5 things to know before LSU women’s basketball begins NCAA tournament play
For the second year in a row, LSU women’s basketball has earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State upset LSU in the second round in 2022. Now in her second year, Kim Mulkey hopes her group can make the jump and contend for a national title.
After remaining unbeaten long into February, the Tigers were probably hoping for at least a No. 2 seed, but a loss to South Carolina and an early exit in the SEC tournament put the group as a three-seed.
Here are five things you need to know before tournament play gets underway against Hawai’i on Friday.
First round opponent: Hawaii
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Hawaii wants to slow the game down, playing at one of the slowest paces in the sport.
It’s led by its defense. The unit ranks top 60 in scoring and defends the three.
On offense, Hawaii has two players averaging double-digits. Lily Wahinekapu leads the group with 12.6 per night. Daejah Phillips is right behind her with 11.0 per contest.
The offense is rather average as a whole, ranking 186th in points per possession. The Rainbow Warriors will hoist plenty of threes and get to the free-throw line. LSU’s defense needs to defend the arch and not foul.
There’s a bit of a styles contrast going on here. If LSU starts fast, Hawaii could get uncomfortable.
The top seeds
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As the three seed, LSU will likely have to go through some of the sports best to reach the final four.
Indiana and Utah sit atop LSU’s quad of the bracket. LSU might be favored in a Sweet 16 game against the Utes, despite the lower seed. Utah and LSU both boat high-scoring offenses but LSU’s defense has looked better.
Indiana would present a tougher challenge. The Hoosiers went 27-3 while facing a tough schedule.
Other teams to know
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If LSU were to advance to the second round, it’d face the winner of Michigan and UNLV.
Unlike Hawaii, Michigan and UNLV are led by their offenses. Both units are efficient and rank top 20 in points per scoring attempt. Both defenses are about average, and LSU’s offense should be able to find its stride.
Michigan and UNLV both excel in rebounding the basketball, but LSU is even better with the second-best total rebound rate in the country.
Four-seed Villanova is a potential opponent should it find some way to upset Indiana. Fifth-seed Washington State is there too but has a tough road to make it to the second weekend.
LSU's tournament history
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Prior to Mulkey’s arrival, LSU hadn’t made the tournament since 2018. The Tigers haven’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2014.
For Mulkey, this is her 19th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Last year was the first time since 2008 that her team didn’t advance out of the second round. The expectation for a Mulkey team has been Sweet 16 or better.
From 2004-2008, LSU made four consecutive Final Fours.
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After an impressive regular season, LSU needs to go further than it did last year.
It’s only Kim Mulkey’s second year, and the speed at which she’s built this thing has been incredible, but it’s time to see formidable results. LSU has true star power and should be able to handle its first weekend matchups.
LSU’s schedule wasn’t the toughest this year and when it was tested, it didn’t always respond. Advancing to the Elite Eight or Final Four will take something we haven’t seen from LSU this year — sustained consistency against a really good team.
LSU is probably still a year away from really contending for a title, but a Sweet 16 appearance is the floor this year.
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