We're down to the final sixteen teams in the women's college basketball tournament (a Sweet Sixteen, one might say), and the Sioux Fall bracket has some heavy hitters remaining.
The first, third, fourth and seventh seeds fill out the bracket; the Sioux Falls second seed was Arizona, who got bumped by the seventh seed Tennessee, and the fifth seed was Florida was knocked out by the twelfth seed Albany, who got kicked by Tennessee. The sixth seed West Virginia got dropped by the third seed Ohio State.
Having now told you the information you could've easily Googled for yourself, let's get into the matchups, and see what we can shake out.
South Carolina (1) v. Syracuse (4)
It's hard not to be impressed by the run Syracuse has had. You don't make it to the Sweet Sixteen without playing very good basketball. However, it's also fair to recognize the easier road they took, especially when compared to the one they might've had to take.
The twelfth seed Albany knocking out five seed Florida was a big break for them. It's not a guarantee that Florida would've beaten them, but it's worth noting that Florida played a noticeably tougher schedule than Syracuse only to be beaten by three points by Albany, who played one of the worst in the country. It's concerning for Syracuse, is what I'm rambling on about.
South Carolina is an excellent one seed. They have the sixth-best scoring margin in the country, at 18.7 points per game, and also have shot the most free throws at 820, which averages to 24 per game.
They do struggle making those free throws, however, making only 66.7% of those shots, which ranks 258th in the nation. Both Syracuse and South Carolina have comparable offenses and close to similar defenses, but what really separates South Carolina from Syracuse is the strength of schedule. South Carolina played the 11th toughest schedule, while Syracuse played the 45th.
I think it's pretty clear where I'm going here. It wouldn't be a massive upset if Syracuse were to beat South Carolina, but it would be very surprising. South Carolina, by most metrics, appears to be the much better team.
PREDICTION: South Carolina (1)
Ohio State (3) v. Tennessee (7)
Tennessee has had a down year, at least by its own legendary standards. Being the seventh seed is not the biggest vote of confidence when it comes to advancing. Tennessee also has mediocre to bad stats, like 139th, ranked offense and the shooting 107th most free throws.
Tennessee also commits 17 fouls per game, and makes just under 71% of it's free throws. All of its stats are bad. The only average to good stat they have is the 47th ranked defense, at 58.1 points per game.
Ohio State, meanwhile, is kicking ass in everything but defense. The Buckeyes have one of the worst defenses in the country, giving up 74.5 points per game, which ranks 328th. But they have a top three offense, ranking third at 86.8 points per game. They shoot free throws well, and they don't give up a ton of fouls. Ohio State is just the better team.
Two things gives me pause: the 4th ranked schedule Tennessee has played, and the bad defense of Ohio State. However, I don't think Tennessee has enough offense to really seal the deal. Were they perhaps five points more prolific, I would be able to talk myself into picking Tennessee over Ohio State. But that 65 points per game just looms too large.
PREDICTION: Ohio State (3)
My dark horse for this region is Tennessee. I think that, for the schedule they have played, they've done an incredible job getting this far. They could beat Ohio State, and I very much want to pick them. However, I don't have the guts to do so.
But Tennessee, if you end up reading this (I know you aren't, but still), I do believe in you. Just not publicly, because I am a coward.