2023 NCAA Women’s Tournament upset picks: Three potential upsets to watch on Sunday
On Thursday, we began scouting for potential Cinderellas in the NCAA Women’s Tournament, and our statistical model is off to a good start if we do say so ourselves.
Only two first-round matchups in our top 10 took place on Friday. In one of them, Mississippi State was the third most likely to upset (with odds of 40.3%), and the Bulldogs toppled Creighton, 81-66. In the other, we warned you that the implied spread on the betting lines between Michigan and UNLV was closing so quickly that the underdog Lady Rebels actually looked overvalued and Vegas lost a dozen.
Beyond Mississippi State, three other teams defeated higher-seeded foes on Friday, setting up a first installment of seven Giants vs. Slayers matchups (where opponents are separated by five or more seeds). Now this is where the power of chalk in the women’s game really starts to show. Even for the Bulldogs or a successful double-digit seed like Princeton, the reward for first-round success is often a nearly impossible follow-up.
Our colleague Austin Mock estimates that among the Sunday underdogs, only three have a 20% or greater chance of winning. In two of those cases, the female Goliaths were startled quite severely.
Sunday second round upsets to watch
No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 7 Arizona
Disruption risk: 33.3%
Our statistical model estimates that the gap between Maryland and Arizona is less than 4 points per 100 possessions, or a quarter of the difference between Stanford and Mississippi!
No. 1 Virginia Tech vs. No. 9 South Dakota State
Risk of upheaval: 21.6%
Additionally, our model ranks Virginia Tech, seed 1, as the 13th strongest team in the pack, not one of the top four. Meanwhile, South Dakota State, a favored 9-seeded in the betting lines to beat 8-seeded USC in the first round, is shooting exceptionally well (53.5% effective field goal percentage , ranking 11th in the nation, according to HerHoopStats) and protects the ball.
No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 10 Georgia
Risk of upheaval: 25.4%
That leaves one team we want to draw your attention to in Round 2 for its giant-slaying qualities: 10-seeded Georgia, which beat Florida State on Friday. The Lady Bulldogs rank 14th in the nation in forcing live ball turnovers (steal percentage: 12.7%) and 25th in grabbing their own missed shots (ORB%: 37.3%). Thus, they generate heaps of extra chances that an underdog needs to beat a generally superior opponent.
Check it out: Georgia has taken 15 more shots from the field than Florida, 8 more than South Carolina, and 7 more than North Carolina State in games this season. And they’re led by Diamond Battles (14.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals per game), a fifth-year senior transfer from UCF and an all-around guard. Battles will have the fight of her life on her hands against second seed Iowa, but one more win and she just might get the national notoriety she deserves.
(Photo by Diamond Battles: Eakin Howard/Getty Images)