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NCAAW Tournament Preview: Lower-seeded mid-majors FGCU and Stephen F. Austin pack punches

The No. 11 seed FGCU Eagles are first in the nation in 3-pointers made per game, while the No. 12 seed Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks are first in turnovers forced per game.

Syndication: Naples Daily News
FGCU’s Kierstan Bell is one of the best mid-major players in the country.
Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK - FLORIDA via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The top non-Power 5 teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament are No. 1 seed UConn (Big East), No. 5 seed Gonzaga (WCC), No. 5 seed Missouri State (MVC), No. 8 seed South Florida (AAC), No. 9 seed South Dakota State (Summit), No. 10 seed Marquette (Big East) and No. 10 seed Central Florida (AAC).

Here’s a look the mid-majors who are seeded 11th through 16th:

11 Seeds

South Dakota Coyotes

Key player

Hannah Sjerven

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 16.3 (12th)

Scoring offense: 75.3 (29th)

Field goal percentage: 44.9 (30th)

Assist/turnover ratio: 1.26 (18th)

Scoring defense: 59 (49th)

Field goal percentage defense: 37 (40th)

Rebound margin: 5.1 (47th)

Turnover margin: 5.42 (22nd)

Turnovers per game: 11.2 (5th fewest)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

In the first round they play an Oregon team that will likely be without one of its best players in Te-Hina Paopao.

FGCU Eagles

Key player

Kierstan Bell

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 23.6 (5th)

Scoring offense: 82.1 (5th)

Field goal percentage: 45.4 (23rd)

3-pointers made per game: 11.9 (1st)

Assists per game: 17.1 (13th)

Assist/turnover ratio: 1.51 (3rd)

Scoring defense: 58.6 (46th)

Steals per game: 10.1 (31st)

3-point percentage defense: 25.3 (8th)

Defensive rebounds per game: 29.5 (22nd)

Turnover margin: 6.82 (9th)

Turnovers per game: 11.3 (8th fewest)

Key wins

Central Florida

Bracket outlook

They are a popular pick to beat Michigan in the first round and were ranked No. 24 to end the season, meaning they may be under-seeded. However, Michigan is more talented than their No. 6 seed indicates.

Bradley Braves

Key player

Lasha Petree

Strengths (national rank)

3-point percentage: 35 (49th)

Assist/turnvoer ratio: 1.1 (49th)

Blocked shots per game: 4.9 (26th)

Turnovers per game: 12.7 (27th fewest)

Key wins

Wright State

Bracket outlook

They face a Texas team that was ranked as high as No. 17 and features projected No. 1 WNBA Draft pick Charli Collier.

BYU Cougars

Key player

Shaylee Gonzales

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 10.1 (41st)

Field goal percentage: 44.9 (29th)

Assists per game: 16.6 (20th)

Assist/turnover ratio: 1.15 (35th)

Field goal percentage defense: 35.5 (20th)

Blocked shots per game 4.3 (49th)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face a Rutgers team that was on fire to close out the regular season before losing to Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament. The Scarlet Knights feature a great backcourt duo with Arella Guirantes and Diamond Johnson, but lack a dominant frontcourt scorer or rebounder to go against BYU’s Lauren Gustin (12.8 boards per game).

12 Seeds

UC Davis Aggies

Key player

Cierra Hall

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 9.5 (49th)

3-pointers made per game: 7.8 (49th)

3-point percentage: 36.6 (19th)

Free throw percentage: 76 (31st)

Assist/turnover ratio: 1.1 (47th)

Scoring defense: 55.9 (19th)

Field goal percentage defense: 32.9 (4th)

3-point percentage defense: 25 (7th)

Defensive rebounds per game: 31 (7th)

Turnovers per game: 13.5 (43rd fewest)

Personal fouls per game: 12.9 (6th fewest)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face a Missouri State team that had some close calls against weak teams in the Missouri Valley Conference. However, the Lady Bears beat No. 2 seed Maryland early in the season.

Central Michigan Chippewas

Key player

Micaela Kelly

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring offense: 77.9 (16th)

Field goal percentage: 45.9 (17th)

3-pointers made per game: 10 (4th)

3-point percentage: 35.5 (40th)

Free throw percentage: 77.2 (17th)

Key wins

Bowling Green

Bracket outlook

They face an Iowa team whose worst loss this year was to Michigan State, a tournament team (10-seed). Though they had some struggles against ranked teams early in the season, the Hawkeyes take care of business.

Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks

Key player

Stephanie Visscher

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 30.4 (2nd)

Scoring offense: 81.3 (8th)

Field goal percentage: 49 (4th)

3-pointers made per game: 8.4 (27th)

3-point percentage: 35.8 (31st)

Assists per game: 19.4 (7th)

Assist/turnover ratio: 1.22 (22nd)

Scoring defense: 50.9 (5th)

Field goal percentage defense: 33.7 (7th)

3-point percentage defense: 27.7 (41st)

Steals per game: 13.6 (2nd)

Blocks per game: 4.8 (29th)

Turnover margin: 8.38 (3rd)

Turnovers forced: 24.27 (1st)

Key wins

VCU, Jackson State

Bracket outlook

They face a Georgia Tech team that surprised a lot of people by becoming the third-best team in the ACC this year. The Yellow Jackets had one really bad loss to Boston College (7-12, 2-11 ACC).

Belmont Bruins

Key player

Destinee Wells

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 12.3 (29th)

Field goal percentage: 44.3 (43rd)

3-pointers made per game: 8.7 (18th)

Assists per game: 15.7 (39th)

Assist/turnover ratio: 1.14 (38th)

Scoring defense: 58.1 (41st)

Steals per game: 10.9 (16th)

Turnover margin: 4.72 (27th)

Key wins

Middle Tennessee, UT Martin

Bracket outlook

They face a Gonzaga team that mostly cruised through WCC play, though it didn’t dominate int the WCC Tournament with a 10-point win over a weak Santa Clara team and a one-point win over 11-seed BYU.

13 Seeds

Wright State Raiders

Key player

Angel Baker

Strengths (national rank)

Rebounding margin: 12.3 (6th)

Rebounds per game: 43.52 (14th)

Offensive rebounds per game: 16.6 (6th)

Scoring defense: 55.4 (16th)

Field goal percentage defense: 35.7 (21st)

3-point percentage defense: 26.5 (23rd)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face an Arkansas team that could be vulnerable to an upset because it had some close calls against weak SEC teams. However, the Razorbacks have one of the highest ceilings of the non-1 and 2 seeds, having defeated No. 1 seed UConn and No. 2 seed Baylor.

Idaho State Bengals

Key player

Diaba Konate

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 13.3 (23rd)

Field goal percentage: 45.8 (19th)

Assists per game: 15.8 (34th)

Scoring defense: 58.9 (48th)

Field goal percentage defense: 35 (14th)

3-point percentage defense: 25.6 (11th)

Rebound margin: 5 (49th)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face the tall task of taking on Rhyne Howard and Kentucky in the first round. Howard is one of the best players in the country and though the Wildcats lost to Ole Miss (11-11, 4-10 SEC) twice, the Rebels proved in the SEC Tournament that they are better than their record indicates.

Lehigh Mountain Hawks

Key player

Frannie Hottinger

Strengths (national rank)

3-pointers made per game: 9.8 (6th)

Free throw percentage: 78.5 (9th)

Assists per game: 15.9 (28th)

Assist/turnover ratio: 1.32 (11th)

3-point percentage defense: 26.2 (19th)

Defensive rebounds per game: 29 (29th)

Turnovers per game: 12.1 (16th fewest)

Personal fouls per game: 13.3 (9th fewest)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face a West Virginia team that at its best blew out Texas by 34 points. The Mountaineers’ worst loss was to an Oklahoma team that was on the tournament bubble.

VCU Rams

Key player

Taya Robinson

Strengths (national rank)

Turnovers per game: 13.1 (37th fewest)

Personal fouls per game: 14.9 (49th fewest)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face an Indiana team that may be the strongest 4-seed. The Hoosiers were ranked as high as No. 9 at that was recently (March 8). Mackenzie Holmes will be hard to stop inside and then you have to deal with triple-double threat Grace Berger in the backcourt.

14 Seeds

Drexel Dragons

Key player

Hannah Nihill

Strengths (national rank)

Free throw percentage: 75.2 (46th)

Assist/turnover ratio: 1.19 (25th)

Scoring defense: 57.3 (33rd)

Turnover margin: 6.86 (7th)

Turnovers per game: 11.3 (7th)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face a well-rounded Georgia team that is on a roll. The Lady Bulldogs have a great inside-out game with Jenna Staiti and Gabby Connally and nearly won the SEC Tournament.

Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders

Key player

Anastasia Hayes

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring offense: 74.5 (36th)

3-pointers made per game: 9.2 (11th)

Turnover margin: 3.46 (42nd)

Turnovers per game: 11.5 (9th fewest)

Key wins

Troy, Rice

Bracket outlook

They face intra-state rival Tennessee, the school Hayes once attended. The Lady Volunteers are battle-tested from playing in the SEC and as long as they don’t succumb to the pressure of being Tennessee, they could make a very deep tournament run. Middle Tennessee will have its hands full with Rennia Davis, Rae Burrell, Tamari Key and Jordan Horston.

