The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are the reigning and defending national champions. Last year, they were able to show grit and determination in getting to the title game. This season, with the addition of Brianna Turner, Notre Dame is back as a one-seed in the Women’s NCAA Tournament. The Chicago Region will have some suspense and fascination with teams such as Iowa State, Stanford and Texas A&M.
There some great first round matchups. With analysts and experts wondering if Notre Dame can maneuver through and repeat as national champions, there’s plenty of stories to follow.
Chicago Regional Winner: Notre Dame
The prediction of Notre Dame winning the Chicago Region comes as no surprise. The core of Arike Aogunbowale, Jessica Shepard, Brianna Turner and Jackie Young poses a threat to any team. Head coach Muffet McGraw has a high-powered offense that is very efficient (51.9% FG) and controls the pace.
Notre Dame is coming into this tournament red hot, winning 18 of its last 20 games. The Fighting Irish will have to find a way to navigate the harsh waters of the Chicago Region. There are high caliber potential matchups in this region. With possible matchups against Texas A&M, Iowa State and Stanford, a difficult voyage likely awaits. Each of those teams feature future WNBA talent on the roster. Bridget Carleton (ISU), Chennedy Carter (TX-A&M), and Alanna Smith (STAN) will all be looking to make Notre Dame’s trip difficult.
If the Fighting Irish can survive and advance, it should be a no-brainer to see this team possibly repeat as national champions.
#5 Marquette vs #12 Rice
The Rice Owls are coming into the NCAA Tournament looking to go far. Erica Ogwunmike has been sensational and looks to continue her run. The Conference USA Player of the Year is a phenomenal year, averaging 16.3 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists. The Owls are going to need more Ogwunmike and Nancy Mulkey to get past the Marquette Golden Eagles. Natisha Hiedeman and Allazia Blockton will be crucial in Marquette’s tournament run. Marquette is a strong offense. Regardless of who is playing them, head coach Carolyn Kieger will have this team.
#8 Central Michigan vs #9 Michigan State
This is a matchup of great coaches playing chess with each other. Suzy Merchant and Sue Guevara will be making game adjustments against each other all game long. This is not just a great game in terms of the head coaches. This game will feature two dynamite players who will have a tremendous impact on the game.
First, Jenna Allen of Michigan State is a matchup nightmare for opposing post players. She averages 12.6 points per game this season and she can spread defenses out beyond the arc. As for Central Michigan, Reyna Frost is an unbelievable scorer at the guard position. The MAC Player of the Year can be a problem for the opposition because she creates plays for others and can take over a game. Whoever can control the other’s star player should be able to pull out a victory.
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