Reseeding a chalky womens Elite Eight

    Charlie Creme projects the women’s NCAA tournament bracket for ESPN.com.

If you went chalk in your 2022 women’s NCAA tournament bracket, you might still be in pretty good shape. The No. 1 seeds each advanced to the Elite Eight. The reseeding at the top doesn’t need much adjustment except to account for how impressive the Stanford Cardinal have been. The reigning national champions moved to the No. 1 overall spot heading into the Sweet 16, and they remain at the top ahead of the regional finals.

With a pair of No. 2 seeds along for the ride — the UConn Huskies and Texas Longhorns — a tournament that had provided the most wins by double-digit seeds in women’s NCAA tournament history has settled into a march of heavyweights over the final two days of games before we reach Minneapolis.

No. 10 Creighton crashed the party as the first double-digit seed to reach the Elite Eight in five years. The Bluejays have surprised everyone outside of Omaha, Nebraska, and have given the Big East — the eighth-rated conference in the country, according to the NET, behind both the West Coast Conference and the American — more teams in the Elite Eight (two) than the SEC, the Big Ten, the Big 12 or the Pac-12.

The Big 12 had four teams among the top-four seeds. None is left. The Big Ten put four teams in the Sweet 16 but only sent one to the Elite Eight.

Sure, four No. 1 seeds are still alive, but this has been a wild tournament. Here’s how we rank the field now that the regional finals are set.

1. Stanford Cardinal
Original seed: No. 1
Elite Eight seed: No. 1 overall
2022 NCAA tournament record: Defeated No. 16 Montana State 78-37; defeated Kansas 91-65; defeated Maryland 72-66

Minus the last six minutes of Friday’s game against Maryland, the Cardinal have been the best team in the NCAA tournament and hold on to the top spot. Friday’s complete shutdown of Maryland was another example that Stanford has multiple ways to win. This time it was a defense that held the sixth-highest-scoring team in the country to 33.8% shooting and won the rebounding battle 50-32. Even better news for Stanford: Haley Jones had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists after totaling 11 points in the first two wins. One possible cause for concern as the Cardinal prepare for the defensive intensity of Texas: Up 21, Stanford committed four turnovers and missed five free throws in the final 5:40 on Friday when the Terps cranked up the pressure.

Up next: vs. Texas (Sunday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

2. South Carolina Gamecocks
Original seed: No. 1 overall
Elite Eight seed: No. 1

2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 16 Howard 79-21; defeated Miami 49-33; defeated North Carolina 69-61

Dawn Staley has said that the Gamecocks are going to win with their defense and rebounding. That assessment was on display in Friday’s win over North Carolina. While much better than in the 49-point second-round performance against Miami, the offense still sputtered for stretches, especially in the second half. But 25 offensive rebounds that the Gamecocks turned into 27 second-chance points wiped away the imperfections. Aliyah Boston, who had 12 of those offensive rebounds (and 22 total), scored 28 points on the day many national player of the year ballots were due. Despite making an encouraging 7 of 19 3-pointers, South Carolina might not have escaped the Sweet 16 without Boston’s dominance in the paint.

Up next: vs. Creighton (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

3. NC State Wolfpack
Original seed: No. 1
Elite Eight seed: No. 1
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 16 Longwood 96-68; defeated Kansas State 89-57; defeated Notre Dame 66-63

Raina Perez has probably played 100 better games than the one she had on Saturday. But she has never had a more important 21 seconds. The steal on Notre Dame’s Dara Mabrey and subsequent layup gave the Wolfpack their first lead since the second quarter. Then after a Maddy Westbeld missed 3-pointer, 5-foot-4 Perez made the crucial defensive rebound. The two free throws that followed iced NC State’s first trip to the Elite Eight since 1998. Perez was only 2-of-9 from the field with seven points and two assists, but her plays at the end of the game extended her own career and those of teammates Elissa Cunane, Kai Crutchfield and Kayla Jones. A second consecutive loss in the Sweet 16 would have been devastating for this group of players who have otherwise been so successful over the past three seasons.

