Tucson NCAA women’s tournament pod capsules

Some notes of interest with Arizona opening the NCAA tournament on Saturday in a first-round game against UNLV at McKale Center (7 p.m. tip):

— No. 4-seeded Arizona has the most wins against NET Top 50 among the four teams in Tucson with a 6-5 record, followed by No. 5 North Carolina (4-6). No. 13 UNLV did not play a team in the NET Top 50 during the regular season and No. 12 Stephen F. Austin is 0-1 with the lone game a 64-54 loss at No. 25 Gonzaga on Dec. 12.

— Arizona and North Carolina each prevailed against No. 5 Louisville this season — Arizona 61-59 on Nov. 12 in a neutral-court game at Sioux Fall, S.D. and North Carolina 66-65 on Feb. 17 at Chapel Hill, N.C.

— The only freshman starter of the four teams is Alyssa Durazo-Frescas of UNLV. Durazo-Frescas, whose roots are in Tucson with many aunts, uncles and cousins living here, is averaging 8.0 points a game.

— The longest tenured coach at the Division I level is North Carolina’s Courtney Banghart, who is in her 15th year of coaching. She was at Princeton for 12 seasons before coming to North Carolina in 2019-20. This is her ninth NCAA tournament as a coach and she’s gone to the second round once, in 2014-15. That Princeton team was 31-0 before losing to Maryland, and former Arizona player Brenda Frese as coach, 85-70 in the second round.

— Aside from Sahuaro standout Alyssa Brown returning to Tucson with UNLV as a freshman forward, one other Arizona product is coming back to the state — North Carolina sophomore forward Alexandra Zelaya of Goodyear Millennium.

Kim Doss of asked Nina King, the chair of the women’s selection committee, if the return of Cate Reese from a separated shoulder injury improved the Wildcats’ chances of landing a No. 4 seed and hosting the first ahd second round of the tournament. “We talked about availability of players,” King told Doss. “And so whether … COVID impacts or injuries, we talked about teams and the kind of results, whether they had all of their players, they were healthy or not, or when the players are anticipated to come back. And we rely on the information that teams provide us through their conferences and when players are expected back and available. And it’s one of the 14 criteria that we talked about. So, yes, that did come up when we discussed Arizona.”

— UNLV coach Lindy La Rocque’s ties are of note with Lute Olson and current Arizona men’s assistant Jack Murphy, who served as a student manager under Olson. Murphy also was a student manager at Durango High School in Las Vegas under La Rocque’s dad Al, who played for Olson at Long Beach City College. While head coach at NAU, Murphy hired Al La Rocque as an emergency-replacement assistant in 2012-13 after one of his assistants left. Lindy La Rocque is also the only female to participate in Olson’s Elite Basketball Camp that was held annually each summer at McKale Center.

— Arizona is 5-3 against UNLV in their series with the last meeting in the 2012-13 season with Arizona winning 83-82 at the Cox Pavilion at Las Vegas. The Wildcats have never played North Carolina and are 1-3 against Stephen F. Austin. The Ladyjacks swept a home-and-home with Arizona in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons with scores of 60-56 at McKale Center and 72-60 at Nacogdoches, Texas.

No. 4 Arizona Wildcats

Arizona looks to make another magical run in the NCAA tournament (Arizona Athletics photo)

Pac-12 (20-7)

NET ranking: No. 18

Record vs. NET Top 50: 6-5

Biggest wins: Nov. 12 No. 5 Louisville (61-59) on neutral court, Jan. 7 No. 58 Washington State (60-52), Jan. 21 No. 27 Utah (76-64), Jan. 23 No. 29 Colorado (75-56) and Feb. 4 No. 12 Oregon (63-48),

Worst loss: Jan. 9 at No. 74 USC (76-67)

Coach: Adia Barnes (109–73, in her sixth season at Arizona and overall)

Probable starters:

Shaina Pellington, Sr., G, 10.9 ppg, 2.3 apg

Bendu Yeaney, Sr, G, 6.3 ppg, 2.1 apg

Sam Thomas, Sr, F, 8.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.0 bpg

Cate Reese, Sr, F, 14.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg

Lauren Ware, Soph, F, 6.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.2 bpg 

Key reserves:

Koi Love, Jr, F, 5.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg

Ariyah Copeland, Sr, F, 4.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg

Madison Conner, Fr, G, 5.3 ppg

Helena Pueyo, Jr, G, 3.6 ppg, 2.6 apg 

Taylor Chavez, Jr, G, 2.4 ppg, 1.1 apg

By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 67.9 (112th in nation)

Scoring Defense: 56.8 (42)

Field-Goal Percentage: 43.5 (50)

Field-Goal Defense: 38.4 (106)

3-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.3 (123)

3-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.1 (54)

Free-Throw Percentage: 70.8 (166)

Rebound Margin: -0.3 (192)

Assists Per Game: 14.2 (101)

Turnovers Per Game: 13.0 (28)

NCAA tournament appearance: Ninth

Last appearance: 2020-21, lost as a No. 3 seed to No. 1 Stanford 54-53 in the championship

Furthest NCAA tournament run: National championship game 2020-21, losing to Stanford

No. 13 UNLV Lady Rebels

UNLV’s 26 wins are the most since the 2003–04 team finished 26-8 (UNLV photo)

Moutain West (26-6)

NET ranking: No. 81

Record vs. NET Top 50: 0-0

Biggest Wins: Jan. 27 No. 101 New Mexico (85-79) and Feb. 26 at No. 124 Colorado State (80-69)

