March is the most exciting month of the year in college basketball. First, each conference holds its year-end tournament, where teams have one last chance to boost their standings, improve their record, and most importantly — win the conference title.
Then, the best teams in the country head to MARCH MADNESS, a win-or-go-home tournament that decides the national champions! Every year brings upsets, Cinderella stories, fights to the finish and all the emotions from players, coaches, and fans. Every year is unforgettable, and with women’s college basketball continuing to gain popularity worldwide each year, it is an extremely fun time to get into the sport and support these incredible young athletes.
Before we can fill out our brackets, we have to close out the conference tournaments! After a week/weekend full of exciting basketball, we’ve rounded up all you need to know going into today and tomorrow’s final matches, conference by conference.
It was a week full of upsets at the PAC-12 women’s tournament conference tournament, concluding in the biggest upset of all — UCLA beating out top-seeded Stanford in the semifinal. A monumental win for UCLA came at the end of a busy month for the Stanford Cardinal, who spent four weekends on the road and suffered travel delays before heading to Las Vegas for the tournament.
Still, they were expected to make it to the final and even win the tournament before heading into March Madness as a No.1 seed. They are still projected as a No. 1 seed by ESPN, but they head out of the Pac-12 Tournament early thanks to the fourth-quarter heroics of Kiki Rice and the Bruins. Rice led all scorers with a career-high 22 points, 11 of those coming in the fourth quarter.
UCLA will now face Washington State in the final on Sunday. WSU had their own upset in the semifinals, beating out No. 3 seed Colorado and becoming the lowest-seeded team to ever make it to the PAC-12 final. It’s set to be a historic final no matter what, with the match set for 5 p.m. ET.
An 8⃣ clap from the Bruins to end your night right!— UCLA W. Basketball (@UCLAWBB) March 4, 2023
Get some rest, Bruin nation. See you Sunday @ 2 p.m. on ESPN 2 #GoBruins | #Pac12WBB pic.twitter.com/JiU9OnrZWE
The Big 10 Conference held its semifinal matches Saturday as well, and the day started off with an upset. National No. 2 and Big 10 No. 1 Indiana was defeated by Ohio State, who is ranked No. 4 in the Big 10 and No. 14 overall. In their pursuit of victory, Ohio State completed the biggest comeback in Big 10 Tournament history. From being down 46-26 at halftime, the Buckeyes came back to win 79-75.
They’ll have their work cut out for them as they face Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes in the final, Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. The Hawkeyes (No. 2 in the Big 10) won their semifinal match against Maryland (No. 3) to punch their ticket to the final. It wasn’t a splash of a performance from Clark, as she sometimes pulls out, but her 22 points, five rebounds and nine assists were enough to push her team to victory. Yeah, that’s a quiet day for Clark — she is that good.
The National Player of the Year candidate will have to pull out one of her signature epic performances as she tries to lead her team not only to a Big 10 championship, but on a run for a national title as well.
Welcome to March.#GoBucks pic.twitter.com/9LZq2DVPAQ— Ohio State WBB (@OhioStateWBB) March 4, 2023
It’s been a big weekend in the SEC Tournament as some of the nation’s top-seeded teams battle for the conference title before heading to March Madness. In semifinal action, the reigning national champions, the South Carolina Gamecocks, took out fifth-seeded Ole Miss 80-51. It was Canadian Laeticia Amihere who led South Carolina to victory, leading all scorers with 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
The real shock of the day came when No. 3 Tennessee upset No. 2 Louisiana State in a close and exciting game. After a rocky season for the Lady Volunteers, many assumed LSU would sail to victory and be tested in a pre-March Madness match against the Gamecocks. Rickea Johnson was not going to go home without a fight, though. She led all scorers with 26 points, 10 rebounds, one assist and two blocks.
The conference final will go down Sunday at 3 p.m. ET and be broadcast on ESPN.
Opportunity awaits. #GoLadyVols pic.twitter.com/BqeaSlx7d2— Lady Vols Basketball (@LadyVol_Hoops) March 5, 2023
The Big East held its quarterfinal games Saturday as the conference’s best tried to outlast one another. UConn had a big day as Azzi Fudd returned to the lineup after being out with a nagging knee injury. After injuring it initially in December, she returned to the lineup in the new year, only to re-aggravate it soon after.
After a tumultuous season, getting Fudd back was just the boost they needed heading into March. They opened up their tournament play with a 69-39 win over Georgetown and will play Marquette in the semifinals Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. No. 4 Marquette took on No. 5 St. John’s in their quarterfinal match, with the game coming down to the wire — Marquette took it 57-47.
The other side of the Big East table was tight in Saturday’s quarterfinals, with both matches decided by one point. No. 2 seed Villanova just barely overcame No. 7 seed DePaul, winning 71-70. No. 3 seed Creighton — who you may remember from their Cinderella-story March Madness run last year — took No. 6 seed Seton Hall to overtime, eventually beating out the underdogs 75-74. Villanova and Creighton will play their semifinal match Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. ET.
These conference tournaments are the teams’ last stops before heading into March Madness. It’s been quite a rocky season across the board with injuries and upsets causing many teams to suffer, while other teams have shot up through the rankings. It’s sure to be an exciting and unprecedented month in women’s college basketball, as the game grows in both competitive nature and in popularity.