Up next: vs. UConn (Monday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

4. Louisville Cardinals
Original seed: No. 1
Elite Eight seed: No. 1
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 16 Albany 83-51; defeated Gonzaga 68-57; defeated Tennessee 76-64

Emily Engstler scored 20 points in the Cardinals’ regional semifinal win over Tennessee — and that is the least valuable contribution she makes to Louisville’s success. The senior’s 2.6 steals per game and 1.8 blocks per game anchor a defense that Her Hoops Stats ranks as the sixth best in the country. Engstler provides constant energy and is a relentless rebounder. On Saturday, Engstler grabbed 10 boards and blocked three shots, and she joined forces with Olivia Cochran and Liz Dixon to nearly eliminate the Lady Vols’ greatest strength: its frontcourt. Tennessee’s Alexus Dye and Tamari Key combined for just 12 points on 4-for-17 shooting. That is why the Cardinals are in their fourth straight Elite Eight and firmly remain on the No. 1 line.

Up next: vs. TBD (Monday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

5. UConn Huskies
Original seed: No. 2
Elite Eight seed: No. 2
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 15 Mercer 83-38; defeated UCF 52-47; defeated Indiana 75-58

The 16-0 run to start the third quarter against Indiana on Saturday was vintage UConn: offensive execution, relentless offensive rebounding and swarming interior defense. That 4:45 stretch ultimately decided the game, and considering the level of competition, it was the best the Huskies have looked since Paige Bueckers’ return. The Hoosiers are a veteran team. They have been in this moment before. But Indiana had no answer for the UConn attack. Throughout the rest of the game, the Huskies’ scoring balance and the rebounding of Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards kept Indiana at arm’s length. The two UConn posts combined for 24 rebounds, 10 on the offensive end to keep numerous possessions alive. The Huskies’ shooting was a massive improvement over Monday’s 29% against UCF, but they still made only 5 of 20 3-pointers, and they missed six free throws. Those numbers are not vintage UConn.

Up next: vs. NC State (Monday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

6. Texas Longhorns
Original seed: No. 2
Elite Eight seed: No. 2
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 15 Fairfield 70-52; defeated Utah 78-56; defeated Ohio State 66-63

During the celebration after the win over the Buckeyes, Texas coach Vic Schaefer could be heard telling Aaliyah Moore how big her block was. He was referring to the freshman’s denial of Taylor Thierry’s short jumper that could have given Ohio State a one-point lead with 18 seconds left Friday. It wasn’t just big. It was crucial. Texas then prevented the Buckeyes from even getting a shot off on their final possession. As it has all season, defense paved the way for the Longhorns and their second straight trip to the Elite Eight. Veterans headlined Texas last season, but a nine-player rotation that includes three sophomores and two freshmen leads the way now. Two of the rookies, Moore and Rori Harmon, got their introduction to big-time college basketball in the second game of the season, an upset win over the same Stanford team they will be playing for a berth to the Final Four.

Up next: vs. Stanford (Sunday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

7. Michigan Wolverines
Original seed: No. 3
Elite Eight seed: No. 2
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 14 American 74-39; defeated Villanova 64-49; defeated South Dakota 52-49

Michigan’s first trip to the Elite Eight was well-earned. Having to play South Dakota has proved tough enough, but because the Coyotes’ fans showed up by the thousands to INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas, the Sweet 16 matchup became a de facto road game for the Wolverines in one of the best atmospheres in the tournament. And it was a slugfest between two physical teams. Naz Hillmon became the first star post player in the tournament with any kind of success against the South Dakota defense, and the Wolverines needed every one of her 17 points and 10 rebounds. They also needed missed 3s by South Dakota’s Chloe Lamb and Kyah Watson in the last 19 seconds to survive what was one of the best games of the past two weekends.

Up next: vs. Louisville (Monday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

8. Creighton Bluejays
Original seed: No. 10
Elite Eight seed: No. 2
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 7 Colorado 84-74; defeated Iowa 64-62; defeated Iowa State 76-68

Add the Bluejays to the long list of teams proving that end-of-season momentum has no correlation to NCAA tournament success. Creighton lost its last two games in Big East play, then had nearly two weeks off. And now the Bluejays have beaten Colorado, Iowa and Iowa State. Coach Jim Flanery got his team refocused on what it does best — share the ball, rely on each other and shoot 3-pointers — which fueled Creighton’s run to the Elite Eight, where it’s the first double-digit seed in the regional final since 2017. With the Bluejays’ spread offense and affinity for 3-point shooting — they rank third in the country in made 3-pointers per game — it’s no secret what they are going to do. The question is which player is going to do it. Emma Ronsiek was the Bluejays’ leading scorer in the regular season (14.7 points per game). She scored two points in the upset of the Cyclones. Morgan Maly comes off the bench and has led Creighton in scoring in two of the three tournament games.

Up next: vs. South Carolina (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

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