2012 Women's Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 Predictions: Raleigh Bracket

One of the more intriguing potential Elite 8 matchups when looking ahead in the tournament was the Maryland Terrapins - Notre Dame Fighting Irish pairing that could occur in the Raleigh Bracket.

However, the Terrapins will have to make it past the tough defense of the Texas A&M Aggies before that happens and it could be a tough pairing for the ACC Tournament champions.

#3 Texas A&M Aggies vs. #2 Maryland Terrapins

What makes this matchup so interesting for Maryland - and their chances at advancing to the Final Four - so interesting is that they turn the ball over at a higher rate than their opponents. Unsurprisingly, they lost the turnover battle in all four of their losses this season, including the upset loss to Virginia Tech in which turnovers were the only one of the Four Factors they lost. The flip side of that, of course, is that the Terps also lost the turnovers in many of their wins, including their second round win against Louisville.

That brings us to their matchup with Texas A&M, one of the few teams in the nation for which creating turnovers is their greatest strength. The Aggies clearly have the personnel to force turnovers around the perimeter and the size to clog up the interior and force turnovers in the post. But it's very possible that turnovers will just be something that the Terrapins live with, as they have all season.

As long as the Terrapins can manage their turnovers reasonably well, this game might be decided by who wins the rebounding battle. The Terrapins on one of the most dominant rebounding teams in the nation, ranking fourth in the nation in rebounding percentage.

What makes Maryland unique is not only that they're a good rebounding team, but that they're a deep rebounding team with even post players that come off the bench for limited minutes being strong rebounders. And while Tianna Hawkins leads the team with 9.3 rebounds per game, sophomore guard Alyssa Thomas is second on the team with 8.0 per game. Clearly Texas A&M can rebound, but there are few teams in the nation built like this Terrapins team.

Ultimately, the question for this game is how much the turnovers bother the Terrapins and how close the Aggies can stay on the boards.

#5 Saint Bonaventure Bonnies vs. #1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

St. Bonaventure has had an outstanding season and has played great basketball in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. But they don't match up well with Notre Dame.

Both Marist and Dayton (in the A-10 championship game) have won the turnover battle with the Bonnies by a significant margin and Notre Dame is a team that is top 10 in the nation in forcing turnovers. On the other end of the floor, the question is how the Bonnies will contain the likes of Skylar Diggins who can distribute and score off the drive and Natalie Novosel from mid- and long-range in addition getting to the free throw line. With Kayla McBride also scoring well recently, Notre Dame might just be a bit too much for the Bonnies to handle.

Predictions

Texas A&M def. Maryland

Notre Dame def. St. Bonaventure

Elite Eight

Notre Dame def. Texas A&M

Well, although Maryland vs. Notre Dame is an exciting matchup, the national media will obviously love the narrative of a 2011 national championship rematch given how close things were last season. And although Texas A&M is obviously a very good team this year, Notre Dame returned their core while Texas A&M suffered obvious losses that have not necessarily been offset by the addition Kelsey Bone.

Whereas the turnover battle could take center stage for the Aggies against Maryland, that strength could be harder to leverage against a Notre Dame team that forces quite a few turnovers themselves and doesn't squander the turnovers that Maryland does. And although the Fighting Irish don't have quite the rebounding depth that the Terrapins have, they're still a top 10 rebounding team in the nation by percentage.

The Aggies would need a particularly strong game inside from Kelsey Bone to pull this one off, but Notre Dame's ability to mix in a number of defensive schemes might make the biggest difference for them in denying Bone from taking a starring role in the game.

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