ESPN’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Show broadcast began Monday night with a replay of Mississippi State point guard Morgan William’s “shot heard round the world.” You know, the one that ended UConn’s record winning streak in last year’s NCAA semifinals.

And one of the announcers said this: “Just goes to show that anybody can win any game on any given night” in the NCAA Tournament. Whoa…

No, sorry, it does not. What it showed was that Mississippi State, on a given night, was good enough to beat UConn. Very few teams are. Women’s college basketball is not nearly as deep in quality teams as the men’s game. In reality, probably five or six teams are capable of winning it all in the Final Four that will be played in Columbus, Ohio.

And that’s what made Monday night’s selection show intriguing – looking at whom everyone has to beat early to get there. First impression: Mississippi State has to be pleased with its draw as the No. 1 seed in the Kansas City Regional.

The Bulldogs host Nicholls State Saturday in a first round game at Starkville. Win that one, and Monday they will play the winner of the Syracuse and Oklahoma State, who will also play Saturday at Starkville. Win again – and MSU will be heavily favored to do so – the Bulldogs advance to the Kansas City Regional where they eventually will have to beat either No. 2 seed Texas or No. 3 seed UCLA to win the title. Texas lost six times this season. UCLA lost seven. State lost one.

All things considered, it’s a manageable draw, certainly better than UConn’s, if you ask me. UConn is the No 1 seed in the Albany Regional, where if all goes according to form the Huskies would play No. 2 seed and defending national champion South Carolina in the Regional championship.

For my money, South Carolina, which recently defeated State in the SEC Tournament championship game, is the best 2-seed in the tournament. I can’t imagine the Gamecocks are happy about being in UConn’s bracket, or that UConn is happy about it either.

The other two No. 1 seeds are Notre Dame in the Spokane Regional and Louisville in the Lexington Regional. State fans might have preferred to be closer to home in the regional at Lexington, but maybe not after seeing the other teams in it. The 2-3-4-5 seeds are powerhouse Baylor, Tennessee, Stanford and Missouri, respectively. That’s no bargain.

All in all, Vic Schaefer should be pleased with the bracket. The Bulldogs will have to be very good to get to a second straight Final Four, but it is certainly do-able.

For those who want to look far, far ahead, State would not have to play UConn until the championship game.

Rick Cleveland

Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 12 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.