Fantasy Basketball

NCAAW: Is the tournament favorite South Carolina, Stanford or NC State?

It’s human to overreact to sports and analyze how favorites change after each round. Here are my thoughts on the remaining single-digit seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

DraftKings odds: +450

They won their first two games by 41 and 26 and just have the feel of the best team in the tournament right now. They are the defending champs, so they play without the pressure of wanting to win a first title. They have the intangibles, the championship DNA. They have the 17th-best 3-point shooting percentage in the country at 36.1 (7.5 makes per game, 50th). They were 9-of-22 from deep in the first round and 13-of-26 in the second round. All of Hannah Jump’s shot attempts have been from beyond the arc and she is 8-of-16. I think if Stanford keeps hitting its threes, it will be the team to win it all.

DraftKings odds: +115

Many people will consider South Carolina to be the No. 1 favorite until it loses and a close-call victory won’t deter them in their thinking. The Gamecocks didn’t even really have a close call in the second round, but it wasn’t a blowout either and the team is struggling offensively. South Carolina has the most pressure on it to win it all and has to get past the demons of a one-point loss to Stanford in last year’s Final Four and a two-point loss in this year’s SEC championship game. It still has so much talent though and is neck-and-neck with Stanford as a favorite.

DraftKings odds: +600

I think NC State, like South Carolina, has mental demons, though I don’t want to focus on that too much because I’ve mentioned it before and because NC State is the third-best team in the country on paper and is certainly capable of overcoming those demons. However, I will just say that, while South Carolina has to get over the hump of winning a national championship, the Wolfpack have to get over the hump of even making an Elite Eight, which they haven’t done since 1998. NC State won its first two games by 28 and 32, but now faces a Notre Dame team that it lost to in the regular season.

DraftKings odds: +2000

Texas won its first two games by 18 and 22 points and already has experience getting to the Elite Eight as an underdog. This year, the Longhorns will be the favorite by four seed lines over Ohio State in their Sweet Sixteen matchup. They also have experience beating both their potential Elite Eight opponents (Stanford this year and Maryland in the Sweet Sixteen last year). The question with Texas is does it have one true superstar who can carry it? Rori Harmon and Aliyah Matharu is a phenomenal backcourt and Lauren Ebo is a nice post player, but are any of them dominant?

DraftKings odds: +1000

Hailey Van Lith can be quoted in a high school SLAM feature as saying “I was not a shooter, like two years ago, I really wasn’t. I could shoot, but if your gameplan was to sag off of me, you could guard me kind of. But this year, it’s a different gameplan, because I can shoot now.” Her 3-point success is always something to keep and eye on with Louisville, because she is such an unstoppable driver that she truly becomes a superstar when she’s hitting from deep. A nice 3-of-6 effort in the second round was a good sign and she’s averaging 20.5 points through two games. Louisville is a disrespected No. 1 seed and even though it only beat Gonzaga by nine, watch out for the Cardinals.

DraftKings odds: +6000

Perhaps Michigan’s biggest accomplishment this year has been defeating a Maryland team that is now looking really good by 20 on the road. It was the Terrapins’ only home loss of the season. Unlike many other top teams in the NCAA Tournament, the Wolverines haven’t had a scare yet and there’s no reason they can’t contend to win the Wichita region and maybe even make some noise in the Final Four.

7) UConn Huskies, No. 2 seed

DraftKings odds: +300

Should we hit the panic button with the Huskies after they only beat No. 7 seed UCF by five points? Perhaps. Speaking of mental demons, UConn has a lot after a disappointing loss in the Final Four last year. The Huskies don’t want another Paige Bueckers year to go by without a championship, so there is a lot of pressure. But the intimidation factor for their opponents is still there to some degree because they are UConn. As long as they can regroup and play better moving forward, they should still have a shot at the title.

DraftKings odds: +6000

Maryland should feel really good about beating FGCU by 24 points and surviving the bubble of death. However, people gave it a shot at the national championship after two impressive rounds last year and it disappointed by only scoring 61 points in a Sweet Sixteen loss. If they advance past Stanford, the Terps will face a revenge opportunity against Texas or an Ohio State team that they split with this season. Both the Longhorns and Buckeyes know the formula to defeat them. All in all, Maryland came into this season as the No. 4 team in the nation and is now playing like it. Don’t be surprised if the winner of Stanford/Maryland goes all the way.

9) Notre Dame Fighting Irish, No. 5 seed

DraftKings odds: +20000

Notre Dame was simply on fire in the second round against Oklahoma. Now it faces an NC State team that it has already defeated but that will be tough to beat twice. A No. 4 or No. 5 seed has never won the title, but Maryland and Notre Dame both look like they could give anyone a run for their money right now.

10) UNC Tar Heels, No. 5 seed

DraftKings odds: +5000

UNC is also a strong No. 5 seed out of the ACC, but hasn’t been quite as impressive as Notre Dame. The Heels made it past an Arizona team that had the mental edge over everyone in this tournament aside from Stanford after the magical run it went on last year. UNC is loaded with talented guards and Alyssa Ustby is a scrappy forward type who can get the team rebounds. But they don’t have a true big who makes a big impact.

DraftKings odds: +10000

Indiana is in the same boat as its Sweet Sixteen opponent, UConn — both are coming off scares. Survive and advance is the name of the game and the Hoosiers were certainly considered a Final Four contender when the tournament started. We’ll see if Ali Patberg can have more of an impact moving forward. She only attempted four field goals and had just six points against Princeton.

DraftKings odds: +5000

It might seem disrespectful to put the Cyclones at No. 12 after they are coming off a 23-point win in the second round, but remember they only beat No. 14 seed UT Arlington by seven in the first round. Of course, the more recent game matters more in terms of momentum, so perhaps Iowa State can challenge South Carolina in the Elite Eight if both teams advance. The trio of Ashley Joens, Emily Ryan and Lexi Donarski is certainly scary.

13) Ohio State Buckeyes, No. 6 seed

DraftKings odds: +30000

Ohio State is the lowest-seeded team on this list and only beat play-in team Missouri State by seven in the first round. However, the Buckeyes did beat No. 3 seed LSU by 15 in the second round and when Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Mikesell are hot, this team has a high ceiling.

14) Tennessee Lady Volunteers, No. 4 seed

DraftKings odds: +8000

Tennessee hasn’t been able to really come out and make a statement through two rounds, as it struggled to win both games. Some may not be surprised by the struggles — the Lady Vols have been playing without star Jordan Horston and had some suspect performances in the regular season even with Horston. However, this team did beat Texas this year and was ranked as high as No. 4.

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