By Daniel Rankin —
The journey to the Final Four begins tonight for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team as they set their eyes on winning the program’s first national championship.
At 6 p.m. tonight, the No. 1 Louisville Cardinals will face the No. 16 seeded Albany Great Danes in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN 2.
The KFC Yum! Center will play host to the first and second round for eight of this year’s 68 national tournament teams, including the Louisville and Albany matchup.
Should the Cards advance to the second round, they will face either the No. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers or No. 9 Gonzaga Bulldogs on Sun., March 19.
Following an upset loss in the ACC Quarterfinals to the Miami Hurricanes, there was some question about what the Cards’ final seeding would be. However, after a strong season finishing 25-4, Louisville secured the No. 1 seed.
Should Louisville advance to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, they’ll be making the journey to Wichita, Kansas to play in the tournament. A potential Elite 8 matchup could see the Cards face the No. 2 Baylor Bears, winners of the 2021 National Championship.
The location of this year’s Final Four is in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where fellow No. 1 seed and ACC rival North Carolina State could potentially clash with the Cardinals.
For most of the year, The Cards have been one of the top teams in the nation. With Mykasa Robinson and Emily Engstler, the latter of which being a Naismith Women’s Defensive Player of the Year Semifinalist, Louisville shows off one of the best defenses in the country.
Throughout the season, the Cards have sometimes struggled offensively and with producing turnovers. However, Hailey Van Lith, Kianna Smith, Chelsie Hall and Engstler have all shown to be solid and reliable shooters capable of putting up big numbers.
Forward Olivia Cochran’s second year in red has shown a strong presence under the glass, accompanied by senior Liz Dixon.
While all signs point to a straightforward win for the Cards in this first-round matchup, it is March Madness and upsets are known to happen.
After the surprise Miami loss, Coach Walz’s message was clear, “One game at a time. We’re going to focus on Albany as you can’t focus on the round two opponent unless you get there.”
Luckily, readers, writers, national and local pundits alike can look ahead and speculate for them. Most agree: this is a powerful team that should expect at least a Final Four.
Baylor would undoubtedly pose a tough challenge but is certainly a winnable game. Dominant performances against Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut prove just that, as did the first three quarters against NC State. However, the fourth quarter has proven to be an issue for the Cards.
While Louisville is more than capable of winning against any team in the nation, they’ll need to keep the offense moving in matchups to seal the deal.
Earlier in the season, Coach Walz said, “We’re a good team, good enough to make the Final Four. But we could also be eliminated in the second round [of the NCAA Tournament].”
With the tournament underway, stay tuned for more coverage as we recap and preview matchups.
Photo by Daniel Rankin // The Louisville Cardinal