South Carolina is a No. 1 seed for the second consecutive season. Can the Gamecocks reach the program's first Final Four? A look at the top storylines in this corner of the bracket.
1. It has been a big season for Ohio, which is the No. 14 seed and faces No. 3 Arizona State in the first round.
At 27-4, the Bobcats have set a school mark for victories in a season. That's not their only record breaking, though: They've made 292 3-pointers, more than any previous women's or men's teams at Ohio. You'd better get out to the arc to guard the Bobcats, especially junior Kiyanna Black, who has hit 98 treys.
The Bobcats went 16-2 in Mid-American Conference play. They're in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995, and they won the MAC tournament for the first time since 1986.
They did all this without any additions to last year's 9-21 squad, as their lone freshman redshirted this season. Coach Bob Boldon, in his second season at Ohio, fully had his system in place, and his players bought into it.
2. This is the region that has the most top seeds -- three -- whose programs have never advanced to the Final Four. They are No. 1 seed South Carolina, No. 2 Florida State and No. 3 Arizona State. The No. 4 seed, North Carolina, has been to the Final Four three times and won the NCAA title in 1994.
In the Oklahoma City Regional, all four top seeds have previously been to the Final Four at least once. Three of four in the Albany Regional have made it that far, the exception being No. 2 seed Kentucky. It's the same in the Spokane Regional, with the exception being No. 3 seed Oregon State.
3. How good has Florida Gulf Coast been since elevating to Division I status in the 2007-08 season? The Eagles under coach Karl Smesko have won at least 22 games each of the past eight seasons, including 30 this year. In the Atlantic Sun conference, they are 130-13, including 14-0 this season. They've lost just one league regular-season game in the last four years.
FGCU is still looking for its first NCAA tournament victory, though, having lost first-round games in overtime in both previous appearances, in 2012 and '14. (The school didn't have full-fledged D-I membership until the 2011-12 year, so wasn't eligible to compete in the NCAA tournament until 2012.)
The No. 7 seed Eagles open with No. 10 Oklahoma State on Saturday; those teams met last season in the first round, too, with the Cowgirls winning 61-60.
-- Mechelle Voepel
Three players to watch
Ameryst Alston, Ohio State, G: Ohio State freshman Kelsey Mitchell deserves every bit of praise she's receiving for a season in which she leads the nation in scoring and also leads her team in assists. But it's not a one-woman show for the Buckeyes. It is now lost in the mists of time, but in Ohio State's last win in the pre-Mitchell era, an upset of top-seeded Penn State in the Big Ten tournament a season ago, Alston scored 33 points and had nine assists. And far from wilting in Mitchell's shadow this season, she was one of only three players in the Big Ten who ranked in the top 10 in the league in scoring and the top 15 in assists. She's a smooth scorer off the dribble or spotting up and will likely enter next season with more career points than all but eight other active Division I players.
Leticia Romero, Florida State, G: The NCAA's decision to grant Romero immediate eligibility in December following a difficult transfer from Kansas State came as such a surprise that she was already home in Spain for the holiday break while the team traveled to Tulane for a game. But her addition turned a very good team into a Final Four-caliber team. Romero took more than a hundred more shots than any teammate a season ago because she had to on a struggling team. She's been almost too unselfish in her new surroundings. She leads the team, albeit in 20 games, in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage. If she finds the sweet spot between feeding all the talented pieces around her and getting her own looks, Florida State might come back to its home state with basketball still to play.
Aleighsa Welch, South Carolina, F: Who is the best player in the tournament averaging fewer than 10 points per game? Baylor's Niya Johnson has a case. So do Florida State's Shakayla Thomas, Rutgers' Syessence Davis and Louisville's Bria Smith. But all might be competing for the silver medal with South Carolina's senior around. She isn't the glue for the Gamecocks; she's the watertight seal on a submarine. Tiffany Mitchell deserves the All-American accolades and A'ja Wilson is going to be historically special, but the 9.1 points per game Welch provides tell almost nothing about her value. Watch the way she defends, the way she talks to teammates, maintains composure and a dozen other things during a course of a game and you'll swear she must have scored 20 points by the time it's over so noticeable is her influence
-- Graham Hays
Best first-round game
(7) Florida Gulf Coast vs. (10) Oklahoma State (ESPN2/ESPN3, 11 a.m. ET Saturday)
The Eagles, in the NCAA bracket for the third time in four years, are capping the best season in program history with a strong seed and a tough first-round matchup against a familiar NCAA foe. Last year in West Lafayette, Indiana, Oklahoma State won the first-round matchup 61-60 in overtime.
Florida Gulf Coast has a 25-game winning streak coming into the tournament, is ranked No. 9 nationally in scoring defense (52.9 PPG) and is coming off its fifth straight Atlantic Sun Conference title.
Oklahoma State put up an 11-2 record in nonconference play, but it struggled in the Big 12 to a 9-9 finish. The Cowgirls have won seven of their last 10 games and have four players averaging double figures in scoring. The Eagles are led by 6-foot-3 guard Whitney Knight, averaging 14.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
-- Michelle Smith
No. 11 Arkansas-Little Rock has wins over Oklahoma and LSU. No. 6 Texas A&M lost twice in less than a week to the Lady Tigers in March. While the transverse property is not applicable in basketball, it certainly lends to the possibility that the Aggies could be vulnerable. Gary Blair's club hasn't been the same since point Jordan Jones went down with a knee injury, losing three of its last four. That alone could indicate trouble. Having to contain UALR's Taylor Gault is more.
-- Charlie Creme
Team with the most to prove
Florida Gulf Coast. Like Chattanooga, Princeton, Green Bay and James Madison, the Eagles represent the little guy in a year in which the mid-majors got seeds higher than almost ever before -- but fans still weren't happy. Florida Gulf Coast has been outstanding from the day it joined Division I and became a full member of the Atlantic Sun. A No. 7 seed is its highest, but nothing validates a program more than an NCAA tournament win. A second-round game would also give more of the country a chance to see 6-3 junior forward Whitney Knight.
-- Charlie Creme
Matchup we'd most like to see
(5) Ohio State vs. (4) North Carolina in the second round. The Buckeyes getting a crack at South Carolina in a regional semifinal would be fun, too, but Ohio State and the Tar Heels represent a game of strength on strength -- up-tempo, high-scoring offense dictated by guard play. Mitchell and Alston of the Buckeyes are the highest-scoring duo in the country. Allisha Gray is also one of the best young scorers in the game and is surrounded by UNC teammates Jessica Washington, Brittany Rountree and Latifah Coleman, who also want to take the ball and go. Rarely do the Tar Heels meet their equal in desire to play fast, but they would in the Buckeyes.
-- Charlie Creme