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Bridgeport regional, first spherical preview

Diamond Battles runs the ground. UCF Athletics photograph.

March Insanity begins with the primary and second rounds on the house court docket of the highest 16 seeds. As the general sixth-best staff within the area, UConn hosts a “pod” in Storrs Saturday and Monday.

The primary sport (1 p.m. ET Saturday) options the Huskies as a No. 2 seed towards No. 15 Mercer, winner of 4 straight Southern Convention titles. A 15-seed has by no means gained within the ladies’s event.

The second contest (3:30 p.m. ET) is an all-Florida affair between No. 7 UCF and No. 10 Florida. The groups have met 26 instances. The Gators, a decrease seed this 12 months and enjoying with out their finest athlete, have gained all of the earlier conferences.

Anticipate UConn to dominate the primary spherical, and win the second spherical handily.

The Knights ought to interrupt the streak with a win over a short-handed and decrease seeded Florida, for the prospect to face the Huskies on Monday.

UConn has defeated UCF in all 11 of their earlier conferences.

The Huskies ought to transfer on to the Bridgeport Regional.

No. 2 College of Connecticut Huskies

Campus: Storrs, Ct

Document: 25-5; 16-1 Large East convention

Coach: Geno Auriemma, thirty seventh season at UConn

How they acquired right here: Large East Event Champions; Large East common season champions

Gamers to Watch: Christyn Williams, 5-11 guard; Olivia Nelson-Ododa, 6-5 ahead; Paige Bueckers, 5-11 guard; Aaliyah Edwards, 6-3 ahead

UConn, after all, is a perennial contender within the NCAAs, although their final (of 11) Nationwide Championships was in 2016 – an eternity to the Husky trustworthy. These followers overlook that 5 years handed between championships one and two.

The staff appeared unusually susceptible for many of this season, as damage and sickness stripped them of their anticipated depth and, in a loss to Louisville, all of its level guards. UConn misplaced at house to an unranked staff for the primary time in over a decade, and even misplaced a convention sport, to a proficient Villanova staff that finally earned a No. 11 seed within the Wichita Area.

That loss appears to have flipped a successful swap for the Huskies. They adopted it with 24 and 14-point wins over event groups DePaul and Creighton. Of their last eight video games earlier than the NCAA Event, UConn’s stifling protection crushed their opponents. Essentially the most factors scored in that stretch was 51. The typical was 40.

Protection led to offense, and so they averaged 81.75 factors throughout that stretch.

Paige Bueckers readies to go. Meg Kelly photograph.

For the final 5 of these video games, the Huskies dressed your entire staff for the primary time this 12 months. Paige Bueckers returned after lacking 19 video games. Though she has performed restricted minutes and has appeared tentative at instances, she was one of the best participant within the nation final season as a freshman. It’s reported that the 10-day relaxation between the Large East and NCAA tournaments have allowed her to get in bodily and emotional form.

If Bueckers can carry out near herself of final 12 months, her addition to a staff already dominating current competitors could possibly be the important thing to a 14th straight journey to the Ultimate 4.

Senior Christyn Williams is enjoying one of the best basketball of her profession, and is poised to shine within the postseason as she did final 12 months. Sophomore Aaliyah Edwards has regained her focus, and has been a dominant defensive and rebounding pressure as she was in final 12 months’s event.

Senior Olivia Nelson-Ododa has been maybe essentially the most constant participant for the final two months, anchoring the protection inside, blocking pictures, and main the staff in assists.

UConn’s 5 losses, essentially the most since 2005, had been all towards event groups. The Huskies additionally gained 9 video games towards groups within the event. UConn has by no means performed Mercer. It’s 2-0 all-time towards Florida, and 11-0 all-time towards UCF.

The final time the Huskies entered the event with 5 losses (2005) was additionally the one different time they performed in a Bridgeport Regional because the No. 2 seed. They misplaced within the Elite Eight that 12 months to No. 4 Duke, in time beyond regulation.

Then again, the one time UConn performed the primary 4 rounds in Connecticut with a Ultimate 4 in Minneapolis, they gained all of it. That was the primary of the eleven, in 1995.

No. 15 Mercer Bears

Campus: Macon, Georgia

Document: 23-6; 13-1 convention

Coach: Susie Gardner, 11th season at Mercer

How they acquired in: Southern Convention Event Winner (4th 12 months straight)

Gamers to look at: Amoria Neal-Tysor, 5-6 guard; Shannon Titus, 6-2 ahead; Jaron Dougherty, 6-2 ahead; Erin Houpt, 5-6 guard

The Bears gained their fourth straight Southern Convention title to achieve the NCAA event. Two seniors, two grad transfers, and a freshman begin for Mercer, however Coach Susie Gardner’s rotation consists of eight gamers. Just one, 6-2 senior Allie Thane, is over six ft tall.

Amoria Neal-Tysor appears to be like up court docket. James Thomas photograph.