Wyoming Cowgirls

Key player

Alba Sanchez Ramos

Strengths (national rank)

Assist/turnover ratio: 1.15 (36th)

Scoring defense: 57.3 (35th)

Turnovers per game: 11.6 (11th fewest)

Personal fouls per game: 12.7 (4th fewest)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face a UCLA team that was ranked as high as No. 5 and beat No. 1 overall seed Stanford. The Bruins may be the strongest 3-seed.

Stony Brook Seawolves

Key player

Asiah Dingle

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 9.6 (48th)

Scoring defense: 50.7 (4th)

Field goal percentage defense: 35.3 (19th)

Rebound margin: 6.8 (28th)

Key wins

Maine (twice)

Bracket outlook

They face an Arizona team that lost to a weak Arizona State team in its regular season finale but has one of the best scorers in the nation in Aari McDonald.

15 Seeds

Marist Red Foxes

Key player

Willow Duffell

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 13.6 (21st)

Assists per game: 16.2 (24th)

Assist/turnover ratio: 1.18 (27th)

Scoring defense: 50 (2nd)

Field goal percentage defense: 34 (9th)

3-point percentage defense: 25.6 (12th)

Personal fouls per game: 12.9 (5th fewest)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face a Louisville team that has just three losses with the worst one coming to No. 9 seed Florida State.

Jackson State Lady Tigers

Key player

Ameshya Williams

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 10.5 (36th)

3-point percentage: 35.8 (32nd)

Scoring defense: 58.2 (43rd)

Field goal percentage defense: 34.9 (13th)

Rebound margin: 10.8 (13th)

Rebounds per game: 42.08 (28th)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face a Baylor team that has just two losses with the worst one coming to No. 7 seed Iowa State.

Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers

Key player

Kendall Bresee

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 12.7 (26th)

3-pointers made per game: 8.3 (31st)

Free throw percentage: 79.7 (3rd)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face a Maryland team that has just two losses with the worst one coming to No. 22 Ohio State, which is not eligible for postseason play this year.

Troy Trojans

Key player

Alexus Dye

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 14 (18th)

Scoring offense: 86.2 (3rd)

Assists per game: 17 (14th)

Offensive rebounds per game: 19.3 (2nd)

Steals per game: 10.6 (21st)

Defensive rebounds per game: 32.9 (1st)

Rebound margin: 11.2 (11th)

Rebounds per game: 52.22 (1st)

Turnover margin: 3.15 (49th)

Turnovers forced: 19.41 (29th)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face a Texas A&M team that won the SEC regular season championship, but did have a slip up against LSU (9-13, 6-8 SEC).

16 Seeds

Utah Valley Wolverines

Key player

Josie Williams

Strengths (national rank)

Assists per game: 16.9 (15th)

Scoring defense: 57.3 (32nd)

Rebound margin: 5.6 (41st)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face No. 1 overall seed Stanford, which did have a slip-up against Colorado (10-10, 8-8 Pac-12) and also lost to UCLA, but was otherwise phenomenal.

High Point Panthers

Key player

Skyler Curran

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 11.2 (33rd)

3-pointers made per game: 10.5 (2nd)

3-point percentage: 36.9 (15th)

Free throw percentage: 75.7 (34th)

Field goal percentage defense: 36.7 (34th)

3-point percentage defense: 25.5 (10th)

Defensive rebounds per game: 29.6 (18th)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face a UConn team that has the best average margin of victory in the country at 31.5. The Huskies’ only loss came to No. 4 seed Arkansas.

Mercer Bears

Key player

Jaron Dougherty

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 9.8 (44th)

Assist/turnover ratio: 1.31 (12th)

3-point percentage defense: 26.9 (31st)

Blocks per game: 4.3 (45th)

Turnover margin: 7.52 (4th)

Turnovers per game: 11 (4th fewest)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face a South Carolina team that does have four losses, but the worst one was to No. 3 seed Tennessee.

North Carolina A&T Aggies

Key player

Chanin Scott

Strengths (national rank)

Scoring margin: 20.1 (7th)

Assists per game: 16.8 (16th)

Offensive rebounds per game: 16.6 (5th)

Scoring defense: 52.8 (9th)

Field goal percentage defense: 32.9 (3rd)

3-point percentage defense: 24.4 (4th)

Steals per game: 12.1 (5th)

Rebound margin: 5.7 (38th)

Rebounds per game: 43.69 (11th)

Turnover margin: 6.81 (10th)

Turnovers forced: 23.88 (2nd)

Key wins


Bracket outlook

They face an NC State team that has just one loss when playing with superstar Elissa Cunane. However that one loss was to No. 10 seed UNC.