UConn women’s basketball not the only favorite pushed in NCAA Tournament: ‘Supposed to be difficult’

We’re only two rounds into the NCAA Tournament and there’s been no shortage of historic and jaw-dropping upsets.

On Sunday, a Caitlin Clark-led No. 2 seed Iowa team fell to No. 10 Creighton, 64-62. The Bluejays advanced to their first-ever Sweet 16, while the Hawkeyes fell short of making their third straight regional.

On the same day, No. 10 South Dakota upset No. 2 Baylor 61-47 to advance in the Wichita Regional.

Earlier Monday night, as the UConn women’s basketball team was in the first quarter of its hard-fought second round matchup against UCF, No. 12 Belmont was seconds away from upsetting No. 4 Tennessee. But thanks to a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left, the Lady Vols escaped the early exit and advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 2016.

No. 3 LSU wasn’t so lucky, getting knocked out by No. 6 Ohio State — marking the first time a Kim Mulkey-coached team won’t be in the Sweet 16 since 2008.

The No. 2 Huskies nearly met the same fate late Monday night. UConn had built a 12-point lead with a little less than five minutes remaining against the No. 7 Knights.

But after both Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards fouled out, UCF went on one final surge to get within three with 22 seconds left. UConn prevailed 52-47, but it wasn’t easy.

UConn has often won its first two games of the NCAA Tournament in blowouts. After beating Mercer by 45-points in the first round, Monday’s game was a different experience — and much like other games in the tournament this year.

“Over the years, you know, we’ve kind of made it seem commonplace,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “But if you look around the country, these games are supposed to be difficult. They’re supposed to be tough. And you do learn a lot. You find out a little bit about yourself and you don’t necessarily have to shoot 60 percent from the floor to win a game.”