So you look at the schedule and you see all four No. 1 seeds are still playing and, with the NCAA women's basketball tournament about to hit the regional round this weekend you think:
Business as usual.
After all, since 1994 when the field was expanded to 64 teams, 104 of 108 No. 1 seeds have reached the Sweet 16. So it seems the tournament is, once again, going as expected.
Under the veneer of those top seeds, upsets abounded. Two No. 2 seeds are gone. There are two 10 seeds in the final 16, the first time there have been two double-figure seeds in the Sweet 16 since 2018.
You had 10th-seeded Creighton beating No. 2 Iowa on the Hawkeyes' home floor thanks to a game-winning three-pointer by Lauren Jensen from Lakeville North. You had South Dakota leading wire-to-wire in a victory over No. 2 Baylor, with two Minnesotans – Hannah Sjerven and Liv Korngable – in the starting lineup. There are two No. 5 seeds in (Notre Dame and North Carolina) and one No. 6 (Ohio State).
The Big Ten and the ACC both have four teams left, the Big 12, SEC and Big East two each. With regional action about to start, here are 10 players we'd really like to see playing on the Target Center floor in the Final Four:
Paige Bueckers, G, Connecticut
Even her coach knows this Paige Bueckers is not the same. Bueckers won every award in sight as a freshman. As a sophomore, she had an 11-week layoff due to a knee injury followed by a five-game, limited-minutes tune-up before the NCAA tournament started. Since then? UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Bueckers was "a little out of sorts'' after a 12-point performance against Mercer. Her nine-point performance vs. UCF showed Bueckers is still working her way back. But: She played 33 minutes vs. UCF, and she remains a vital part of the Huskies.
Watch her next: Saturday, 1 p.m. vs. Indiana, ESPN
Aliyah Boston, F/C, South Carolina
A Wooden Award finalist, Boston has been relatively quiet in two tournament games. She played only 18 minutes in a 58-point victory over Howard, and struggled a bit with her shot — like the rest of her team — in a 49-33 victory over Miami (Fla.). But she outrebounded the Miami starters by herself. She has 26 consecutive double-doubles. She is a terror in the post at both ends of the court and is averaging 16.4 points, 12.1 rebounds and shooting 53.4%. This 6-5 favorite to win the Naismith Player of the Year Award is focused on a national championship and will be hard to stop.
Watch her next: Friday, 6 p.m. vs. North Carolina, ESPN
Naz Hillmon, F, Michigan
In her final home game, a 15-point victory over Villanova, Hillmon, one of best pure posts in the country, did it all. She scored 27 points on 12-for-16 shooting. She grabbed 11 rebounds, had five steals. She held the Big East player of the year, Maddy Siegrist, to 12 points on 5-for-13 shooting. She notched her 50th career double-double. Michigan is on a roll because Hillmon has shot 76.7% from the field in two tournament games, averaged 11.0 rebounds, four steals and 25.5 points. A 21.3 points per game scorer for the season, she has pushed that to 23.4 in her past 10 games.
Watch her next: Saturday, 5:30 p.m. vs. South Dakota, ESPN2
Elissa Cunane, F, North Carolina State
It is a testament to how good her team is that N.C. State was able to put away Kansas State with a first-half run while Cunane was on the bench with foul trouble. On an incredibly deep team, Cunane is where things start. She is averaging 13.5 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 52.8%. Her passing ability is also an asset. Cunane averaged 17.3 points and nine rebounds during N.C. State's run to the ACC tournament championship, playing through a turned ankle in the title-game victory over Miami.
Watch her next: Saturday, 10:30 a.m. vs. North Carolina, ESPN
Ashley Joens, G/F, Iowa State
The top scorer in Iowa State history with 2,355 career points, Joens does it all for the Cyclones. The senior can score from inside or outside and leads Iowa State with 20.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
Joens, who won last year's Cheryl Miller Award as the nation's top small forward, has 18 double-doubles this season, including her current string of four in a row. In the Cyclones' NCAA tournament opener against Texas-Arlington, she finished with 36 points — most ever by an Iowa State player in the NCAA tournament — and 15 rebounds.
Watch her next: Friday, 8:30 p.m. vs. Creighton, ESPN2
Olivia Miles, G, Notre Dame
The freshman point guard stepped right into the Irish lineup to become one of their most dynamic, exciting players. Miles is a gifted playmaker who ranks second in the nation in assists (7.4 per game), racking up 23 in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.
She's also a reliable scorer and rebounder, recording a triple-double — 12 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds — to lift Notre Dame past UMass in her NCAA tournament debut. Miles is one of five finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation's top point guard, the only freshman on the list.
Watch her next: Saturday, 10:30 a.m. vs. North Carolina State, ESPN
Hailey Van Lith, G, Louisville
When Gonzaga pressed the top-seeded Cardinals in the second round, Van Lith stepped up. She scored eight consecutive points to break a third-quarter tie and finished with a game-high 21, demonstrating her determination, toughness and comfort on the big stage.
A sophomore, Van Lith leads Louisville in scoring (14 points per game) and poured in 41 points in the Cards' first two tournament games. She's a first-team all-ACC selection who shot a league-high 46.4% from three-point range in conference play this season.
Watch her next: Saturday, 3 p.m. vs. Tennessee, ESPN2
Lexie Hull, G, Stanford
The senior guard scored a career-high 36 points on 6-for-11 shooting from three-point range, to go with six rebounds and six steals in Sunday's 91-60 second round win against Kansas. Hull has more than proven to be a reliable third scoring option for the defending champion Cardinal to take pressure off All-Americans Haley Jones and Cameron Brink. Jones was the Final Four's most outstanding player last year. Brink leads the team in scoring. But Hull, who also had a 33-point game against Oregon earlier this season, could be the X-factor.
Watch her next: Friday, 8:30 p.m. vs. Maryland on ESPN
Diamond Miller, G, Maryland
The 6-3 junior guard saw her scoring average drop slightly from last season (13.2 from 17.3 points per game) with teammates Angel Reese and Ashley Owusu becoming Maryland's top offensive weapons. But Miller has taken over games in the NCAA tournament with 23 points in the opening round vs. Delaware and 24 points and nine rebounds in the second round vs. Florida Gulf Coast. She responded in a big way after scoring just four points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field in Maryland's Big Ten tournament quarterfinal loss against Indiana.
Watch her next: Friday, 8:30 p.m. vs. Stanford, ESPN
Taylor Mikesell, G, Ohio State
Mikesell has gone dancing with three teams in her career. She reached the second round with Maryland as a freshman. She helped Oregon reach the Sweet 16 last year before transferring home. The Ohio native ranks second on the Buckeyes in scoring with 18.6 points per game. They ranked second in the Big Ten in three-point shooting percentage (37.6) behind the Gophers. Mikesell shot a league-best 47% from long range. Mikesell and Ohio State scoring leader Jacy Sheldon combined for 41 points in the second-round upset over third-seeded LSU.
Watch her next: Friday, 6 p.m. vs. Texas, ESPN2
- Star Tribune staff writers Rachel Blount and Marcus Fuller contributed to this story.