Previewing Texas women’s basketball NCAA tournament first, second round opponents

Emma Hutchinson, Senior Sports Reporter

Making their eighth NCAA tournament appearance, Texas women’s basketball made itself an attractive No. 4-seed team as they return to the Moody Center on Saturday and Monday for the first two rounds of play. The Longhorns will face off against the East Carolina Pirates in the first round, and if all goes well, they will play either Louisville or Drake. 

East Carolina Pirates, No. 13 seed

Texas’ first round pick came to be the East Carolina Pirates, the recent victors of the American Athletic Conference championship. Although it scraped by Houston in the title game of the tournament, with a final score of 46-44 after triple overtime, the Pirates became the first non-No. 1 seed to ever win the tournament. This is the team’s third NCAA tournament appearance in program history, with their last one dating all the way back to 2007.  

However, this squad might have some trouble when put up against those outside of the AAC. The Pirates’ top two scorers, senior guard Danae McNeal and freshman forward Amiya Joyner, are the only players averaging in the double digits, with McNeal putting up 17.6 points per game. McNeal has served as an offensive powerhouse and earned the ACC title of Most Improved Player of the Year, while Joyner has been a crucial asset to the team’s defense, averaging 6.2 rebounds per game.   

East Carolina’s most difficult matchup thus far was against South Florida, the only one of their conference opponents to join them in the NCAA tournament, yet the Bulls will enter the bracket as a No. 8 seed. South Florida defeated East Carolina 72-48, but the Pirates aren’t the only ones to receive a loss from the Bulls; Texas also fell to South Florida back in December, 70-65.      

Louisville Cardinals, No. 5 seed

If Texas and Louisville both come away with a win on Saturday, it’ll be a battle between two teams who found themselves in the Elite Eight and Final Four last year.

The Cardinals made an impressive 12–6 conference run, beating Wake Forest and No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the ACC Championship. They were ultimately defeated by No. 3 seed Virginia Tech. 

The team has held their opponents to less than 60 points in its last four wins, with junior forward Olivia Cochran, leading the defense, as she has accumulated 220 rebounds on the season and averages 6.5 per game. 

The Longhorns’ postseason might be in danger if they take on the Cardinals in the second round unless they are prepared with a solid offensive strategy.          

Drake Bulldogs, No. 12 seed

Returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years, Drake sits as a No. 12 seed. The Bulldogs are currently riding on a five-game winning streak after sweeping the Missouri Valley Conference championship to land a spot in the NCAA bracket.   

But the Bulldogs have a shaky history with postseason play as they sport a 6–13 all-time record in the NCAA tournament. During the season, Drake faced off against two other current tournament bid teams, Creighton and Iowa, who are both single-seed teams, and the Bulldogs took a loss for both matchups. 

A secret weapon for Drake has been its star senior forward Maggie Bair. She currently shoots at a 60.3% field goal percentage, ranking No. 1 overall in the MVC, and is the only team member to reach above .500 accuracy. Bair also leads the team in 3-pointers, averaging a 41.7% success rate.