December 1, 2023

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March Madness: Women’s tourney tips off Friday, our games to watch

Women’s Tourney Tips Off New 68-Team Format


At long last, the first full slate of games in the first women’s 68-team NCAA tournament gets underway Friday, when three No. 1 seeds (South Carolina, Louisville and Stanford) will begin their quests for a national championship. While top seeds usually reign supreme in the women’s draw—87 of the 156 No. 1 seeds in the first 39 years of the event have made it to the Final Four—there is still plenty of intrigue.

A number of conference Players of the Year winners will take the floor, as will some of the sleepers we outlined earlier in the week. Early on in the women’s draw, don’t expect a ton of major upsets. Instead, favorites tend to handle their business—No. 13–16 seeds have won only 11 total games in the tournament since 1994. Still, there is a lot to keep an eye on. Here are four games we will be closely watching.

No. 5 Virginia Tech vs. No. 12 FGCU (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
This matchup is one of the most interesting stylistic clashes of the first round. Few teams in the country exhibit the kind of offensive firepower the Eagles have. FGCU leads the nation in three-pointers attempted and ranks second in threes made. Star guard Kierstan Bell is the driver of their offense, averaging 24 points per game. The Eagles will try to defend ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley, who recorded a conference-high 15 double-doubles, while averaging 17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. She also enters March Madness looking to erase the memory of her performance last March, when she scored only six points on 2-of-12 shooting in a 42-point tournament loss against Baylor.