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What you need to know about the women’s NCAA tourney teams playing in Seattle

Stanford Cardinal's Haley Jones (30) takes a shot against Ole Miss' Rita Igbokwe (32) in the second quarter in their second-round NCAA Tournament game at Maples Pavilion at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., on Sunday, March 19, 2023.  (Tribune News Service)
By Percy Allen Seattle Times

March Madness is coming to Seattle.

Iowa star Caitlin Clark and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma, who is inducted in the Naismith Hall of Fame, headline the eight teams that advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament this weekend at Climate Pledge Arena.

For the first time the NCAA is splitting its regionals between two locations – the other site is Greenville, South Carolina – instead of the typical four-host format.

The games in Seattle on Friday start with No. 2 Iowa taking on No. 6 Colorado at 4:30 p.m. followed by No. 5 Louisville vs. No. 8 Ole Miss at 7 p.m. Both games will be televised on ESPN.

Saturday’s games pit No. 2 Connecticut vs. No. 3 Ohio State at 1 p.m. on ABC before No. 1 Virginia Tech squares off against No. 4 Tennessee at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

Friday’s winners play Sunday and Saturday’s winners match up Monday in the Elite Eight round for a spot in the Final Four on March 31 in Dallas.

Here’s a look at the teams in the Seattle regional and what to watch for.

No. 1 seed Virginia Tech

Record: 28-4

Mascot: Hokies

Conference: ACC regular-season and tournament champion.

Coach: Kenny Brooks, 153-73 record and seventh season at VT; 490-195 overall, 21st year.

Players to watch: Senior C Elizabeth Kitley (18.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.4 bpg) and junior G Georgia Amoore (15.7 ppg, 5.1 apg).

How they got here: Beat No. 9 South Dakota State 72-60 in second round; beat No. 16 Chattanooga 58-33 in first round.

What you need to know: The Hokies haven’t lost since Jan. 26, winning 13 consecutive games. This is their second Sweet 16 appearance. The last time was 1999. Kitley is two-time ACC Player of the Year (2022, ‘23), and last year she scored a school-record 42 points in the NCAA tourney.

Fun fact: The Hokies use Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as their entrance music.

No. 2 Connecticut

Record: 31-5

Mascot: Huskies

Conference: Big East tournament and regular-season champions.

Coach: Geno Auriemma, 38th season at UConn (1,179-155).

Players to watch: Junior F Aaliyah Edwards (17 ppg, 9 rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.1 bpg), sophomore G Azzi Fudd (15.2 ppg), senior G Lou Lopez Senechal (15.3 ppg), senior F Dorka Juhasz (14.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.4 spg, 1.4 bpg).

How they got here: Beat No. 7 Baylor 77-58 in second round; beat No. 15 Vermont 95-52 in first round.

What you need to know: Auriemma pushed and pulled injury-riddled UConn to its 29th consecutive Sweet 16 without 2021 National Player of the Year Paige Bueckers and star recruit Ice Brady, who both suffered season-ending knee injuries before the season. Edwards, the Big East tournament Most Outstanding Player, has been dominant, scoring a season-high 28 points on 13-for-15 shooting against Vermont.

Fun fact: UConn is the winningest team in NCAA tournament history with a 132-22 record.

No. 2 Iowa

Record: 27-6

Mascot: Hawkeyes

Conference: Big Ten tournament champion; second in regular season.

Coach: Lisa Bluder, 23rd season at Iowa (491-248).

Players to watch: Junior G Caitlin Clark (26.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 8.6 apg, 1.5 spg) and senior C Monika Czinano (17.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg).

How they got here: Beat No. 10 Georgia 74-66 in second round; beat No. 15 Southeastern La. 95-43 in first round.

What you need to know: Iowa is the highest scoring team in the country, averaging 87.4 points per game. This is the Hawkeyes’ 29th trip to the Big Dance. Iowa has a 4-4 record in the Sweet 16. Clark is a two-time Big Ten POY and Big Ten tournament MVP (2022, ‘23). Czinano ranks third in the nation with a 67.5 FG%.

Fun fact: Assuming Clark plays one more year – she’s eligible for a fifth year – she’s on pace to finish second behind former Washington Huskies star Kelsey Plum (3,527 points) on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list. Clark (2,574 points) has averaged 26.8 points during her three-year career.

No. 3 Ohio State

Record: 27-7

Mascot: Buckeyes

Conference: Big Ten tournament runner-up, fourth in regular season.

