Eight teams have already punched their tickets to Albany and Portland for the Super Regionals.

South Carolina, after only managing a close road win over the Tar Heels earlier this season, rolled to an 88-41 second-round victory against North Carolina with the majority of its starting five receiving some rest. Reserves such as MiLaysia Fulwiley, Tessa Johnson and Chloe Kitts took center stage against the Tar Heels, combining for 43 points.

Elsewhere, the Pac-12 continued to make the most of its swan song. No. 5 seed Colorado beat No. 4 seed Kansas State, No. 3 seed Oregon State took down No. 6 seed Nebraska and No. 2 seed Stanford beat No. 7 seed Iowa State in an overtime thriller. The conference now waits on USC, UCLA and Utah — who all play on Monday — to see if the Pac-12 can own six spots in the Sweet 16, with Arizona as the lone conference team that didn’t advance to the third round of the tournament.

Here’s what else you need to know from a jam-packed Sunday of women’s March Madness.

What’s next for Virginia Tech after unfair ending?

On Feb. 29, the Hokies were celebrating an outright ACC regular-season title, the first such crown in program history, and were riding a 10-game winning streak. A repeat run to the Final Four wasn’t the expectation but seemed fully plausible for a team led by the veteran duo of Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore.

Instead, Virginia Tech was defeated by Notre Dame that night, and the biggest loss came three days later when Kitley tore her ACL in the regular-season finale. Although Kitley got to play in her senior night at home, she didn’t get to play in her final ACC tournament or the final two games at Cassell Coliseum, a place that became raucous enough to host a College GameDay because of the consistent brilliance of Kitley through her five years in Blacksburg.

Without Kitley, the fourth-seeded Hokies couldn’t quite get back to the Final Four, losing 75-72 in the second round at home to No. 5 seed Baylor, led by a career-best performance from junior guard Jada Walker. Kitley could only offer encouragement to her teammates from the sideline. Fellow fifth-year Cayla King’s last act as a Hokie was fouling out to extend the game after chasing Walker for 10 seconds. Amoore is undecided on whether she will return; if she leaves, her last shot was an over-the-head behind-the-back 3-point attempt as time expired. There are rumors that coach Kenny Brooks is a candidate for the opening at Kentucky. Perhaps the sideline architect of Virginia Tech’s turnaround has also ended his career in Blacksburg.

But even in defeat, there is hope for what is to come for Hokies basketball. The program won its first two ACC titles in back-to-back seasons and welcomed a talented freshman class in 2023. Center Clara Strack, who Kitley and Amoore called the future of Virginia Tech on The Athletic Women’s Basketball Show, stepped into that role sooner than expected. Strack scored 17 points on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting night Friday and followed up with 18 points and 10 rebounds Sunday. The Hokies were plus-eight with her on the court, the best of any player.


Women’s NCAA Tournament power rankings: Why LSU drops in our list of title contenders

Carleigh Wenzel and Carys Baker had flashes of excellence throughout the season, and ace shooter Matilda Ekh — who led the Hokies with 19 points against the Bears — has another year of eligibility for Virginia Tech.

Kitley not getting to end her career on the court is unfair for the program’s all-time leader and one of the best players in ACC history. But the foundation of what she built in Blacksburg remains for Strack and others to improve upon. Their efforts against Baylor will be the origin story for what could be another great chapter in Hokies lore.

— Sabreena Merchant

What will Ohio State look like next season?

This was supposed to be the Ohio State team that made the first Final Four since 1993 after losing in the Elite Eight last season.

Kevin McGuff retooled this season’s roster, after losing standout guard Taylor Mikesell, with another star in Duke transfer Celeste Taylor. He added depth in the post with Michigan State transfer Taiyier Parks, as well.

Last season’s inconsistencies were obvious. The press worked well, but the half-court defense was subpar and the Buckeyes also struggled on the boards. The addition of Taylor helped on defense. For much of the season, Ohio State looked like a complete team, one that could make a Final Four run.

Its defense was much better, in the press and half court. The rebounding struggles were still there, at times, but it made up for that with efficiency on offense and forcing turnovers.



Duke upsets Ohio State in women’s NCAA Tournament

In the first 15 minutes of Sunday’s 75-63 loss to Duke, Ohio State looked like its best self. It jumped out to a 16-point lead, forced 8 turnovers and had balanced scoring among its playmakers. Duke went more than 11 minutes between field goals. Then the Blue Devils figured out the press, and Reigan Richardson got hot and couldn’t be stopped en route to 28 points.

