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Countdown to Women’s March Madness: It’s a February free-for-all

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One week, 11 upsets. Why wait until March to watch nail-biters?

In the past week, there have been 11 upsets in the world of women’s college basketball — including three just last night. Indiana beat No. 10 Iowa, Virginia Tech beat No. 14 Miami, and No. 16 Kentucky beat No. 13 South Carolina.

Iowa — who had just been ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll for the first time since 1996 — had a 16-point lead in the third quarter, which they lost for good in the last 10 seconds of the game.

Seven of those 11 upsets came from unranked teams, and three of those upsets featured teams that were projected as No. 1 seeds in the NCAA’s initial Sweet Sixteen bracket: Mississippi State, Louisville and Oregon. Total, there were three more upsets on the women’s side than on the men’s during the same period — they had eight.

Yes, conference play is usually a bit more unpredictable than early season match-ups because by this point in the season, teams have typically faced each other multiple times, and fatigue and injuries have taken their toll. But even if you just consider the AP poll’s top five teams, this season has been almost unprecedentedly tight for the top teams in the country. Since Week 4 of the college basketball season, the top five teams in the women’s AP poll have only gone unchanged once (between week 8 and week 9). The poll has featured three different No. 1 seeds: Notre Dame, UConn and now Baylor.

All the upsets are shaking things up for bracketologists, who are trying to figure out how the Selection Committee will account for the fact that six teams — Baylor, Oregon, UConn, Louisville, Notre Dame and Mississippi State — are battling for the top four seeds. Right now, according to ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme, the Albany (UConn and Notre Dame) and Greensboro (Baylor and Mississippi State) regionals look like they’ll be bearing the brunt of this ultra-competitive field.

As teams wrap up the last few weeks of the regular season, though, it’s clear that no one is safe. Louisville still has to play an NC State team that’s scrambling to keep their current No. 2 seed status. This weekend, Baylor’s playing away at No. 20 Iowa State, who has the offensive firepower to keep up with them and are itching for a big upset. Mississippi State have to get through a matchup with No. 13 South Carolina — and that’s just looking at the teams with No. 1 seed potential.

Here are five of the most exciting upsets from the past week — hopefully signs of even more absurdly fun basketball to come.

5. BYU at no. 13 Gonzaga (66-64)

It doesn’t have a huge impact on the standings, but any game that’s tied with a minute left is a good game.

4. Kansas State at No. 15 Texas (69-60)

The Wildcats were down 14 in the third quarter and still pulled through, just one game after getting spanked at home by Baylor. This is February!

3. No. 2 Oregon at No. 12 Oregon State (67-62)

Sabrina Ionescu was the story going into this game, because with her gaudy stats she’s more or less the story of this NCAA women’s basketball season as well as the upcoming WNBA draft. She was also the story coming out of the game, but not for the reasons she or anyone on the Oregon would probably want.

Oregon’s game was also heavily impacted by the loss of Ruthy Hebard to a knee injury in the second quarter; thankfully, there’s no structural damage.

2. Missouri at No. 5 Mississippi State

Sophie Cunningham had 24 points, but what clinched the game was that Mizzou forced Mississippi State — the No. 2 offense in the country, at home — to play their game: tough, physical and low-scoring.

1. No. 20 Miami at No. 2 Louisville

Miami has now beaten five ranked teams, including Notre Dame and now Louisville — their win Sunday was Louisville’s first loss at home in over a year. The Canes came back from a 14-point deficit behind a career-high 25 points from Emese Hof, who was playing in a fashion that can only be described as lights-out: she shot 7-10 in the last two quarters of the game, sealing it for Miami.

Games to keep an eye on this week:

No. 1 Baylor at No. 20 Iowa State (Saturday, Feb. 23, 4 p.m. EST, FSN)

I don’t think I have FSN, but I will be following along closely — this is my upset pick of the week. Baylor’s now the only top-five team that hasn’t had some sort of recent loss...

No. 22 Florida State at No. 14 Miami (Sunday, Feb. 24, 12 p.m. EST, ESPN2)

After becoming the NCAA’s most ... upsetting team, the Canes suffered their own upset Thursday against Virginia Tech. This game will be a crucial test of whether or not they can bounce back.

No. 9 NC State at No. 4 Louisville (Thursday, Feb. 28, 7 p.m. EST, ACCN)

One of the last top-10 match-ups of the regular season, and a chance for Louisville to assert its no. 1 seed status.