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Dayton Bracket Preview: Who will accompany UConn to the Elite Eight in a bracket full of sleepers?

UConn is not bad for women's basketball.

I would go further than that, but I have always found it difficult to respond to illogical and incoherent assertions.

The "UConn is bad for basketball" argument falls apart the moment someone who never watches women's basketball types word one about it for the first time because of UConn.

That said, I can agree with the premise of the nonsense: UConn is a dominant force and barring something catastrophic, they will remain undefeated and win the 2010 NCAA women's basketball title. 

Just how dominant is UConn?

The statistic that stands out to me is their effective field goal percentage: playing against the 2nd toughest schedule in the nation, the Huskies outshot their opponents with an eFG% of 56.24% to 33.99%. That's quite astounding considering that they've faced some of the best competition the nation has to offer. That they dominate the offensive boards and force a strong turnover differential becomes secondary.

So when looking at the Dayton bracket, the real question is simply who will join UConn in the Elite Eight.

Sleepers: Middle Tennessee State, Princeton, Wisconsin-Green Bay

I'm not exactly sure how this happened, but this bracket is somehow full of sleeper picks, teams that could pull off first round upsets of higher seeds.

  • #10 MTSU is just flat out good, led by the outstanding play of Alysha Clark, so perhaps they are less of a sleeper than just a bad matchup for #7 Mississippi State. In terms of the game itself, the key for MTSU will be their ability to get high percentage shots -- although getting to the free throw line is not necessarily a strength for them, they had a 2pt% of 53.07%, second only to UConn (58.73%) in the region. The other major difference between these two teams is that Middle Tennessee has forced a 24.05% turnover percentage and has the second highest turnover percentage differential in the conference, meaning they take care of the ball relatively well while forcing the opponent into turnovers. 
  • #11 Princeton is similarly poised to upset St. John's University. Sure their strength of schedule is lesser than that of St. John's, but they didn't exactly just eek by -- they handled teams that tournament teams are "supposed to beat" quite well. Their strength is that this team is a very efficient scoring team -- as previously noted by Queenie, they have two players shooting better than 50% from the field and in addition to having an effective field goal percentage of 49.04% as a team, they were also about 11% better than their opponents. Add to that a nearly 7% offensive rebounding edge over their opponents and they have the makings of a very good team.
  • Wisconsin - Green Bay makes this list as much on their own merit as a few of Virginia's weaknesses. First, Virginia had a lower effective field goal percentage than their opponents and Wisconsin - Green Bay's eFG% is the second best in this bracket behind UConn (52.21%). Even with Monica Wright -- ACC Defensive Player of the Year - they'll have to find a way to shut that down. In addition, Wright is responsible for 30.78% of the Cavaliers' statistical production and has a usage rate that approaches 40%...and nobody else even approaches her in either category. Although she's a relatively efficient scorer, creative defensive schemes in a one-and-done situation can stop teams that rely so heavily on one player. Add to that the fact that they're entering the tournament on a bit of a slide and it's a recipe for an upset.

Darkhorse candidate: ???

After looking at this region, I'm not confident that any seed 8 or lower will make it to the Sweet Sixteen. Even if Middle Tennessee wins their first round game, they'd likely have to make it past Ohio State to advance to the round of 16 and that would be a tall task against an Buckeyes team that rebounds relatively well.

Although I recognize that most people questioned whether Green Bay should even make the tournament as an at-large bid, they actually have the shot to make some noise. Lehigh could conceivably upset Iowa State if they get hot and for any reason Alison Lacey isn't 100% coming back from illness. The chances of both Lehigh and Wisconsin - Green Bay pulling upsets? Not impossible, but just not likely.

That said, given the upset potential in this bracket a darkhorse run is certainly possible.

Runner-Up to UConn: Ohio State

In a way, you almost feel sorry for Ohio State for being placed in the same region as UConn. Nevertheless, as one of the most statistically impressive teams in the region it's just difficult to identify who would beat them, even if it just seems too neat to have the 1 and 2 meet in the Elite Eight. In they're two worst losses -- road losses to Indiana and Purdue -- among the things that stand out statistically are there turnovers from their stars: point guard Samantha Prahalis had 5 against Indiana and Jantel Lavender had 8 against Purdue. Of course Prahalis averages 4.0 per game, but if the turnovers come along with poor shooting games (6-18 vs Indiana, 3-13 vs. Purdue) Ohio State will be in trouble. So in other words, they could conceivably choke. But so could anyone...and speculating about when a team chokes is difficult, though probably the most fun part of March Madness.

Transition Points:

  • There is a lot of potential for havoc in this bracket. It will be fun.
  • Back to the UConn argument: I actually invite someone to explain that position to me taking into account the following: 1) the goal of sports is to win games so it's not clear when that suddenly changed, 2) to my knowledge, other collegiate sports have had rivalries and I think there are still modest competitions around for each that a handful of people watch, attend, and actually buy merchandise for, and 3) college players go through this funny ritual every four years or so of dressing up in robes and leaving with a piece of paper after which time most lose NCAA eligibility. The establishment of this primitive ritual might suggest that Tina Charles and Maya Moore have not signed lifetime contracts with the program.

    I would say I'm being sarcastic, but it's a genuine question -- given reality, like the world we actually live in, how is it that UConn is bad for women's basketball?
  • To make bias transparent: I am a University of Michigan alum. I have no interest in seeing Ohio State succeed, in anything.