Offensively, Ohio State’s balance had been a strength all season, but it became one-dimensional against Duke. Cotie McMahon scored 27 points, but the Buckeyes made just 1 of 11 shots from deep. The 11 3-point attempts were the second-lowest mark this season after averaging 20 attempts per game.

“We’re usually at our best when we’re really balanced with what we’re doing, throwing the ball inside, driving it, getting to the free-throw line, and getting 3s,” McGuff said. “We just didn’t get enough balance in what we were doing today.”

Now, Ohio State has to reshape a major part of its roster.

Jacy Sheldon’s illustrious Ohio State career is over with more than 2,000 career points. Taylor’s career is over, as well. Parks is done, along with starting forward Rebekah Mikulášiková. Ohio State is losing three of its starters, and key bench player Rikki Harris hasn’t made a decision about if she’ll be returning or not.

Still, that’s a lot of production gone for the Buckeyes.

McGuff has some talent on the bench and a strong class coming in with three top-100 recruits led by the No. 3 recruit, guard Jeloni Cambridge. Next season’s squad will be led by McMahon, who will be one of the best players in the Big Ten and a potential preseason All-American. Mix her with Taylor Thierry and the Buckeyes have a good one-two combo, but McGuff will have to hit the transfer portal to retool this roster, especially in the post, to prepare for another run.

There was a feeling in the Ohio State locker room that it let a big chance slip by. “I feel like we’re leaving here with a lot of regrets, and that’s not what we wanted to do,” McMahon said.

— Cameron Teague Robinson

Did Kamilla Cardoso play her final game at CLA?

Most of the potential first-round WNBA Draft picks with eligibility remaining have already announced whether they intend to return for another year of college hoops or head to the next level. (Going pro: Caitlin Clark, Aaliyah Edwards, Cam Brink. Returning to college: Paige Bueckers.) But we’re still waiting on announcements from a few potential first-rounders including South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso.

She participated in the Gamecocks’ senior day earlier this season but could opt to return for another season in Columbia. However, she appeared quite emotional before South Carolina’s second-round game against North Carolina, wiping away tears during her starting announcement.

“Even though I’m undecided, it was like, ‘Wow, what if this is my last game?’ ” Cardoso told The State. “It was just emotional.”

She leads the Gamecocks in scoring (13.9 points) and rebounding (9.5 points) this season. In the most recent WNBA mock draft on The Athletic, Sabreena Merchant listed Cardoso as the No. 4 pick, heading to Los Angeles.



WNBA Mock Draft: Where will Angel Reese land? Who will be picked after Caitlin Clark?

— Chantel Jennings

If Iowa advances, can Colorado pull off another upset?

In the second half of Colorado’s win over Kansas State on Sunday, the Buffaloes’ defense stiffened. It allowed only 15 points, with its frontcourt of Quay Miller and Aaronette Vonleh holding star Wildcats center Ayoka Lee to 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting. After picking up a 63-50 win, the Buffaloes are on to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year.

Come next week, Colorado could find itself playing Iowa in the Albany 2 Region. The Hawkeyes first need to advance past West Virginia on Monday night, but if they do, they would meet the Buffaloes for the second straight March in the Sweet 16.

In last season’s meeting, the teams were evenly matched throughout the first 20 minutes. The Buffaloes led by a point at halftime, but a 15-2 Iowa run in the first five minutes of the second half provided a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Still, there are plenty of reasons Colorado should enter the next round with confidence, if Iowa is its next opponent.

Last season, the Hawkeyes struggled to keep Colorado off the offensive glass, with the Buffaloes rebounding 45.7 percent of their misses. (Vonleh and Miller had four offensive rebounds each.) The Buffaloes should again have a frontcourt advantage.

Colorado added 18 fastbreak points and 16 points off turnovers. Had it shot better than its 57.7 percent from around the rim and 20 percent from the rest of the paint, it likely would have had a legitimate chance to pull off the upset.

The Buffaloes offense, in particular, made significant improvement from last season, with transfer Maddie Nolan (a 44.3 percent 3-point shooter) providing an extra lift from the perimeter. Guard Jaylyn Sherrod opened last season’s matchup defending Caitlin Clark, who scored 31 points in the victory, but three others also took turns as Clark’s primary defenders. “I remember watching Colorado last year in the Sweet 16 game, and I was like, wow, the toughness and the tenacity … that they play with on defense is amazing,” Nolan said on Sunday. “And that’s going to win a lot of games and get you far, especially in a tournament like that.”

