This article is part of our Sweet 16 Preview series.
The first two rounds of Women's March Madness were historic this season and featured several upsets, including two 1-seeds falling prior to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1998. The Greenville Regions feature the most top-seeded teams, including heavy favorite South Carolina. Indiana lost as a 1-seed to 9-seed Miami in the second round in Greenville Region 2, but seven of the top eight teams from the Greenville Regions advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Check out RotoWire's Women's College Basketball Team Previews for an in-depth analysis of each team.
Greenville 1 Region
No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 4 UCLA
Tipoff: Saturday, 2:00 p.m. ET
How they got here: South Carolina has been the favorite to win the national title all season as the defending champions, and the Gamecocks haven't disappointed. A stellar senior class leads the undefeated team, including the projected first-overall pick in the WNBA Draft, Aliyah Boston, along with Zia Cooke and Brea Beal. The Gamecocks have had close matchups in the first half of their NCAA Tournament games but pulled away in the second half, most recently relying on Cooke and Laeticia Amihere to drill some clutch shots down the stretch in their second-round win over South Florida.
UCLA missed the NCAA Tournament last year but turned things around during the 2022-23 campaign, including an early-season win over Tennessee. The Bruins lost to South Carolina in November and fell to Stanford twice during the regular season, but they later beat the Cardinal in the Pac-12 Tournament. They led by as many as 18 points in the first half of their second-round matchup against Oklahoma but gave up the lead late in the third quarter. However, Charisma Osborne played through pain in the fourth quarter to help lead UCLA to a nine-point win.
Keys to Victory: The Gamecocks must continue to do what they've done all season. They've dominated on both ends of the court with a well-rounded attack, and the team's supporting cast has stepped up during the NCAA Tournament, while Boston hasn't been quite as dominant offensively as she's used to. South Carolina proved its ability to put together solid runs during its win over South Florida, but the team will want to avoid a close matchup down the stretch since the Bruins have more firepower than the Bulls.
UCLA must create second chances on offense. The Bruins rank 17th in the nation in offensive rebound rate and have won that category in their first two NCAA Tournament matchups. South Carolina's defense is dominant at limiting offensive efficiency from its opponents, so the ability to create second and third shots will be crucial if UCLA hopes to keep up. It won't be an easy task since the Gamecocks led the nation in total rebound rate this season, but South Carolina also showed some slight signs of vulnerability early in the NCAA Tournament.
Prediction: South Carolina knocked off UCLA during the regular season, and I predict that the Gamecocks will be able to do so again in the Sweet Sixteen. Even when South Carolina has faced adversity early in the NCAA Tournament, the team has displayed an ability to turn things around easily, and I don't think the Bruins will be able to keep up.
No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 3 Notre Dame
Tipoff: Saturday, 11:30 a.m. ET
How they got here: Maryland has relied on an elite offense this season that has helped compensate for the team's defensive shortcomings. The Terrapins suffered a 25-point loss to South Carolina in their second game of the season. However, they had a relatively strong campaign the rest of the way that included wins over Notre Dame, UConn, Baylor, Iowa and Ohio State. Diamond Miller is the team's clear-cut leader, while the Terps also get solid contributions from Abby Meyers and Shyanne Sellers.
Notre Dame has had a stellar season with a 27-5 record. However, the Fighting Irish lost their star player, Olivia Miles, for the remainder of the year during their regular-season finale against Louisville on Feb. 26. The team struggled without her during the ACC Tournament, narrowly beating NC State before losing to Louisville by 26 points. The Fighting Irish have admittedly proven me wrong over the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament with wins over Southern Utah and Mississippi State but still face a much tougher test against Maryland in the Sweet Sixteen.
Keys to Victory: Maryland must be somewhat proficient on the boards. Mississippi State shot just 29.5 percent against the Fighting Irish during a close second-round matchup, and Notre Dame won the rebound battle, 49-32. The Terrapins don't have much of a frontcourt presence, but their offense should be enough to overpower the shorthanded Notre Dame squad. However, if Maryland starts missing shots while giving up second chances to the Fighting Irish, the teams could find themselves in a close matchup.
Notre Dame must lean on Lauren Ebo and Maddy Westbeld once again. Each of those players had at least 15 rebounds during the team's second-round win, and their size will be crucial against a Maryland team that relies on solid play from its guards. Without Olivia Miles, the Fighting Irish don't have enough scoring potential on offense to keep up with Maryland. However, if Notre Dame can control the boards while playing stellar frontcourt defense, the team can hope to engage in a narrow, low-scoring matchup.
Prediction: Given its lackluster defense, Maryland has a favorable matchup against the shorthanded Fighting Irish, who have had trouble on the offensive side of the ball without Olivia Miles, and I predict that the Terrapins will be able to roll to the Elite Eight. Notre Dame has performed better than I expected early in the NCAA Tournament, but I don't think the team will be able to overcome Miles' absence against Maryland.
Final Four Pick
The other three teams remaining in the Greenville 1 Region have plenty of talent, but South Carolina is the clear-cut favorite to win the title for a reason. Even after facing some early adversity in their NCAA Tournament matchups, coach Dawn Staley's Gamecocks piled on in the second half for definitive victories, and I think they'll be able to cruise to the Final Four, especially since they've taken down each of the other three teams remaining in the region.