Worst loss: Nov. 17 at No. 171 Northern Arizona (84-62)

Coach: Lindy La Rocque (41-15, in her second season at UNLV and overall)

Probable starters:

Essence Booker, Jr, G, 15.6 ppg, 3.8 apg

Justice Ethridge, Sr, G, 8.2 ppg, 1.8 apg

Alyssa Durazo-Frescas, Fr, G, 8.0 ppg

Khayla Rooks, Sr, F, 6.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.1 apg

Desi-Rae Young, Soph, C, 15.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg 

Key reserves:

Nneka Obiazor, Soph, F, 11.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg

Kiara Jackson, Fr, G, 6.5 ppg, 2.0 apg 

Alyssa Brown, Fr, F, 1.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg

Jade Thomas, Jr., F, 1.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg

By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 75.9 (19th in nation)

Scoring Defense: 64.8 (204)

Field-Goal Percentage: 45.0 (25)

Field-Goal Defense: 40.2 (196)

3-Point Field Goals Per Game:  6.7 (95)

3-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.9 (21)

Free-Throw Percentage: 73.8 (84)

Rebound Margin: 6.9 (31)

Assists Per Game: 14.8 (59)

Turnovers Per Game: 14.2 (79) 

NCAA tournament appearance: Ninth

Last appearance: 2001-02, lost in the first round as a No 12 seed to No. 5 Minnesota 71-54

Furthest NCAA tournament run: Sweet Sixteen in 1988-89, lost to Texas 88-77

No. 5 North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina travels to Tucson for the first time in program history (North Carolina photo)

ACC (23-6)

NET ranking: No. 7

Record vs. NET Top 50: 4-6

Biggest wins: Jan. 9 No. 10 Virginia Tech (71-46), Feb. 6 No. 42 Miami (85-38) and Feb. 17 No. 5 Louisville (66-65)

Worst losses: Jan. 23 at No. 28 Georgia Tech (55-38) and Jan. 6 at North Carolina State (72-45).

Coach: Courtney Banghart (52-31, third year at North Carolina, and 306-134, 15th year overall including 12 years at Princeton)

Probable starters:

Carlie Littlefield, Sr, G, 8.7 ppg, 2.6 apg

Keja Kelly, Soph, G, 15.9 ppg, 2.6 apg

Alyssa Ustby, Soph, G, 13.2 ppg, 2.3 apg, 8.6 rpg

Kennedy Todd-Williams, Soph, G, 10.6 ppg, 2.1 apg, 6.0 rpg

Anya Poole, Soph, F, 7.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.2 bpg 

Key reserves:

Eva Hodgson, Jr, G, 9.5 ppg, 2.5 apg 

Destiny Adams, Fr, F, 3.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg

Malu Tshitenge, Jr, F, 2.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg

By the numbers:

Scoring Offense: 73.4 (35th in nation)

Scoring Defense: 54.2 (14)

Field-Goal Percentage: 41.0 (130)

Field-Goal Defense: 34.4 (6)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.7 (182)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 31.1 (162)

Free-Throw Percentage: 71.0 (161)

Rebound Margin: 7.8 (19)

Assists Per Game: 13.8 (126)

Turnovers Per Game: 13.7 (56)

NCAA tournament appearance: 29th

Last appearance: 2020-21, lost in the first round as a No. 10 seed against No. 7 Alabama 80-71

Furthest NCAA tournament run: Won national title in 1993-94 over Louisiana Tech 60-59

No. 12 Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks

Stephen F. Austin has a good history in March Madness reaching the Sweet Sixteen five times (SFA photo)

WAC (28-4)

NET ranking: No. 63

Record vs. NET Top 50: 0-1

Biggest wins: Nov. 12 No. 78 Houston (73-52) and Jan. 31 at No. 195 Grand Canyon (61-43)

Worst loss: March 5 at No. 250 UTRGV (76-74)

Coach: Mark Kellogg (168- 47, seventh season at Stephen F. Austin, and 418-112, 17th year overall including at Fort Lewis, Northwest Missouri State and West Texas A&M)

Probable starters:

Zya Nugent, Jr, G, 12.4 ppg, 2.5 apg, 5.1 rpg, 2.1 spg

Brianna Mitchell, Sr, G, 8.3 ppg, 3.8 apg, 2.3 spg

Tasharian Robinson, Sr, G, 6.3 ppg, 1.4 apg

Stephanie Visscher, Sr, G, 14.3 ppg, 3.0 apg, 6.5 rpg, 2.6 spg

Aiyana Johnson, Sr, C, 14.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg 

Key reserves:

Aaliyah Johnson, Sr, C, 4.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg

Angel Scott, Fr, G, 4.8 ppg, 1.0 apg 

By the numbers:

Scoring Offense: 75.3 (22nd in nation)

Scoring Defense: 54.5 (15)

Field-Goal Percentage: 44.9 (26)

Field-Goal Defense: 35.1 (12)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game:  6.9 (83)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.1 (115)

Free-Throw Percentage: 70.0 (185)

Rebound Margin: -1.3 (227)

Assists Per Game: 16.4 (20)

Turnovers Per Game: 16.0 (199)

NCAA tournament appearance: 18th

Last appearance: 2020-21, lost in the first round as No. 12 seed against No 5 Georgia Tech 54-52 in overtime.

Furthest NCAA tournament run: Sweet Sixteen five times, last in 1995-96, losing to Georgia 78-64.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
To Top