Reseeding the womens Sweet 16: A new No. 1 overall

    Charlie Creme projects the women’s NCAA tournament bracket for ESPN.com.

The Creighton Bluejays did it. So did the South Dakota Coyotes. The 11th-seeded Princeton Tigers and 12-seed Belmont Bruins came oh-so-close. And a wild two days of second-round play in the 2022 NCAA women’s basketball tournament ultimately gave us two double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16. All the craziness necessitates major changes to the seeding.

The biggest change comes right at the top. The South Carolina Gamecocks, who have been No. 1 all season, are no longer leading the way. With their two blowout victories, the Stanford Cardinal are the new No. 1 overall. That is just the beginning of the shake-up. When a No. 10 seed has been one of the most impressive teams in the tournament, big changes are coming, and South Dakota makes a big jump.

The Coyotes eliminated an SEC and Big 12 team, and each of those leagues have just two teams remaining in the field, the same number as the Big East. The Big Ten, which was rated the fifth-best conference in the country according to the NET, has four teams into the Sweet 16. The ACC, No. 4 on that list, has three.

And about that home-court advantage: Of the top-16 seeds hosting first- and second-round games, five failed to advance to the Sweet 16, and three more — the Indiana Hoosiers, Tennessee Lady Volunteers and UConn Huskies — barely survived.

Now where do all these teams fall? Here is a brand new Sweet 16 ranking after two more days of games.

Follow this link for a complete look at Friday’s schedule and Saturday’s games, which are all on the ESPN family of networks. Visit this link to check your Women’s Tournament Challenge bracket.

1. Stanford Cardinal
Original seed: No. 1
Sweet 16 seed: No. 1
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 16 Montana State 78-37; defeated Kansas 91-65

The first round was about Francesca Belibi’s dunk and the Cardinal’s stifling defense against Montana State. Sunday’s performance was about Lexie Hull’s 36 points and Stanford’s 13 3-pointers against Kansas. Success can take on many different forms for the Cardinal. No team is as diverse or versatile. There is no better example than this: Stanford has won its two games by an average of 33.5 points, and Haley Jones has a total of 11 points. The Cardinal even showed some explosiveness. They led the Jayhawks by only three at halftime, but the lead was 34 less than 14 minutes later. The defending NCAA champion’s winning streak is up to 22 games, easily the longest in the country.

Up next: vs. Maryland (Friday, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

2. South Carolina Gamecocks
Original seed: No. 1 overall
Sweet 16 seed: No. 1
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 16 Howard 79-21; defeated Miami 49-33

The Gamecocks have been No. 1 all season long, but after a 49-point performance in a second-round victory over Miami, they must drop. Sunday’s outing was an extreme example of an ailing offense, but it was not the only symptom. South Carolina’s field goal rate hasn’t reach 40% in four of its past five games, and for the season, the Gamecocks rank 310th in the nation in 3-point rate. A free throw rate of 67% is also a concern. On the other hand, the defense is so good, the Gamecocks don’t slide too far. South Carolina has allowed just 54 total points in two games, shattering the old NCAA record of 71 (Oregon State, 2016) for fewest allowed in the opening two rounds. The Gamecocks also lead the nation in blocked shots and opponents’ field goal percentage. There is no reason to believe the defense won’t continue to dominate in Greensboro.

Up next: vs. North Carolina (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

3. NC State Wolfpack
Original seed: No. 1
Sweet 16 seed: No. 1
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 16 Longwood 96-68; defeated Kansas State 89-57

Balance and 3-point accuracy have been the calling cards this season for the Wolfpack, and nothing has changed in the NCAA tournament. Against Kansas State in the second round, all eight players who saw action by the end of the third quarter had scored at least four points — and the player with just four was All-American Elissa Cunane. Without its star making an impact, NC State still led by 27 points before cruising in the fourth. The Wolfpack made seven of their first 11 shots from deep; they’ve made 36.7% of their 3-pointers this season, which ranks 10th in the country.

Up next: vs. Notre Dame (Saturday, 11:30 a.m. ET, ESPN)

4. Louisville Cardinals
Original seed: No. 1
Sweet 16 seed: 1
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 16 Albany 83-51; defeated Gonzaga 68-57

The Cardinals’ position as a No. 1 seed seemed tenuous for the 10 days after they lost to Miami in the ACC tournament, and it was only locked in when Baylor lost the Big 12 tournament title game. Now it’s rock solid, even with hard-charging UConn right behind. Louisville was outstanding even when Hailey Van Lith was playing poorly in the first half of the season. She has looked like an All-American so far in the tournament, averaging 20.5 points per game on 50.0% shooting. But if the Cardinals are to make a fourth Final Four under Jeff Walz, it will be behind their defense, which is rated 10th by Her Hoop Stats.

