USA TODAY International Edition
Louisville makes return Sweet 16 trip
Louisville has made its sixth consecutive women’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, the longest active streak after UConn and South Carolina.
The 5- seed Cardinals did it by upsetting 4- seed Texas 73- 51 Monday on the Longhorns’ home floor.
Making the streak more impressive is there was a time this season when it seemed improbable.
“I said at our tip- off luncheon, ‘ This is going to be a team that’s going to take some time, OK. You’ve got to be patient with us,’ ” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “And we have several of our fans out there that weren’t. ‘ Oh, it’s a bad year, it’s a bad year.’
“Well, if it’s a bad year, I’d hate to see what a really bad year looks like. Because I don’t think it’s too bad, because it’s not over yet.”
A Final Four team last year, the Cardinals got off to a rough start, losing two of three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis in November. After an easy, and expected, win over Longwood, Louisville lost consecutive games by double digits to Ohio State – the Buckeyes were in the top 5 at the time – and unranked Middle Tennessee State.
By Christmas, Louisville was out of the Top 25, never to return the rest of the season.
The Cardinals finished the regular season 21- 10 after losing two of their last four games to Notre Dame.
But Louisville has gotten hot at the right time. It beat regular- season Atlantic Coast Conference champion Notre Dame in the semifinals of the league tournament before losing to Virginia Tech, which is one of two No. 1 seeds remaining.
Because of its rough season, Louisville was seeded fifth, which meant it had to play its first- and second- round games on the road. No matter. The Cardinals held off Drake on Saturday, then walloped Texas to advance to the Sweet 16 and keep its streak alive.
“We have figured something out. I’m not saying we have all the answers, because we don’t,” Walz said. “But we have figured out how to get our kids to play the best when it matters.”
Here are other winners, besides Miami, and losers from Day 4 of the women’s NCAA Tournament:
WINNERS Black coaches
There will be four Black coaches in the Sweet 16, a notable stat in a profession that has long struggled with diversity.
Dawn Staley of South Carolina, Kenny Brooks of Virginia Tech, Niele Ivey of Notre Dame and Yolett McPhee- McCuin all have led their teams to the Sweet 16.
Staley and Brooks coach top- seeded teams, while McPhee- McCuin’s Ole Miss squad sent Stanford home in the second round for the first time since 2007. Ivey’s team has kept winning despite losing two of its starters.
Only two Black coaches, Staley and Carolyn Peck, have won national championships, and Staley has made it a priority to champion other coaches of color in the profession. She famously sent pieces of the net from South Carolina’s first title to Black women’s coaches ahead of last season and used some of her time at the Final Four last year to point out how hard it is for Black men to get a shot.
“Maybe 10 years ago, there was an influx of hiring – the thing was to hire Black women. I think we’re back at that place now where Black women are on the top tier of ADs wanting a Black coach to head their – a female Black coach. Male Black coaches, they don’t have a shot. So that’s my next thing,” Staley said.
“But it’s more popular right now to hire a Black coach.”
It’s one thing for athletic directors to hire Black coaches, however, and another for those coaches to win on the biggest stage where everyone, in and outside the game, can see it.
“I just feel like Black female coaches have been the voiceless,” Staley said last year.
The change that many predicted would “ruin college sports” seems to be working out just fine for the Miami Hurricanes.
The U got some of the most intriguing transfers last offseason with the addition of the Cavinder, twins, who played their first three years at Fresno State and were drawn to Miami because of name, image and likeness money. ( Haley and Hanna Cavinder reportedly earn up to seven figures in a variety of NIL deals.)
Some wondered if they were good enough to play in the Power Five.
Well, they are. Haley in particular was huge in Monday’s 70- 68 upset of No. 1 Indiana, scoring nine points ( including two clutch free throws with 12.7 seconds left), snagging eight rebounds, blocking one shot and grabbing one steal.
Her play helped send the Hurricanes to their first Sweet 16 since 1992, long before the twins were born.
Maybe the transfer portal isn’t as bad as coaches make it out to be.
It was a good day for players who started at one school before moving to another, with multiple transfers coming up big when their ( current) team needed it most.
● Taylor Mikesell, who started at Maryland, transferred to Oregon and finally landed at Ohio State, finished with 17 points, three assists and two steals for the Buckeyes.
● Rickea Jackson, the Southeastern Conference’s leading scorer at Mississippi State last year, has been tough for Tennessee all season and on Monday scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists.
● Louisville had multiple transfers who made an impact, including former Florida State guard Morgan Jones ( 10 points, six rebounds) and senior forward Lix Dison, who left Georgia Tech after her freshman year and grabbed 10 rebounds in the win over Texas.
There were outstanding performances from transfers who lost, too. Duke guard Celeste Taylor, who came to Durham from Texas, came incredibly close to a quadruple- double with eight points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and 10 steals.
LOSERS 12 seeds
It was fun while it lasted. There won’t be any double- digit seeds in the Sweet 16 after Florida Gulf Coast and Toledo, both No. 12 seeds, lost Monday.
Tenth- seeded Georgia, the only other double- digit seed to win in the first round, lost Sunday.
The lowest seed left in the tournament is No. 9 Miami.