Coach: Kevin McGuff, 10th season at Ohio State (171-99), 426-197 overall, 21st year.

Players to watch: Senior G Taylor Mikesell (17.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.4 apg), freshman F Cotie McMahon (14.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.7 bpg).

How they got here: Beat No. 6 North Carolina 71-69 in second round; beat No. 14 James Madison 80-66 in the first round.

What you need to know: This is Ohio State’s 30th NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes are making their second consecutive trip to the Sweet 16. Their last Elite Eight appearance was in 1992.

Fun fact: McGuff posted a 41-26 record with UW during a two-year stint (2011-13) before taking the Ohio State job.

No. 4 Tennessee

Record: 25-11

Mascot: Lady Vols

Conference: SEC tournament runner-up, third in regular season.

Coach: Kellie Harper, fourth year at Tennessee (88-38); 373-246 overall, 19th year.

Players to watch: Senior F Rickea Jackson (19.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and senior G Jordan Horston (15.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg).

How they got here: Beat No. 12 Toledo 94-47 in the second round; beat No. 13 Saint Louis 95-50 in the first round.

What you need to know: Eight-time national champion Tennessee is one of the most storied programs in women’s basketball, competing in all 41 NCAA tournaments. UT is 28-7 in the Sweet 16 but hasn’t advanced to the Elite Eight since 2016.

Fun fact: The Vols have won by an average of 46 points in the NCAA tournament, and they are 8-2 in their past 10 games, including losses to No. 1 overall seed South Carolina.

No. 5 Louisville

Record: 25-11

Mascot: Cardinals

Conference: ACC tournament runner-up; tied for fourth in regular season.

Coach: Jeff Walz, 16th season at Louisville (440-124).

Players to watch: Junior G Hailey Van Lith (19.5 ppg., 4.6 rpg., 3.2 apg., 1.5 spg.) and senior guard G Chrislyn Carr (11.2 ppg.).

How they got here: Upset No. 4 seed Texas 73-51 in the second round; Beat No. 12 Drake 83-81 in first round.

What you need to know: Van Lith, a Wenatchee native, and Iowa star Caitlin Clark are the only players in the nation to average at least 19 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists this season. Van Lith scored 26 points in the first round and 21 in the second.

Fun fact: Walz has taken Louisville to 12 Sweet 16 appearances, seven trips to the Elite Eight, four trips to the Final Four and two trips to the national title game. He’s 39-13 in the Big Dance.

No. 6 Colorado

Record: 25-8

Mascot: Buffaloes

Conference: Pac-12 tournament semifinalist; third in regular season.

Coach: JR Payne, seventh season at Colorado (119-92); 219-205 overall, 13th year.

Players to watch: Senior F Quay Miller (13.1 ppg., 8.7 rpg., 1.5 spg.), senior G Jaylyn Sherrod (11.3 ppg., 4.9 apg., 2.4 spg.), sophomore C Aaronette Vonleh (12.1 ppg., 4.5 rpg.) and junior F Frida Formann (11.7 ppg., 3.5 rpg.).

How they got here: Upset No. 3 Duke 61-53 in the second round; beat No. 11 Middle Tennessee 82-60 in first round.

What you need to know: Colorado is making its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2003. The Buffaloes are 3-3 in the regional semifinals.

Fun fact: Junior G Tameiya Sadler averaged 10.4 points as a freshman at Washington before transferring in 2021.

No. 8 Ole Miss

Record: 25-8

Mascot: Rebels

Conference: Finished fourth in SEC regular season; lost in conference tournament semifinals.

Coach: Yolett McPhee-McCuin, fifth season at Ole Miss (79-74); 173-137 overall, 10th year.

Players to watch: Senior G Angel Baker (14.9 ppg., 5.4 rpg., 2.5 apg, 1.4 spg.) and junior F Madison Scott (11.8 ppg., 8.1 rpg.).

How they got here: Upset No. 1 Stanford 54-49 in second round; beat No. 9 Gonzaga 71-48 in first round.

What you need to know: Ole Miss is making its 19th NCAA tournament appearance and is 5-5 in the Sweet 16. The Rebels rank 21st nationally in points allowed (56.3) and is 22-0 when holding opponents to fewer than 60 points.

Fun fact: Ole Miss is one of two teams to push undefeated South Carolina into overtime before falling 64-57 on Feb. 19.