Up next: vs. Tennessee (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

5. UConn Huskies
Original seed: No. 2
Sweet 16 seed: No. 2
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 15 Mercer 83-38; defeated UCF 52-47

UConn had played UCF 13 times prior to Monday night’s second-round game. The Huskies had won those by an average of 31.7 points. Monday was nothing like that. The game was played exactly the way the Knights want to play. They dictated pace and physicality. Had UCF made more than 10 of 20 free throws and not committed 20 turnovers, UConn would not be advancing to a 28th consecutive Sweet 16. The Huskies were forced into doing things UConn teams rarely do. They missed nine of 11 layup attempts, shot 29.2% from the field, went the final 5:05 without a field goal, got outrebounded and had two players foul out. UConn’s 52 points were its lowest of the season. It was the ultimate survive-and-advance game for a program that hasn’t had a second-round game this close since 1999.

Up next: vs. Indiana (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN)

6. Texas Longhorns
Original seed: No. 2
Sweet 16 seed: 2
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 15 Fairfield 70-52; defeated Utah 78-56

Vic Schaefer is experiencing a coach’s dream: His team is peaking at just the right time. By no coincidence, his star freshmen, Rori Harmon and Aaliyah Moore, are playing their best basketball. The 6-foot-1 Moore’s 18 and 21 points in the first two rounds are the two highest scoring games of her young career. Point guard Harmon has 19 assists in two tournament games, following a 20-point game in the Big 12 tournament championship game. A team that has won all year because of its defense (rated the eighth best by Her Hoops Stats) has found its offense, which is averaging 77.0 PPG since the start of the Big 12 tournament.

Up next: vs. Ohio State (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

7.Indiana Hoosiers
Original seed: No. 3
Sweet 16 seed: No. 2
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 14 Charlotte 85-51; defeated Princeton 56-55

The Hoosiers’ starting lineup has played a combined 21 years of college basketball. They needed every day of that experience to survive Princeton, which erased a 14-point third-quarter deficit and came within a possession of being the first Ivy League team to reach the Sweet 16. A spinning layup by Grace Berger, in her fourth season, with 31 seconds left, and a steal by Ali Patberg, in her fifth season but seventh year in college, were the difference to secure Indiana’s second straight Sweet 16 appearance. All five of those starters average in double figures, with Berger leading the way at 14.0 PPG. She also led the way on Monday with 15.

Up next: vs. UConn (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN)

8. Michigan Wolverines
Original seed: No. 3
Sweet 16 seed: No. 2
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 14 American 74-39; defeated Villanova 64-49

Consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter as they pulled away from Villanova highlight the best of the Wolverines. First, they swung the ball around the perimeter and made two or three extra passes until freeing open sharpshooter Maddie Nolan for a 3-pointer. On the next trip down the floor, a crisp pass to the low post found star senior Naz Hillmon for a layup. That sequence pushed Michigan’s lead into double figures on the way to the Wolverines’ second straight Sweet 16 appearance after never having been there before. Hillmon dominated with her 50th career double-double (27 points, 11 rebounds), but Leigha Brown’s 18 points were even more important. Michigan’s second-leading scorer, Brown is healthy again, and she played in just her fourth game after missing a month with a leg injury.

Up next: vs. South Dakota (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

9. Iowa State Cyclones
Original seed: No. 3
Sweet 16 seed: 3
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 14 UT Arlington 78-71; defeated Georgia 67-44

One quarter into the tournament, the Cyclones trailed UT Arlington by eight and looked like they could be headed for an upset. Iowa State hasn’t lost a quarter since. As she so often does for the Cyclones, Ashley Joens was the catalyst against the Mavs with 36 points and 19 rebounds. In the blowout of Georgia, Joens deferred to guards Lexi Donarski and Emily Ryan, and Iowa State’s defensive game plan did the rest, limiting the Lady Dogs to 30.4% shooting. Typically, the Cyclones win with their shooting. They lead the country in 3-point rate (38.9%) and are fourth in free throw rate (81.0%), but they are a sneaky good defensive rebounding team (13th nationally) and defend without sending their opponent to the line (third in free throw rate defense).

Up next: vs. Creighton (Friday, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

10. Maryland Terrapins
Original seed: No. 4
Sweet 16 seed: No. 3
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 13 Delaware 102-71; defeated Florida Gulf Coast 89-65

The extended time off between their early exit from the Big Ten tournament until the NCAA tourney seems to have helped the Terps immensely. Ashley Owusu is healthy, Diamond Miller looks comfortable again and Angel Reese has regained her inside dominance. They are playing like the big three they were projected to be, and they combined for 65 of the Terps’ 89 points against FGCU. The Terps are the second-highest scorers in the tournament so far, something more reminiscent of the squad that led the nation in points per game a year ago.

