NEW YORK (AP) – Both Buffalo and Central Michigan are crushing the women’s Sweet 16. The two 11 seeds from the Mid-American Conference pulled off stunning road upsets of Florida State and Ohio State on Monday night to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time in school history.
It’s the first time a school from the MAC has advanced this far since Bowling Green reached the regional semifinals in 2007.
Buffalo coach Felisha Legette-Jack said she spoke on the phone with Central Michigan coach Sue Guevara after their game was over. Buffalo was the first team from the conference to earn an at-large berth in 22 years.
“Our goal was to let people know that the MAC was alive and well,” Legette-Jack said.
They sure are.
“We are excited to see success come from two teams in the MAC because it’s always been a one-bid league,” the Bulls’ Stephanie Reid said. “For as long as I have been here, for I know as long as Coach (Legette-Jack) has been here, for a long time, it’s been a one-bid league. They finally opened up to us and accepted us into the tournament at-large and now we are showing why.”
Both Buffalo and Central Michigan won by double digits.
“This team will not fold,” Guevara said. “This team is very tough, this team is very focused. We know what we had to do and we went out and did it.”
While making the Sweet 16 is new for both those schools, UConn is headed to its 25th consecutive regional semifinals.
Huskies coach Geno Auriemma wasn’t surprised to see a few newcomers in the regionals.
“If you look around the country, mid-major programs are better than people think and they’re one of the best,” he said. “Women’s basketball mid-majors don’t get any respect. On the men’s side they do, but not on the women’s side. So for this year to have what’s happening with the mid-majors (winning), I think that’s the best thing that’s ever happened. I mean, I’m glad it didn’t happen more. I think it happened just enough times.”
The Huskies beat Quinnipiac to advance to the Albany Regional. All four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Sweet 16 for the ninth consecutive season.
Here are a few other tidbits from the Sweet 16:
CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: The Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac-12 have four teams apiece in the regionals. The Southeastern Conference has three while the Big 12 joins the MAC with two. The American has one.
LUCKY 11: Gonzaga was the last 11 seed to advance to the Sweet 16, doing so in 2015. Three years earlier was the last time that two 11 seeds advanced to the regional semifinals, when Kansas and the Zags both advanced this far.
FAMILIAR TEAMS: Eleven of the 16 teams in the Sweet 16 advanced that far last season. The only other new teams besides the MAC squads are Texas A&M, Duke and N.C. State. The Wolfpack are back there for the first time in 11 years.