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NCAAW Tournament Preview: Stanford and others hope to spoil Notre Dame’s repeat hopes in the Chicago region

Stanford, DePaul and Marquette may stand in the way of a repeat for the defending Fighting Irish.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament - Louisville vs Notre Dame
Arike Ogunbowale and the Fighting Irish have their work cut out for them in the Chicago section as they defend their NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament title.
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

On April 1, 2018, Notre Dame hoisted the NCAA Championship trophy after a game-winning dagger by Arike Ogunbowale, which forced the Fighting Irish’s defeat of Mississippi State, 61-58. This year, Notre Dame finds itself as a No. 1 seed again, with the Fighting Irish opening the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament against Bethune-Cookman.

The Chicago region is filled with tough matchups and potential upset alerts. Although, Notre Dame holds the championship crown, there is no guarantee that the defending champions will repeat given the field of competition.

The Chicago region provides plenty of threats for Notre Dame as the Irish defend their title. Teams like Stanford, Iowa State, Marquette, Texas A&M and DePaul all could thwart Notre Dame’s title defense.

Chicago region

No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 16 Bethune-Cookman

When Bethune-Cookman takes on Notre Dame in the opening round of the tournament, the defending champion Notre Dame will cruise through the first round by taking advantage of Bethune-Cookman’s inexperience. Notre Dame’s veteran core in Arike Ogunbowale, Jessica Shepard and Jackie Young average a combined 52.3 points per game which will be too much for Bethune-Cookman to handle.

No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 15 UC Davis

UC Davis will return to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament for the first time since 2011 — but the team’s luck will run out against No. 2 Stanford, which comes into the tournament averaging 74.8 points per game compared to UC Davis’s 71.4. UC Davis will lose in the opening round due to the lack of offensive firepower and the fact that Morgan Bertsch (23.5 points per game) has to carry the team on offense, with little help.

No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 14 New Mexico State

Brooke Salas (19.1 points per game) and Gia Pack (17 points per game) have led New Mexico State all season. But they won’t make it past the first round against Iowa State. Iowa State’s Bridget Carleton is solid on both ends of the floor and shoots 36.2 percent from three-point range, while the rest of the team contributes consistently on the offensive side of the floor. The offensive strength of Iowa State will make them too much for New Mexico State to defend.

No. 4 Texas A&M vs. No. 13 Wright State

Texas A&M will steamroll through the first round against Wright State with their high-powered offense averaging 68.7 points per game. Wright State will struggle against Texas A&M because of their lack of scoring and offensive presence. The Aggies have four players who average 12 or more points per game, compared to Wright State which only has two players that average 11 points per game.

No. 5 Marquette vs. No. 12 Rice

Although Rice will enter the NCAA Tournament as the 12th seed against Marquette, the two teams match up evenly. Marquette (37.6 percent) and Rice (35.9 percent) shoot the three-ball with high efficiency, which will factor into this opening round matchup. But the outcome of this game will be a tossup because of the balanced attack on both sides. Both teams move the ball well and have solid starting lineups and bench players.

No. 6 DePaul vs. No. 11 Missouri State

DePaul is entering the tournament off a Big East Championship win against Marquette. Missouri State will struggle against this DePaul team, which locks down on defense and takes advantage of turnovers. DePaul’s trio in Mart’e Grays (14.6 points per game), Chante Stonewall (14.2 points per game) and Ashton Millender (12.9 points per game) will be too much to handle for a Missouri State squad that only has one player who averages 12.9 points or more per game: Danielle Gitzen.

No. 7 BYU vs. No. 10 Auburn

Auburn may be the lower seed in this matchup but its depth will present issues for No. 7 BYU, which struggles to get point production out of its bench. Auburn is quick on the defensive side of the ball and forces teams to take bad shots. Additionally, Tigers’ bench produces on the offensive end of the floor at a high volume and BYU will not be able to score enough points to keep up.

No. 8 Central Michigan vs. No. 9 Michigan State

Central Michigan and Michigan State will face off in the opening round with a 50-50 chance of advancing to the second round. This matchup is a tossup because of each team’s solid starting lineups and bench depth. Both Central Michigan (40.7 rebounds per game) and Michigan State (38.4 rebounds per game) take care of the basketball and extend their possessions by rebounding at a high rate. But this game will come down to the starting lineup and three-point shooting.

Game information

The 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament tips off Friday! The dates and viewing information for the first two rounds are provided below. Return to Swish Appeal for previews and recaps of each day of tournament action. The previews will include individual game times.

First round

When: Friday, March 22; Saturday, March 23

Where: Campus sites (teams seeded 1-4 host)

How to watch: ESPN2, WatchESPN

Second round

When: Sunday, March 24; Monday, March 25

Where: Campus sites (teams seeded 1-4 host)

How to watch: ESPN, ESPN2, WatchESPN