NCAA women's basketball tournament Sweet 16 predictions: Ball control key to pulling an upset

USA TODAY Sports

The Bridgeport region kicks off Sweet 16 play, featuring Delaware's Elena Delle Donne who's looking to carry her team once again in an attempt to make the Final Four.

On first glance, upsets might seem unlikely in the Bridgeport region.

With the Connecticut Huskies playing in their home state, it seems that they'll get little resistance in trying to make yet another run to the Final Four.

And the numbers, for whatever they're worth in the midst of March Madness, support that.

Team Sagarin predictor
NSR Sweet 16 odds
#1 Connecticut 109.89 72.69%
#4 Maryland 95.78 16..91%

Team
Sagarin predictor
NSR Sweet 16 odds
#2 Kentucky
96.23
56.71%
#6 Delaware
87.67
11.98%

Click here for NSR odds and here for Sagarin predictors.

But part of what makes the tournament special is that heroes can be made or reinforced. And Bridgeport would certainly require heroics for an upset to occur.

In both Delaware and Maryland's cases, neither should be expected to win but both have a star wing who could make all the difference: Elena Delle Donne for the Blue Hens and Alyssa Thomas for the Terrapins.

For Maryland, Connecticut's defense may simply be too much for them to handle: their well-documented turnover problems that have plagued them throughout the season aren't suddenly like to be put on hold against UConn in Bridgeport. Even if Thomas had a heroic effort – including keeping her own turnovers to a minimum – it will be difficult to prevent a big UConn win.

There could be a similar story for Delaware who will face an athletic Kentucky squad that loves to keep the pressure up by making five player line changes early in the game. Similar to Maryland, the question for Delaware will be how well their guards control the ball in the face of pressure. But Delle Donne also poses a much larger problem to Kentucky than Thomas does to UConn: she's a matchup nightmare and really the only hope for opponents is to contain her, something North Carolina wasn't able to do in the previous round.

In all likelihood, we won't see an upset today: Delaware would need someone in addition to Delle Donne to step up big to win against Kentucky's defense and Maryland's guards would have to have among the best games of their season to pull off a win against UConn. But the reason to watch is for the potential for the two stars – and let's not forget WNBA prospect Tianna Hawkins – to step up.

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