Up next: vs. Stanford (Friday, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Original seed: No. 5
Sweet 16 seed: No. 4
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 12 UMass 89-78; defeated Oklahoma 108-64

Monday’s win over Oklahoma is what the Irish look like when they are allowed to play in transition. The Sooners, third in the country in pace, felt they could run with Notre Dame. They couldn’t — and the 44-point defeat tied for the most ever by a top-four seed in NCAA tournament history. Freshman point guard Olivia Miles routinely dribbled into space and then found shooters. That helped Dara Mabrey to seven 3-pointers and 29 points. Sonia Citron (25 points) and Maya Dodson (20 points) got layup after layup. For the second straight game, Miles reached double digits in assists with 12, and Notre Dame’s 108 points are a season high. Miles’ 23 assists are the most for a player in her first two tournament games since 2000. Now the Irish face a very familiar opponent in the Sweet 16. Notre Dame was the only ACC team to beat the Wolfpack this season.

Up next: vs. NC State (Saturday, 11:30 a.m. ET, ESPN)

12. South Dakota Coyotes
Original seed: No. 10
Sweet 16 seed: No. 4
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 7 Ole Miss 75-61; defeated Baylor 61-47

The Coyotes have played like a team that was underseeded by the committee. They might still be underseeded here. In 80 minutes against Power 5 teams Ole Miss and Baylor, South Dakota has yet to trail. Coach Dawn Plitzuweit’s defense has completely shut down two prospective top-five WNBA draft picks in Shakira Austin and NaLyssa Smith. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. The Yotes ranked ninth in the country this season in points allowed per game. They just hadn’t been this good against the Power 5 teams they played in November and December, including South Carolina, Northwestern and Oklahoma. One more win and Chloe Lamb and Hannah Sjerven will become national stars. They have been conference stars nearly their entire careers in the Summit League, with Lamb this year’s player of the year and Sjerven a two-time defensive player of the year.

Up next: vs. Michigan (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

13. Tennessee Lady Volunteers
Original seed: No. 4
Sweet 16 seed: 3
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 13 Buffalo 80-67; defeated Belmont 70-67

Belmont might have been the better team on Monday night, but Tennessee found a way. With the game on the line, the Lady Vols went to freshman Sara Puckett, whose 3-pointer with 20 seconds left was the game-winner. Belmont only lost the battle on the boards, 43-40, to one of the best rebounding teams in the country, but will regret only making 5 of 10 free throws, including two by Jamilyn Kinney right before Puckett’s 3 gave Tennessee a one-point lead. The Lady Vols beat a No. 13 and a No. 12 seed to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2016, and its best player in both games, Alexus Dye (38 points and 22 rebounds in the two game), previously played for a Troy, who was a No. 15 seed a year ago.

Up next: vs. Louisville (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

14.North Carolina Tar Heels
Original seed: No. 5
Sweet 16 seed: 4
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 12 Stephen F. Austin 79-66; defeated Arizona 63-45

Courtney Banghart has been building steadily since taking the Tar Heels’ coaching job three years ago and now has North Carolina in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015. With a seven-player rotation that consists of five sophomores, the Tar Heels went into a raucous environment in Tucson and never let Arizona challenge them. Fifteen of North Carolina’s field goals were assisted, but defense won the game. The Wildcats only had 17 points at halftime and were never in the game past the midway point of the second quarter.

Up next: vs. South Carolina (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

15.Ohio State Buckeyes
Original seed: No. 6
Sweet 16 seed: No. 4
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 11 Missouri State 63-56; defeated LSU 79-64

The Buckeyes were the sixth-highest scoring team in the country this season, but it didn’t look like it against Missouri State in the first round. They needed their defense to win that one. The offense returned against LSU and the veteran Tigers had no answer. Khayla Pointer tried to save LSU like she did Saturday against Jackson State, but because Jacy Sheldon (23 points) and Taylor Mikesell (18 points) were on the other side, Pointer’s 32 points were not enough. Mikesell is the second-most accurate 3-point shooter in the country, and she made 4-of-7 on Monday. That’s twice as many as LSU made in the game.

Up next: vs. vs. Texas (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

16. Creighton Bluejays
Original seed: No. 10
Sweet 16 seed: No. 4
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 7 Colorado 84-74; defeated Iowa 64-62

The Bluejays are an outstanding offensive team. Ranked eighth in the country in points per 100 possessions and fourth in effective field goal percentage, Creighton’s spacing, shooting and passing are rivaled by few, and the Bluejays employed those attributes to slice up Colorado in the opening round. Then Creighton beat Iowa by slowing the pace, which is also a strength, and with defense. The Bluejays clipped and bumped Caitlin Clark just enough to force her worst game of the season and held the Hawkeyes to their lowest total all year. That Iowa transfer Lauren Jensen hit the game-winning shot for Creighton is one of the best stories of the opening weekend. The Bluejays’ next opponent, Iowa State, will be like looking in a mirror, making it one of the most intriguing matchups of the regional semifinals.

Up next: vs. Iowa State (Friday, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

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