Notre Dame Regional breakdown


Can Notre Dame continue its undefeated season and advance to Nashville, Tenn.? Can high-scoring senior All-American Odyssey Sims get Baylor back to the Final Four? Here are the biggest storylines in this corner of the bracket?

Three observations

1. There are a lot of stellar guards in this quarter of the bracket, but probably no team has more perimeter options than No. 3 seed Kentucky. Guards Kastine Evans, Janee Thompson and Bria Goss are on the floor at the opening tip. Then, coach Matthew Mitchell can bring talented subs, such as Jennifer O'Neill, Linnae Harper and Makayla Epps, off the bench. It really gives the Wildcats many combinations to use. If someone is struggling, Mitchell doesn't have to hesitate in making a move.

2. Speaking of guards, coach Muffet McGraw -- coach of No. 1 seed Notre Dame -- said Michaela Mabrey has a green light to shoot 100 percent of the time whenever the sophomore thinks she has a good look at the basket. Mabrey has made 65 of 156 3-pointers this season (41.7 percent) and has a completely fearless mentality.

And if Mabrey is one of the best shooters that McGraw has ever had at Notre Dame, fellow sophomore Jewell Loyd gets the coach's nod as the most athletically gifted player who has suited up for the program.

3. No. 2 seed Baylor's ability to so successfully reinvent itself around guard Sims has earned well-deserved praise. But while everyone knows Baylor lost five seniors who were all important contributors, this season is even more impressive considering the Lady Bears have been without 6-foot-1 guard Alexis Prince. She was expected to be a big contributor but played in just four games because of foot surgery.
-- Mechelle Voepel

Three players to watch

Lindsay Allen, Notre Dame: The freshman stepped into a nice spot and has a lot of help around her, but don't underestimate the degree of difficulty of her debut. First, she's the point guard who followed Skylar Diggins in that role. Second, she's the point guard on a team that has two outstanding senior playmakers in Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa. So she has to be deferential -- except when she needs to be assertive. The end result? Allen quietly enters the tournament as Notre Dame's leader in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio and a player who can break an opponent's spirit with a well-timed 3-pointer just when it thinks it has McBride, Achonwa and Jewell Loyd accounted for.

Nina Davis, Baylor: Sims soaks up a lot of the spotlight, for obvious and well-earned reasons, but Davis might have been no more than a few nationally televised Diamond DeShields moments away from national freshman of the year honors. Davis enters the NCAA tournament with 295 rebounds, which means she needs just three more to better Brittney Griner's freshman total. And Davis already has more offensive rebounds than Griner had in any of her four seasons in Waco, Texas. Not bad for a player who checks in at just 5 feet, 11 inches. She averaged nearly a double-double in Big 12 play and seems to get better by the day as a scoring option on more than those offensive rebound putbacks.

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