Senior Amoria Neal-Tysor has scored 20 or extra factors in 10 video games this season, together with 34, 20, and 26 in three post-season video games. The 5-6 guard hit 40 of 101 three level makes an attempt, and leads the staff in assists.

Freshman guard Erin Houpt is the one different deep risk, taking pictures three quarters of her makes an attempt from past the arc, hitting 41 p.c of them, whereas averaging 9.2 factors per sport.

The forwards, grad Shannon Titus and senior Jaron Dougherty, play above their 6-0 top, averaging 13.4 rebounds and 22.3 factors between them. Titus has grabbed 74 offensive boards this season.

A lot of their scoring comes from mid-range jumpers, and each participant is snug taking them.

Defensively, the Bears enable 56.0 factors per contest, 32nd within the NCAA. They performed simply two NCAA event groups this season, shedding by 15 to Georgia, and by 14 to UCF. They’ve by no means performed their first spherical opponent, No. 2 UConn.

No. 7 College of Central Florida Knights

Campus: Orlando, Florida

Document: 25-3; 14-1 AAC convention

Coach: Katie Abrahamson-Henderson (Fifth season at UCF)

How they acquired in: AAC Event Winner (2nd 12 months straight); common season winner

Gamers to look at:  Diamond Battles,5-8 guard (AAC Participant of the Yr; Defensive Participant of the Yr; Event Most Excellent Participant); Future Thomas, 6-2 ahead; Masseny Kaba, 6-3 ahead; Brittney Smith, 6-3 ahead

UCF is about protection. They lead the nation in scoring protection, permitting simply 47.5 factors per sport. They do it with out fouling, 14th fewest within the nation. The Knights common 11 steals per sport.

Diamond Battles runs the ground. UCF Athletics photograph.

Senior Diamond Battles dominated the AAC this season, selecting up Participant of the Yr and Defensive Participant of the Yr awards. Her 13.7 factors per sport leads her staff, and he or she shot a reputable .356 from past the arc. She is, nevertheless, a “excessive quantity shooter,” connecting on simply 38 p.c of her area purpose makes an attempt.

Senior Future Thomas leads the staff in rebounding with 7.9 per sport. The 6-2 ahead just isn’t a lot of a scorer, nevertheless, taking pictures simply .421 and averaging 5.0 factors per sport.

The publish is anchored by the duo of grad Masseny Kaba and senior Brittney Smith, each 6-3, who common 20 factors and 12 boards mixed.

The Knights performed seven video games towards event groups, defeating Arkansas, Mercer, and South Florida (3 times). They misplaced video games towards Iowa and Tennessee, however by solely eight factors every. In these seven video games, solely Iowa (61 factors) scored greater than 55 factors.

UCF has confronted Florida 26 instances, and by no means gained. This 12 months might break that streak.

No. 10 College of Florida Gators

Campus: Gainesville, Florida

Document: 20-10; 10-6 SEC convention

Coach: Kelly Rae Finley, first season

How they acquired right here: At massive choice; misplaced in SEC quarterfinals to Mississippi

Gamers to Watch: Zippy Broughton, 5-7 guard (10.5 PPG); Jordyn Merritt, 6-3 ahead; Nina Rickards, 5-9 guard

Florida returns to the NCAA event for the primary time since 2016, after they misplaced within the first spherical. Coach Kelly Rae Finley – a Naismith Coach of the Yr finalist – turned the Gators right into a contender, enjoying an energetic, robust, and defensive-minded model of basketball, and successful essentially the most SEC video games in years.

Florida’s event hopes had been significantly broken when guard Kiki Smith suffered a season-ending knee damage within the SEC event first spherical. The grad pupil led all of them season in factors, assists, and steals, and was an in depth second in rebounds.

With out the engine that saved their high-energy staff operating, Florida should regroup with little time to arrange. Senior switch Zippy Broughton, who has scored in double figures in 13 of the final 14 video games, together with 26 within the quarterfinal loss to Vanderbilt, is the following apparent chief. A participant with fast fingers on protection, and fast ft to the rim, Broughton was the Gator’s second main scorer and second most frequent shooter, however might want to enhance on her 36 p.c taking pictures (.310 from three).

Jodryn Merritt runs the play. Tim Casey/UAA Communications.

Florida play 9 deep, now eight, so Broughton and her teammates will all want profession video games if they’re to advance. Jordyn Merritt, who averaged 10.7 factors and 5.2 boards in 22 minutes, will possible play way more. She is one of the best three-point shooter on the staff, at 41 p.c, although she averaged just below 3 makes an attempt a sport.

Florida performed 9 video games towards event groups, defeating Tennessee, Arkansas, Dayton, Kentucky, and LSU. They misplaced to LSU, twice to Georgia, to NC State, and to South Carolina.

They’ve defeated first-round opponent UCF in all 26 earlier contests.

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