Eight days ago, the Baylor Bears looked like they were one win away from a No. 1 seed in the 2022 NCAA Women’s Tournament. Now their season is over. The 10th-seeded South Dakota Coyotes beat Baylor 61-47 on Sunday, dominating wire-to-wire to advance to their first Sweet 16. Baylor, the second No. 2 seed of the day to lose on home court , had appeared in 12 consecutive matches. regional semi-finals.
Coupled with Creighton’s upset against Iowa earlier on Sunday, the Sweet 16 will feature at least two double-digit seeds for the first time since 2018, when Central Michigan and Buffalo made the trip as 11 seeds. It’s also the first time since 2016 that a pair of top-two seeds have come out in the first two rounds (Arizona State and Maryland). This year’s eight wins by double-digit seeds in the first two rounds tie the NCAA tournament mark previously set in 2018.
What happened in Waco, Texas? How did South Dakota keep Baylor’s offense — which averaged the eighth-highest points per game in the nation — at its season-low total? How did the Coyotes pull off the clash and end Baylor’s 68-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents?
Baylor struggled and fell behind early. What went wrong for the Bears?
The looks on the Baylor players’ faces at the last minute of South Dakota’s upset said it all. They stood alone, separated on the ground, staring into space, expressionless. It was clear that none of them had seen this coming. And maybe that was the problem. The Bears didn’t seem ready to play against this smart, veteran team from South Dakota, and they never adapted. Or they couldn’t. South Dakota was so good, and they haven’t fallen behind in their two wins yet.
In the first seven minutes of the game, Baylor had seven missed shots, seven turnovers and zero points. South Dakota took advantage of this slowness to take an 11-0 lead. At the end of the first quarter, the Bears had four points, their fewest in one period this season.
Things never really improved for Baylor, who seemed baffled by South Dakota’s defensive rotations and ability to limit the Bears’ offensive rebound. Baylor trailed by 11 at halftime and by 13 after three quarters. The game never came close to seven points in the final period. The Coyotes were the dominant team from start to finish.
Considering how Baylor was playing ahead of the Big 12 tournament championship game — a win in the March 13 Finals and the Bears looked assured of a No. 1 seed — makes Sunday’s performance all the more more amazing. After going through the transition to new coach Nicki Collen and taking a few pieces early in the season, the Bears seemed to have it figured out. They won the Big 12 regular season title and were on a 12-game winning streak. Then Texas stopped Baylor cold in the tournament title game; the Bears didn’t look like the same team in a nine-point loss. That level of performance seemed to carry over into Sunday’s game. — Cream
How did South Dakota pull off the surprise?
South Dakota took a 16-4 lead over Baylor by forcing 10 turnovers in the first quarter (10! In 10 minutes! Like averaging one a minute!) and scoring 10 points on them. The Coyotes played, as coach Dawn Plitzuweit said after the game, “fearless” from the jump. The game was more even from then on, but once the Bears were pushed back on their heels, they never seemed to recover enough to get into a big lead run.
Bigger picture, the Coyotes got here in the first place because of their defensive identity, clinching their ticket to the Big Dance by holding a talented South Dakota State team to a game-low 24.6% shot of the season in the Summit League title game. That defensive effort was evident against 7-seeded Ole Miss in the first round, where potential WNBA lottery pick Shakira Austin was limited to nine points on 3-for-16 shooting, her second-worst shooting percentage. of the season. The Coyotes followed that up on Sunday by limiting the top two expected WNBA picks, NaLyssa Smith, to 10 points on 4-for-11 shooting in what was a true masterclass in game planning and execution.
Plitzuweit and the players said afterwards that their intention was to make the throw-ins difficult for Smith and not let her go one-on-one by sending in help, which Baylor’s Caitlin Bickle said the Bears hadn’t seen much in the Big 12 this year with them playing a wider-spaced offense under Collen.
With Smith struggling, no one else was really able to take over from Baylor. The Bears, who under Collen are shooting 3s and hitting them with a decent clip, went just 5 for 26 from deep, their third-worst 3-for-1 on the season. After the game, Collen pointed out that the Coyotes’ physicality and size advantage in the backcourt were factors that made his Bears feel a bit more uncomfortable. — Philippepou
What is the cap for South Dakota? How far can the Coyotes go in the range?
South Dakota starts hot with 11-0 run against Baylor
If the first two rounds had a tournament coach award, it would go to Plitzuweit. As Alexa mentioned, the Coyotes’ game plans took Austin and Smith out of the game and were brilliant. These two — likely top-five picks in the WNBA Draft in April — were thoroughly frustrated with the defense the Coyotes threw at them.
6-foot-5 Austin and 6-foot-4 Smith combined to score 19 points on 7-for-27 shooting. Whether it’s Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist or Michigan’s Naz Hillmon in the regional semis, both should expect to be well defended.
South Dakota’s 6-foot-2 center Hannah Sjerven is 13 of 21 shooting in the tournament and has 36 total points. Sjerven is joined by Chloe Lamb – who is averaging 21.2 points per game on 53% shooting over the last four contests – and Liv Korngable as super seniors who returned to Vermillion for another shot at tournament success NCAA.
With those veterans and the acumen of game planning that South Dakota has shown, an Elite Eight trip is in the cards. As successful as South Dakota managed to completely shut down Baylor, doing the same in Louisville or Tennessee in a regional final doesn’t seem out of the question. — Cream
How does the elimination of Baylor change the Wichita Regional?
In short, the path to Minneapolis seems way more feasible for the remaining teams with Baylor eliminated, especially considering, before Sunday, how dominant the Bears had seemed in the final weeks of the season. At their best in the Big 12 game, Baylor really looked like they could claim the title.
Top-seeded Louisville, in particular, must be licking their chops right now. For one thing, the Cardinals — who have reached three straight Elite Eights — played some great basketball to start the NCAA Tournament, bouncing back from their early ACC Tournament loss with pretty comfortable wins over Albany and Gonzaga. If Louisville took care of business in the Sweet 16, where it faces winner Belmont-Tennessee, it would face Villanova, Michigan or South Dakota in the Elite Eight. Belmont and South Dakota have never played in the Sweet 16 before. Tennessee leading scorer, rebounder and distributor Jordan Horston remains unsure if she could return. Villanova hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2003. And Louisville already demolished Michigan 70-48 earlier this year.
And third-seeded Michigan should be even more motivated to pull themselves together after losing four of their last six games heading into the NCAA Tournament. With Baylor, to whom the Wolverines lost in the 2021 Sweet 16 and then beat in overtime in December, out of sight, Kim Barnes Arico’s side should feel more empowered to make their first Elite Eight, if not more.
Outside of the Wichita area, I also suspect South Carolina is feeling pretty good right now. — Philippepou
What’s next for Baylor?
A year after having to transition to a new coaching staff, the Bears will have to adjust to a new roster. Bickle and Ja’Mee Asberry are both returning to use their extra year of eligibility, and Sarah Andrews is just a sophomore, but three starters – Smith, Queen Egbo and Jordan Lewis – will be gone. That means replacing three of the top four scorers and the top two rebounders.
Even with Collen bringing in the ninth-best recruiting class according to ESPN.com rankings and the possibilities the transfer portal has, it doesn’t look like the Bears will be as talented next year. Losing a player of Smith’s caliber alone will require considerable adjustment.
And with Big 12 teams like Texas and Kansas likely to bring back most of their contributors, winning a 13th straight regular-season conference championship could be a challenge. — Cream