March Madness: 7 Cinderella teams who could make a run in the NCAA women's tournament

It wouldn’t be March Madness without Cinderella teams making their mark.

Last season, No. 8 Ole Miss and No. 9 Miami both knocked off No. 1 seeds in the second round. The season before, No. 10 Creighton stunned No. 2 Iowa and No. 3 Iowa State for an Elite Eight appearance. And all the way back in 1998, Harvard was the first-ever No. 16 to defeat a No. 1, with a 71-67 win over Stanford.

Here are seven teams who could capture March magic and make a run:

No. 13 Fairfield

The best record in women’s college basketball belongs to undefeated South Carolina. The second-best record belongs to Fairfield, which heads into the NCAA tournament at 31-1.

The Stags know how to win. They’ve proven that with a 29-game winning streak that included a come-from-behind OT victory over Niagara in the MAAC championship. Fairfield battled back from a 13-point deficit to secure their bid.

Fairfield is led by freshman forward Meghan Andersen, who’s posted 15.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. She’s surrounded by skilled guards, like senior Janelle Brown, who averages 13.6 points per game while shooting 57.8% from the field.

No. 7 Ole Miss

The Rebels surprised people last season when they upset No. 1 Stanford in the second round for a place in the Sweet 16. They could make another run this year, and this time, it won’t be a surprise.

They played a difficult non-conference schedule before facing teams like South Carolina and LSU in the SEC. Ole Miss faced Oklahoma, Arizona, Michigan and Louisville prior to conference play — all fellow March Madness teams. Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin made sure her team had a resume that would help them earn a bid, and earn wins in the tournament.

Keep an eye on forward Madison Scott, who averages a team-high 30.8 minutes per game, while recording 12.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. She’s also a skilled passer, leading the Rebels with 3.4 assists per contest.

Ole Miss guard Marquesha Davis controls the ball against LSU's Flau'jae Johnson during an SEC game. (Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)
Ole Miss guard Marquesha Davis controls the ball against LSU's Flau'jae Johnson during an SEC game. (Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)

No. 9 Princeton

The Tigers have become a dangerous matchup come tournament time, advancing to the second round in back-to-back seasons. This team has the tools to make that three in a row, and the potential to go even deeper.

The Tigers would likely play Iowa in the second round, and despite the prolific scoring of Caitlin Clark, they have a chance to win that game. Princeton holds its opponents to 56 points per game, which is the 14th-lowest mark in the country. That means playing the Tigers is a grind, and they have the experience to win games that come down to the wire. And they’ve shown the ability to play with high-level competition, taking UCLA to the brink before losing 77-74 in November.

Senior Kaitlyn Chen, who has three NCAA tournaments under her belt, will lead the Tigers. She averages 15.8 points, 5 assists and 1.2 steals per game.

No. 10 UNLV

The Rebels are on a hot streak, coming into the tournament with 15 wins in a row. They went 17-1 in the Mountain West and defeated San Diego State in the conference title game to secure their bid. The Mountain West isn’t known as a strong conference, but UNLV challenged itself early in the season, playing — and beating — both Arizona and Oklahoma.

The Rebels can score the ball. They average 79.2 points per game (16th in the country), and 0.96 points per possession (7th in the country). They also take care of it, with just 10.5 turnovers per game, the second-lowest mark in the country.

Senior and Las Vegas native Desi-Rae Young leads UNLV with 19.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. She’s a strong, athletic big who can extend defenses, making her a tough matchup. Young also leads a defense that holds opponents to just 7.8 offensive rebounds per game (the second-lowest number in the country).

No. 11 Green Bay

The Phoenix started their season with two key wins in November, defeating No. 22 Creighton and No. 23 Washington. Coach Kevin Borseth has led Green Bay to 13 NCAA tournament appearances, and says this team is one of the best he’s coached.

The Phoenix have a balanced attack with seven players who score six or more points per game. Natalie McNeal leads the team with 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while shooting 50.6% from the field. Bailey Butler captains the offense with 5.5 assists and just 1.8 turnovers per contest.

As a whole, Green Bay takes care of the ball, and that poise can come in handy in March. The Phoenix have a 1.74 assist-to-turnover rate, which leads the NCAA, while only committing 10.9 miscues per game (4th in the country).

Columbia's Abbey Hsu is one of the top scorers in the country this season. (Stefan Milic/Yahoo Sports)
Columbia's Abbey Hsu is one of the top scorers in the country this season. (Stefan Milic/Yahoo Sports)

No. 12 Columbia

The Lions were on the bubble, but that’s because of their resume, not because of talent. This is Columbia’s first NCAA tournament, but the Lions also have a chance to win a few games.

Everything this team does starts with senior Abbey Hsu, the Ivy League Player of the Year and Columbia’s all-time leading scorer. She averages 20.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, while shooting 39.8% from beyond the arc. Defenses have to key in on Hsu, which opens things up for Columbia’s other scorers, Cecelia Collins (13.7 points per game) and Kitty Henderson (11.8 points per game).

As a team, Columbia is strong on the glass, averaging 14.4 offensive rebounds per game (6th in the country) and 21.4 defensive rebounds per game (15th in the country).

No. 13 Marshall

Unique styles of play can lead to upsets in March. If the lower-seeded team faces something new, it's possible they get flustered, and in a tournament where one loss sends you home, that spells trouble. Marshall is that kind of team.

The Thundering Herd play fast and sub often, which means fresh legs and a ton of different players for opponents to contend with. Marshall routinely plays 11 players, often subbing five for five, which helps them score 84.3 points per game (fourth in the NCAA). Abby Beeman (17 points per game), Breanna Campbell (15.3) and Aislynn Hayes (14.3) all average double figures, while three other players score at least 8 points per game.

Marshall’s style of play also leads to chaos on the defensive end. The Thundering Herd force 12.6 steals per game, which is the third-best mark in the country.