Greenville 2 Region
No. 2 Utah vs. No. 3 Louisiana State
Tipoff: Friday, 5:00 p.m. ET
How they got here: Utah relied on one of the top offenses in the nation en route to one of its best seasons in program history. Alissa Pili, Jenna Johnson and Gianna Kneepkens have been the team's top contributors this season. The Utes got a 28-point, 10-rebound double-double from Pili during the second round of the NCAA Tournament to help lead the team to a narrow victory over Princeton. Utah isn't as proficient defensively but has shown the ability to contend with top teams this season, including a win over Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal.
LSU carried an undefeated record into mid-February during coach Kim Mulkey's second season with the team but suffered an 88-64 loss to South Carolina on Feb. 12. The team's strength of schedule has been in question all season despite its stellar record, as the Tigers had a weak non-conference slate and faced just one ranked opponent (No. 24 Arkansas) outside of their loss to the Gamecocks. However, LSU has gotten off to a hot start during the NCAA Tournament, winning its first two games by 20-plus points. The Tigers are strong on both ends of the court, led by Angel Reese, who averaged 23.8 points and 15.7 rebounds per game this year but was surprisingly left off the list of finalists for the Naismith Award. Despite its weak schedule this year, LSU has proved it shouldn't be overlooked in the NCAA Tournament.
Keys to Victory: Utah must focus on slowing down Angel Reese. The Utes limited Princeton's Kaitlyn Chen to 19 points during their narrow second-round win after she had posted 20-plus points in her previous four appearances. Reese posted 25 points and 24 rebounds during LSU's second-round victory over Michigan, and the Utes will have trouble keeping up with the Tigers in the Sweet Sixteen if she can post a similar stat line Friday.
LSU must showcase its dominance on the boards. The Tigers ranked second nationally in total rebound rate this season and secured 20 more rebounds than Michigan in the second round en route to the comfortable win. If LSU hopes to avoid a shootout against Utah's offense in the Sweet Sixteen, the Tigers will have to focus on taking advantage of an area in which the Utes lag slightly behind, which is in the rebounding column.
Prediction: Angel Reese has been on a mission lately, and I think she'll be able to lead LSU to the Elite Eight against a Utah team with slightly more shortcomings on the defensive side of the ball. The game could be a high-scoring matchup between two fast-paced offenses, but I predict the Tigers' rebounding abilities will win the day.
No. 4 Villanova vs. No. 9 Miami (FL)
Tipoff: Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET
How they got here: Villanova finished second in the Big East behind UConn this season, and the team relied heavily on the nation's leading scorer, Maddy Siegrist, throughout the year. Siegrist hasn't slowed down over the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, topping 30 points in the Wildcats' wins over 13-seed Cleveland State and 12-seed FGCU. Although FGCU was a 12-seed, Villanova's second-round win was still impressive, as the Eagles have won at least 30 games in four of the last six seasons and knocked off Pac-12 champion Washington State in the first round of this year's NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats play at one of the slowest paces in the nation but take care of the ball and have found success through efficiency on both ends of the court.
Miami closed out the year with losses in four of its final seven games but has won matchups against 8-seed Oklahoma State and 1-see Indiana by a combined three points over the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. While Haley Cavinder has been one of the Hurricanes' most well-rounded contributors early in the tournament, the team relies more on a well-rounded attack that features Lola Pendande, Jasmyne Roberts and Destiny Harden, who hit a go-ahead jumper in the closing seconds of Miami's win over Indiana. Despite some shaky performances during the season, Miami is hitting its stride at the right time and is doing just enough to secure upset victories.
Keys to Victory: Villanova must get off to a hot start to avoid being upset. The Hurricanes overcame a 17-point deficit in the first round to beat Oklahoma State, but Indiana trailed for most of its matchup against Miami and couldn't come back late in the game. The Wildcats haven't had much trouble early in their first two NCAA Tournament matchups, jumping out to double-digit leads in the first quarter of each game.
Miami must limit Villanova's offensive efficiency, starting with Maddy Siegrist. The Hurricanes allowed Indiana's Mackenzie Holmes and Grace Berger to combine for 39 points, but the Hoosiers' efficient offense shot just 41 percent from the floor. Given the Hurricanes' narrow margins of victory in their first two NCAA Tournament games, they have little room for error, particularly against an offense as efficient as Villanova's. However, if Villanova has a low field-goal percentage, the Hurricanes could secure another upset against the Wildcats' slow-paced offense.
Prediction: While Miami has secured two impressive victories to begin the NCAA Tournament, I think Maddy Siegrist's scoring abilities will be too much to overcome in the Sweet Sixteen. Villanova has a slightly better offense than Stanford, which should be enough to take down the Hurricanes.
Final Four Pick
While I think a potential Elite Eight matchup between the high-octane offenses of LSU and Villanova would be highly entertaining, the Tigers have quelled my doubts early in the NCAA Tournament and look like a team worthy of proving themselves in the Final Four. Angel Reese has been on a mission during postseason play, and I think her star power combined with the team's overall strong efforts on both sides of the ball will be enough to lead the Tigers to their first Final Four since the 2007-08 season.