The Des Moines Regional might be the deepest in the NCAA Tournament, and I have all the favorites making it through the first round. With Baylor, Tennessee and Delaware as the top three seeds, respectively, there are bound to be some interesting matchups. Baylor has Brittany Griner, one of the most dominant players in women’s basketball history. At 6-foot-8, she has completely marginalized every player who has tried to defend her. For your viewing enjoyment, click here to watch her dunk at around 55 seconds in. Tennessee has been far from top form this season, and it’s odd that they are a No. 2-seed with eight losses, four of which to unranked teams. Still, coach Pat Summit is a seasoned veteran when it comes to tournament play, so you can never count her team out of contention. Delaware plays in mid-major conference, but the Blue Hens have earned their No. 3-seed. Elena Delle Donne is the most valuable player in the country, as the Hens' entire team is built around her success. At 6-foot-5, she is Dirk Nowitzki of women’s basketball. She leads the country with 27.5 points per game, not to mention she shoots 40 percent from 3-point land. Because of her versatility on the court, she may be even harder to guard than Griner.
In the Big Ten
No. 6 Nebraska and No. 8 Ohio State are both unfortunately seeded, as they are each likely to be fighting for their tournament lives in the round of 32. Assuming the favorites win the first round, Nebraska will face off against Delaware on Tuesday. I think Delaware will win this game, but Nebraska is an extremely talented team that always has the element of surprise. Jordan Hooper is a similar player to Delle Donne, and it will be fun to watch them go shot for shot. To do that, point guard Lindsey Moore will need to keep the ball moving and span out the Huskers’ attempts. If Delle Donne and Delaware know where the ball is going, the Blue Hens will feast.
No. 8 Ohio State is even worse off, as the Buckeyes are looking Baylor straight in the eye in a potential second-round matchup. I think they should beat No. 9 Florida pretty handily in the first round, however, as the Gators aren’t very impressive on paper and the Buckeyes are essentially playing a home game in Bowling Green, Ohio. But if they draw Baylor, home-state advantage shouldn’t do them any good. Stopping Brittany Griner in the paint would be a near-impossible task for the Buckeyes. Their only player tall enough to do it is 6-foot-5 Ashley Adams, and she is one of the slowest players in the conference. Griner should have no trouble scoring on her.
Penn State fans will hate me for doing this, but No. 7 DePaul. The Blue Demons are looking at a potential matchup with Tennessee in the second round following their infamous second round victory in Happy Valley last year. I don’t think this is the Lady Volunteers’ year, and the Blue Demons should be ready to pounce on that. Don’t expect the them make an extensive run in this tournament, but remember they play in the stacked Big East Conference, not to mention they’ve beaten a very good St. John’s team by 17 points.
Baylor. It’s an easy pick. I think the Lady Bears will stroll to Denver, even if they end up facing Delaware. Women’s basketball fans would drool to watch Delle Donne face-off with Griner, but a game like that would come down to the supporting casts, and Baylor wins that matchup every time. Here are the numbers to prove it.
Baylor minus Griner
Delaware minus Delle Donne
**Griner herself has 175 blocks. The entire Delaware team, including Delle Donne, has 121.