After being disfigured by the No. 1 seeds in last year’s Sweet Sixteen, this year’s three-headed, four-seeded monster of Texas A&M, Oregon State and South Carolina has the potential to shake up some brackets.
Being a four-seed team hasn’t been full of sunshine and rainbows, especially in the last four years. In the 2015, 2017 and 2018 postseasons, for instance, the four-seeds all lost in the Sweet Sixteen.
There were some good times to be had, though, as four-seeds Maryland and North Carolina demonstrated in 2014, defeating one-seeds Tennessee and South Carolina. Then, Stanford and Syracuse claimed No. 1 seeds Notre Dame and South Carolina as victims when they were No. 4 seeds back in 2016. As far as who of those four teams would advance the furthest, Maryland (who lost to Notre Dame in the 2014 Final Four) and Syracuse (who lost to UConn in the 2016 national championship) own those bragging rights.
But in this decade, the No. 4 seeds have been on the outside looking in with a 7-13 record against No. 1 seeds. Though the ghosts of tournaments past haven’t been kind to the underdogs, could their fate change for the better this time even though giants like Notre Dame and Baylor stand in the way?
If that’s the case, then which No. 4 seed is up for that challenge in 2019?
Who are the No. 4 seeds?
Texas A&M Aggies
NCAA Tournament wins: 84-61 vs. No. 13 Wright State, 78-76 vs. No. 5 Marquette
Sweet Sixteen opponent: No. 1 Notre Dame
Impact players: Chennedy Carter (46.6 percent from three, 57 points, 16 rebounds), N’dea Jones (24 points, 21 rebounds)
Notes: If the Aggies try to force Arike Ogunbowale out of her comfort zone, then they will be sadly disappointed. Notre Dame has been able to coast through its first two games, while A&M hardly skated by Marquette with a two-point margin of victory.
So far, the Fighting Irish have scored 110 points in the paint, while the Aggies are allowing 68.5 points per game in their NCAA Tournament journey.
South Carolina Gamecocks
NCAA Tournament wins: 74-52 vs. No. 13 Belmont, 72-64 vs. No. 5 Florida State
Sweet Sixteen opponent: No. 1 Baylor
Impact players: Alexis Jennings (57.8 field-goal percentage, 20 points, 16 rebounds), Tyasha Harris (23 points, 10 assists)
Notes: In their tournament opener, the Baylor Lady Bears held Abilene Christian to three points in the first quarter while tacking on 26 of their own. Incidentally, the South Carolina Gamecocks ended up doing the same thing to Belmont in the second quarter of their opener, though they mustered up only 13 points on offense.
Both teams have their share of offensive contributors with an average of four players scoring over double digits in the tournament. The biggest problem for South Carolina will be rebounds, which Baylor has mastered over two games (110) — and, really, over the course of the entire season — compared to the Gamecocks (71).
Oregon State Beavers
NCAA Tournament wins: 80-75 vs. No. 13 Boise State, 76-70 vs. No. 5 Gonzaga
Sweet Sixteen opponent: No. 1 Louisville
Impact players: Mikayla Pivec (39 points, 11 assists, 23 rebounds), Taya Corosdale (25 points, 22 rebounds)
Notes: Out of the three No. 4 seeds, Oregon State has the best probability of upsetting its No. 1 opponent, Louisville. Unlike UConn, Baylor and Notre Dame, Louisville didn’t make much of an offensive statement in its first game against Robert Morris. The Cardinals scored only 69 points, including just nine in the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals rely on points off turnovers, scoring 47 so far this tournament. But the Beavers are advocates of using their reserves for production, racking up 46 bench points in their first two games.
No. 1 Baylor Bears vs. No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks
When: Saturday, March 30, at 1:30 p.m. ET
Where: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC
How to watch: ESPN
No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. No. 4 Texas A&M Aggies
When: Saturday, March 30, at 4 p.m. ET
Where: Wintrust Arena, Chicago, IL
How to watch: ESPN2
No. 1 Louisville Cardinals vs. No. 4 Oregon State Beavers
When: Friday, March 29, at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY
How to watch: ESPN