just not too many upsets.
Unlike the bracket-busting that happened over the first four days of the men's tournament, the women's field remained stable. The higher seeds went 28-4, including blowout victories by No. 1 seeds Connecticut, Baylor, Notre Dame and Stanford.
''Maybe that's just because the committee seeds well,'' said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. ''Maybe they really have a good handle on it.''
It's hard to argue with that theory.
Over the past six seasons, only once has a team seeded 13 or lower been victorious in the tournament - and that came last year when No. 13 Marist upset Georgia. There was the 1998 tournament in which No. 16 Harvard stunned No. 1 seed Stanford 71-67, but the 14s and 15s are a combined 0-152 since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1994.
There is no Florida Gulf Coast, which became the first men's team to reach the regional semifinals Sunday night. The women's talent pool isn't deep enough yet to see that sort of upset happen.
''I watch the men's games and I love it,'' said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey after her team beat Prairie View A&M by 42 points in its opener. ''I don't compare. It's like comparing apples to oranges. The games are different. There's obviously more parity, more guys across the country that can play this game.
''There is more parity in the women's game, but you can't compare it to the men's game. There are so many guys who can flat out play, who can go to schools and can change programs.''
Griner certainly has been a program-changer for Baylor. The 6-foot-8 senior, who is the second all-time leading scorer in NCAA history, had the 15th dunk of her career in the Lady Bears' easy victory.
Delaware needed a huge effort from Delle Donne to advance to the second round. The senior scored 33 points and led a second-half surge that carried the Blue Hens past West Virginia 66-53 on Sunday. Playing on their home floor before a sellout crowd, the sixth-seeded Blue Hens trailed 33-26 at halftime before bouncing back to extend their school-record winning streak to 26 games.
There were 4,532 fans in attendance, most of them clad in blue or yellow and cheering for Delaware. Not only were the parking lots jammed, but several people were pleading to purchase tickets from those waiting to enter the arena.
The Blue Hens did not disappoint.
''To win a game like this in front of our home crowd, which was electric, there's no other way to describe it other than I'm just totally thrilled for my players, this program, for the state of Delaware,'' coach Tina Martin said.
Ever since Delle Donne began playing at Delaware in 2009, interest in the program has soared. It reached its zenith Sunday in what might have been the most important basketball game played in the nation's first state.
''This was actually better than I could have even imagined,'' Delle Donne said. ''Our fans were absolutely crazy. The atmosphere was amazing.''
The game of the weekend though was in New York. Seventh-seeded Dayton outlasted St. John's 96-90 in double-overtime - the first game in the NCAA tournament since 2000 that went that long.
''I'm going to enjoy this win,'' Dayton coach Jim Jabir said. ''I'll be savoring this for a long time. It's one of the most complete games I've been a part of.''
While St. John's fell short of pulling off the upset as a 10-seed, two other 10s did win. Creighton beat Syracuse and South Florida topped Texas Tech by one point in a thrilling game that no one saw the end of.
Viewers watching the final few minutes of the game on ESPN missed the end when the network's feed cut out. A fuse blew in the production truck, according to a statement put out by Texas Tech and the network.
Announcer Cara Capuano called the final 30 seconds over the phone. The feed finally came back after the final buzzer sounded, showing South Florida's cheerleaders celebrating the victory.
The only other lower seeds to win were ninth-ranked Iowa, which won on its home floor against Miami, and Kansas. The 12th-ranked Jayhawks won in Colorado. Despite the seeding, the Jayhawks weren't intimidated by the Buffaloes. After all the two schools had played many times when they were both members of the Big 12.
There is hope that the predictability of the tournament could end in the next round. In three of the past four seasons, at least one of the top eight teams hasn't advanced to the round of 16.
AP Sports Writers David Ginsburg in Newark, Del., and Janie McCauley in Stanford, Calif., contributed to this story.
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