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March Madness Day 2: The upsets are here making major noise

Cassandra Negley
·Writer
·6-min read

The madness of March arrived on Day 2 of the NCAA women's basketball tournament and delivered with it one of the eight largest upsets in tournament history.

No. 13 Wright State broke brackets by toppling No. 4 Arkansas, 66-62, on Monday as one of three lower seeds that punched a ticket to the second round. It was the first tournament victory for the Raiders in three trips as the Horizon League tournament champion.

It almost wasn't the biggest upset of the day. Troy was a few made buckets from being the first No. 15 seed to defeat the No. 2 in the first round in tournament history. The Trojans forced Texas A&M, a title contender, into playing its game but couldn't get it done in the final 30 seconds.

Wright State guard Angel Baker celebrates a win over Arkansas in a college basketball game in the first round of the women's NCAA tournament at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, Monday, March 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Stephen Spillman)
Angel Baker and Wright State pulled off the upset of the tournament Monday. (AP Photo/Stephen Spillman)

Wright State did do it. Arkansas came into the postseason with the allure of being the only team in the 2020-21 season to defeat the top-ranked UConn Huskies. Razorbacks senior Chelsea Dungee showed out in that upset against Naismith Player of the Year finalist Paige Bueckers. They also defeated reigning champion Baylor, could count their eight losses as a casualty to playing in the SEC and appeared battle-weathered to best face No. 1 overall seed Stanford.

Instead what the second day of the 2021 tournament showed on a larger stage was how far the women's game has come in the short amount of time it has even had the chance to compete for national titles. All season teams swapped spots in the AP Poll and toppled teams up and down the rankings. The parity in the women's game is here and growing. There are upsets and there are Cinderella runs. Any mention otherwise is a myth.

And no, it's not always UConn's title to lose, however, ESPN's Basketball Power Index (BPI) does have the Huskies as the favorite to win the title — at a whopping 22 percent. Baylor and Stanford have a 19 percent chance and six schools have at least a five percent chance.

The women's tournament doesn't have to prove anything. But if it did, Monday's slate of games showed it's worthy of March Madness.

First wins for Belmont, Wright State

It was a historic afternoon for the Wright State and Belmont programs. Their first tournament wins in program history were also the biggest of the 2021 tournament thus far.

Wright State junior guard Angel Baker was pivotal in keeping the Raiders' lead and scored a team-high 26 points and 12 rebounds. Her 3-pointer with 30 seconds left put the Raiders up for good and sent them into the second round of the Alamo Region.

“It feels good man,” Baker said, via the Associated Press. "We made history for our program, for our university ... Definitely feel like we were underestimated. A lot of teams fail to realize numbers don’t mean nothing though, so they probably look at it like an underdog. We stepped up to the challenge.”

Belmont, the Mercado Region's 12 seed, stunned No. 5 Gonzaga behind 25 points, seven rebounds and three steals from OVC Freshman of the Year Destinee Wells. The Bruins were 0-5 in the tournament going into Monday and are the first OVC team to win a tournament game since Tennessee Tech in 1990.

The upset came on the same court as No. 11 BYU's win over No. 6 Rutgers to start the day in the Mercado. At the same time, No. 3 Georgia was in trouble and No. 7 Alabama survived a close one with North Carolina.

Massive showings for top seeds

The chalk was gone. The massive showings on the top line weren't. The Nos. 2 and 3 seeds playing Monday kept pace with the top teams that blew out opponents on the first day.

No. 2 Maryland neared triple digits in its 2021 tournament debut. The Terrapins defeated No. 15 Mount St. Mary's 98-45 in the Hemisfair, the region they share with South Carolina.

It eclipsed their nation-leading average of 92 points per game and was their largest tournament victory in program history. The Terrapins continue to cruise, having not played a game decided by single digits since Jan. 25.

The lead was only 10 after the first quarter. It quickly ballooned by outscoring Mount St. Mary's 25-4 in the second. It was the fewest points Maryland has given up all season.

It will get more difficult for Maryland with Alabama in the next round and later the Gamecocks if both top seeds make it through.

No. 3 Arizona put on a similar stunning tournament debut on the other side of the bracket in the Mercado. It was the Wildcats first tournament game since 2005 and they turned up with a 79-44 win against No. 14 seed Stony Brook.

Arizona's defense forced 11 turnovers in the first quarter and kept up its trademark pressure. Unlike Maryland, Arizona is built around defense first. But it found its offensive groove that will be handy to have in the next round. The Wildcats shot a season-high 58 percent and confidence grows more in March.

Arizona plays BYU on Wednesday.

Louisville, the second seed in the Alamo, took down No. 15 Marist with a 30-point cushion throughout the fourth quarter. The Cardinals won, 74-43, Freshman Hailey Van Lith led the charge with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting. She added four assists. Senior two-time ACC Player of the Year Dana Evans scored 15, but made only one of eight 3-point attempts.

Women's tournament second round TV schedule

The second round tips at 3 p.m. ET on the ESPN channels.

3 p.m.: No. 8 South Florida vs. No. 1 N.C. State, ESPN2 (Mercado)

3:30 p.m.: No. 5 Iowa vs. No. 4 Kentucky, ESPNU (River Walk)

5 p.m.: No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 3 Tennessee, ESPN2 (River Walk)

5:30 p.m.: No. 5 Georgia Tech vs. No. 4 West Virginia, ESPNU (Hemisfair)

7 p.m.: No. 7 Virginia Tech vs. No. 2 Baylor, ESPN2 (River Walk)

7 p.m.: No. 8 Oregon State vs. No. 1 South Carolina, ESPN (Hemisfair)

9 p.m.: No. 8 Syracuse vs. No. 1 UConn, ESPN (River Walk)

9 p.m.: No. 8 Oklahoma State vs. No. 1 Stanford, ESPN2 (Alamo)

What to watch on Day 3

The River Walk region will be one to watch with national player of the year contenders.

Iowa is led by freshman Caitlin Clark, who averages a nation-best 26.5 points per game. Kentucky boasts Rhyne Howard. The winner will move on to the Sweet 16 to likely face UConn. Most fans have a potential Clark vs. Paige Bueckers matchup circled on their brackets.

Michigan will work through Naz Hillmon, who was quiet in the first round. Leigha Brown took over with 28 points. Tennessee relies on Rennia Davis and Rae Burrell in the backcourt. They combined for 44 points in the first round.

Syracuse will get a shot at UConn, though Orange coach Quentin Hillsman made no qualms about wanting No. 16 seed High Point instead. The Orange run through WNBA prospect Tiana Mangahakia at point guard.

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