Though guard Frida Formann scored only 9 points on Sunday, it wouldn’t be shocking to see her replicate her success from last season’s Sweet 16. In the 10-point loss to Iowa, she scored 21 points in only 29 minutes. -Ben Pickman

Several different players have shouldered more for LSU at different times in the season, but on Sunday, while Middle Tennessee was just refusing to go away in the second-round matchup, it was Flau’jae Johnson who stepped up. The sophomore finished with a game-high 21 points (while shooting 60 percent from the floor), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal.

With LSU trailing by 4 at halftime, Johnson’s performance helped spur an historic comeback. The Tigers’ 27-point win was the largest margin of victory in NCAA Tournament history for any team that had trailed at the half.

“She’s done a great job to transition from her freshman to sophomore year,” Angel Reese said. “She usually guards the best player on the team. … She took accountability and just being able to get down and give us a lot of energy.”

Johnson showing this kind of leadership on the floor (as well as an attention to detail with the scouting report, which she credited to film sessions with associate head coach Bob Starkey) only makes the Tigers’ multi-pronged attack that much more dangerous.

And, just for a mic drop before Jonson left the postgame news conference, she reminded folks to go listen to her new song “AMF (Ain’t My Fault).”



What do March Madness stars listen to before tip-off? 13 players and coaches share their mixtapes

— Chantel Jennings

What are we excited to watch on Monday?

By Monday night, we’ll have our Sweet 16 field, and teams will be preparing for games in Portland and Albany. Here are three second-round games our reporters are excited to watch as the field continues to narrow.

No. 6 Tennessee vs. No. 3 NC State | 4 p.m. ET | ESPN

The Lady Vols arguably have the highest ceiling in the country, but they so rarely reach that peak. Often, they follow up superlative efforts with letdowns, which begs the question: Which version of Tennessee will show up after a 29-point beatdown of Green Bay in the first round?

In theory, the Wolfpack don’t have anyone who can guard Rickea Jackson, who has averaged 18 points per game in her NCAA Tournament career. Then again, most opponents don’t, but the Vols still have 12 losses on the year. How their smaller backcourt deals with Saniya Rivers and Aziaha James is just as big of a mismatch concern as Madison Hayes and Mimi Collins dealing with Jackson. Each team really needs a win to avoid having its season categorized as a disappointment, and these are two offenses that will put up a lot of points in the process, which makes for a fun matchup. — Merchant

No. 6 Syracuse vs. No. 3 UConn | 6 p.m. ET | ESPN

Two of the nation’s top guards will face off in Storrs as Syracuse’ Dyaisha Fair looks to lead the Orange to an upset victory over Paige Bueckers and the Huskies. Fair scored every point in an 11-0 run that gave Syracuse a late lead in its first-round win over Arizona, and she finished with a game-high 32 points. She is only 11 points away from passing Jackie Stiles for fourth on the all-time NCAA women’s Division I scoring list. The Orange will be appearing in their first NCAA Tournament since 2021 and are looking to make their first Sweet 16 since 2016.

In their way is Bueckers, who averages 21.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Though she likely won’t be the primary defender on Fair — that assignment likely will go to guard Nika Mühl — Bueckers’ ability to guard multiple positions is integral to UConn’s top-five defense. She also has scored more than 20 points in five of her 10 NCAA Tournament appearances. Can she do it again as the Huskies seek their 30th consecutive Sweet 16? — Pickman

No. 6 West Virginia vs. No. 1 Iowa | 8 p.m. ET | ESPN

West Virginia runs an aggressive, pressing defense that leads power conference teams in steals (13.8 per game) and forced turnovers (23.9 per game). Iowa might have the best offensive player in the country but beating that press takes more than one player, so the Hawkeyes are going to need to be on. (It would be very helpful for Iowa if veteran guard Molly Davis, who suffered a knee injury during the regular-season finale, can play on Monday). Iowa will have the backing of 15,000 fans who will be witnessing the final home games of Caitlin Clark, Kate Martin, Gabbie Marshall, Davis and Sharon Goodman so that’ll be quite the sixth player, but keeping their cool will be key for the Hawkeyes. “They’re one of those teams that really feeds off of turnovers,” Clark said. “One turnover can turn into five for a team.” — Jennings

(Photo of Georgia Amoore: Greg Fiume / NCAA Photos via Getty Images)



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