Women's tournament winners, losers: Not chaos. You want unpredictability? Go watch men's Final Four.
The upsets of top-seeded Stanford and Indiana were fun and all, and the double-digit comebacks that shook up the early rounds were wildly entertaining.
If chaos is what you want in your Final Four, however, you’re going to have to watch the NCAA men’s tournament. Even accounting for Virginia Tech reaching the national semifinals for the first time, there are no wild cards left in the women’s bracket.
While the lowest seed left in the men’s tournament is No. 4 UConn, the highest in the women’s tournament is a No. 3. The defending national champion South Carolina is still alive. LSU hasn’t won a title in its previous five trips to the Final Four, but coach Kim Mulkey has. Three, in fact, when she was coaching Baylor.
And Iowa has Caitlin Clark, the front runner for national player of the year, and a starting five that has been together for the last 90 games, most in the NCAA in 20 years.
So no, not exactly a lineup that makes you scratch your head or do a double take and ask how in the world they made it to the Final Four. (Yeah, Florida Atlantic, we are talking about you.) Whatever surprises the women’s tournament had in store already happened.
That doesn’t mean the Final Four will be lacking for drama or intrigue. No team has defended its title since UConn won the last of four in a row in 2016. A women’s coach has never won titles with different programs. The Big Ten won its only national title last century.
There’s going to be plenty to see. Who cares if it isn’t a roller coaster of chaos?
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Here’s a look at the other winners and losers from the Elite Eight:
The SEC will take your apologies now.
Dissed at the beginning of the season for being “down,” for being South Carolina and not much else, the SEC will have two of the Final Four teams. The defending champion Gamecocks are joining LSU in Dallas after dismantling Maryland on Monday night.
“Two. That’s 50% last time I checked,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. “What is down? We had seven make (the tournament), four of the seven made it to the Sweet 16. How down is that?”
The ACC (Virginia Tech) and the Big Ten (Iowa) have the other two Final Fours.
With the 84-74 win over Ohio State, Brooks becomes just the second Black male coach to lead a team to the women's Final Four since the NCAA Tournament expanded in 1994. (The other was former Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman, who led the Orange to the 2016 Final Four.)
Brooks, now in his seventh year, came to Blacksburg after 14 seasons at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. In his final 11 years at JMU, Brooks won at least 24 games per season including three consecutive CAA championships (2014-2016).
The Hokies were upset last year by 12th-seeded FGCU. This year, after cruising through the ACC Tournament they earned the first No. 1 seed in school history. As one of the few Black male head coaches in women's college hoops, Brooks understands his success resonates with many people who look like him.
“Everything I am doing, I’m doing for myself, my program, for our university,” Brooks said before Virginia Tech defeated Tennessee in the Sweet 16. “I do it for people who look like me. There are a lot of great male Black coaches who deserve an opportunity. If they can see what I’ve done and it inspires them to give another Black male an opportunity. then I’ve done my job.”
Super regional format
It’s an understatement to say the new regional format, with games in two sites instead of four, was a hit.
Part of the thinking in centralizing the regional games was to bolster attendance. It worked, to say the least.
Attendance across the four days in Greenville and Seattle totaled a record 82,275 fans, an average of 10,659 per session. That shattered the previous record of 73,954 total fans for the regional round, set in 2003.
Out of the eight sessions, five drew 10,000 or more fans.
The super regional format will continue next year, with Portland, Oregon, and Albany, New York, set to host. In 2025 it'll be Birmingham and Spokane and in 2026, Sacramento and Fort Worth are scheduled to host.
LSU’s point guard is returning home in style.
Morris’ career has taken her to many places – she started at Baylor, transferred first to Rutgers and then to Texas A&M before landing at LSU last season – but she knew where she was going to finish it. Or hoped to, anyway.
The Beaumont, Texas, native said after LSU’s last regular-season home game last month that she didn’t need a Senior Night because she planned to have hers in her home state. Morris made good on her word, finishing with a team-high 21 points, four steals, two rebounds and two assists in LSU’s 54-42 win that earned the Tigers a trip to the Final Four.
“I'm heading to Dallas. I'm ending my senior night where I wanted it to be. Hopefully we can go cut nets in Dallas,” Morris said.
“At one point when I left Rutgers, I wasn't even going to play basketball anymore. So this moment is literally everything to me.”
Somewhere there's a guy in his basement jumping on social media to rant about how nobody cares about women's sports.
Your loss, dude.
If you can't appreciate Caitlin Clark pulling up from the logo or Aliyah Boston swatting an opponent's shot attempt into the third row or Angel Reese snatching someone's soul along with a rebound or Elizabeth Kitley's feathery touch around the rim, then you really don't like basketball — women's or otherwise.
Truth is, women's basketball is getting better and more popular every year, and another terrific NCAA Tournament will only help grow the game more.
Miami and Louisville both turned their seasons around this month. Louisville, which had dropped out of the Top 25 before Christmas never to return, reached the final of the ACC tournament then got to the Elite Eight. Miami lost three of its last four in the regular season only to top-seeded Indiana in the second round, handing the Hoosiers their only loss at home this year.
But both drew tough opponents in the Elite Eight, and it proved to be too big a test.
“Even though we didn't get the outcome we wanted tonight, we've had a hell of a season,” Louisville’s Mykasa Robinson said. “And people can say we didn't, but we know what it is here at Louisville, so I'm just super proud of this team.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Women's NCAA Tournament winners: 'Down' SEC, super regional format