'It doesn't feel real': Miami downs Indiana; 2nd 1-seed to fall

March 21, 2023, 2:09 AM

Coming into the 2023 women's NCAA basketball tournament, none of the No. 1 seeds had lost in the early rounds since 2009. Now, it's happened on back-to-back nights.

The Indiana Hoosiers, the top seed in the Greenville 2 Regional, were upset on Monday by the No. 9 Miami Hurricanes 70-68 at Indiana's Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in the second round. That followed the Seattle 4 Regional No. 1 seed Stanford Cardinal's 54-49 loss to the No. 8 Ole Miss Rebels on Sunday at Stanford's Maples Pavilion.

Like the men's tournament, which lost  Purdue and Kansas in the first weekend, the women's early rounds ended with just two No. 1 seeds moving on. The women's NCAA tournament, which began in 1982, has had two No. 1 seeds lose before the Sweet 16 in the same year just one previous time: in 1998, when Stanford lost in the first round and  Texas Tech in the second round.

The four No. 1 seeds to lose across the men's and women's tournaments so far this year are the most combined 1-seeds to lose in the first two rounds since the men's tournament expanded in 1985.

Miami is in the women's Sweet 16 for the first time since 1992 and next will play the No. 4 seed Villanova Wildcats, who have advanced this far for the first time since 2003. Indiana, which made the Elite Eight in 2021, won the Big Ten regular-season championship for the first time since 1983. But the Hoosiers trailed throughout most of Monday's loss to the Hurricanes.

Indiana did tie the game at 68 on Yarden Garzon's 3-pointer with 8 seconds left. But Miami's Destiny Harden then made a jump shot with 3 seconds left for the winner. Miami won its opener 62-61 over Oklahoma State, despite trailing by as much as 17. To go from that to the Sweet 16 is one of this year's biggest surprises in the women's tournament.

"I always tell my team, 'Act like you've been there before.' But we haven't," said Miami coach Katie Meier, who has led the program since 2005 and is making her 10th NCAA tournament appearance with the team. "It's a really big moment for us."

Miami (21-12) finished tied for sixth in the ACC at 11-7, but the Hurricanes did get wins over ranked ACC foes North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida State. Miami then lost to Virginia Tech by 26 in the ACC tournament, which didn't portend a big NCAA tournament run.

But the Hurricanes got it done with defense. Their total margin of victory for the two NCAA tournament wins is three points, tied for second lowest in tournament history. Only  Boston College, which advanced to the 2003 Sweet 16 with two one-point wins, has gotten this far with a lower margin of victory.

"It doesn't feel real, still," said Lola Pendande, who led Miami with 19 points. "When we were done with the game, I was like, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe it. We're here. We're really here.'"

The top 16 seeds host the early rounds in the women's tournament, but that doesn't prevent upsets. Last season, two No. 2 seeds, the Baylor Bears and Iowa Hawkeyes, lost in the second round to the South Dakota Coyotes and Creighton Bluejays, respectively.

But there had not been a No. 1 seed fall before the Sweet 16 since the Duke Blue Devils lost to the Michigan State Spartans in the second round in 2009. However, that matchup actually was played at Michigan State because the NCAA was using a different system then for early-round games: The games were played at 16 predetermined sites, and Michigan State was one of them.

It was a similar situation in 2006, when No. 1 seed  Ohio State lost to No. 8 Boston College in the second round: That game was on a neutral court at Purdue, which was one of the predetermined sites.

The last time a No. 1 women's seed lost an early-round game on its home court before this year was 1998: It happened to both Stanford and Texas Tech.

Indiana clinched the regular-season Big Ten title at home on Feb. 19 and at that point had lost only one game. But the Hoosiers then lost their regular-season finale at Iowa on a last-second 3-pointer by Caitlin Clark. Indiana won its Big Ten tournament opener over Michigan State, then lost a 24-point lead to Ohio State before falling in the semifinals.

All-American post player Mackenzie Holmes missed Indiana's NCAA first-round victory over Tennessee Tech with knee soreness, but she returned Monday and led her team with 22 points.

This was the first time Indiana ever had a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Hoosiers' disappointment was intense after the loss, which ended the college career of guard Grace Berger. She finished with 17 points.

"She's helped build this program," Indiana coach Teri Moren said. "We're not sitting here where we are today without Grace Berger. She chose us, and we're so grateful.

"It's human nature for us to always remember the last game. We're 28-4; that's a great season. There's been so many great things that have happened with our program."