Madness Against Miami: What to Expect


Graydon Paul/Villanovan Photography

Bella Runyan prepares for the ‘Cats Sweet 16 matchup against No. 9 Miami.

Brooke Ackerman, Co-Sports Editor

GREENVILLE, S.C — It’s no secret that Villanova is a basketball school — but in the 2022-23 season, Villanova has become a women’s basketball school. 

After commanding wins over Cleveland State and Florida Gulf Coast in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats traveled down to Greenville, South Carolina on Wednesday, March 22, for the Sweet 16. 

“I think it’s just a privilege to play at such a school with such a strong basketball tradition on the men’s and women’s side,” senior forward Maddy Siegrist said. “We’ll do the best we can to continue to carry on the tradition this year.” 

In hopes of continuing to carry on the tradition in Greenville, the Wildcats first have to take on No. 9 Miami. 


What we’ve seen from Miami in the tournament so far: 

The Hurricanes (21-12, 11-7 ACC) entered the tournament as an No. 9 underdog where they were set to take on No. 8 Oklahoma State. 

“There’s no pressure for us,” Miami’s graduate guard Destiny Harden said. “Nobody expected us to win any games, so just to come out and play Miami basketball and continue to feed off each other, that would be enough for us.” 

Miami had a tough time playing its “Miami basketball” in the first half against the Cowboys, shooting just 29 percent in the first half and enduring multiple scoreless droughts. This included one in the second quarter that sent the Hurricanes into the locker room at halftime down, 37-20. 

However, Miami found its groove in the second half, battling back from a 17-point halftime deficit to eke out a 62-61 win, advancing to the round of 32.

This comeback is tied for the fifth largest in women’s NCAA Tournament history. 

After a thrilling first round win, Miami took on No. 1 Indiana in the round of 32, where again, it shocked the basketball world.

On Monday, March 20, the Hurricanes upset the Hoosiers, 70-68, courtesy of a Harden jump shot with just 3.3 seconds remaining in the game. 

This was arguably the biggest win in program history, as it was only the second time the Hurricanes defeated a top-three team. 

Miami’s victory over the Hoosiers also means that for the first time since 1998, two No. 1 seeds were knocked out of the NCAA Women’s Tournament before the Sweet Sixteen. (Fellow one seed Stanford lost to No. 8 Ole Miss.)


What you need to know about Miami overall: 

This is the second Sweet Sixteen appearance for the Hurricanes in program history. Their last appearance came in 1992 when they took on No. 3 Vanderbilt and lost, 77-67. 

While the ‘Canes have tried to make their way back to the Sweet 16 since then, they are no strangers to the Big Dance. Since moving from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2004, the Hurricanes have had 11 tournament appearances, advancing to the second round six times.

“To play and to be able to be a part of history for Miami is something really special,” Miami senior guard Haley Cavinder said. 

During their 2022-23 regular season, the Hurricanes finished seventh in the ACC, averaging 70.5 points per game. On the season, the ‘Canes shot 43% from the field, but just 31% from the three. 

But, with those stats come the players that are the face of the team, and the Hurricanes have some key contributors to keep an eye out for. 

For Miami, one of those key contributors is Harden. Not only did Harden put up the game winning shot in the round of 32, but she also passed the 1,000 point mark in that same game. She now sits at an impressive 1,006 career points, with 918 of those points coming as a Hurricane. 

However, Harden is not the only face of Miami basketball. Her support comes from the TikTok sensations and twin-duo, Haley and Hanna Cavinder. 

Of the two, Haley is the starter, averaging 12.6 PPG with 2,056 career points, while Hanna comes off the bench with 1,527 career points, and averages 3.9 PPG for the ‘Canes. 


The Road to the Elite Eight for the ‘Cats: 

For No. 4 Villanova (30-6, 17-3 Big East), the Wildcats are no strangers to the pressure of a big stage. 

The Wildcats have 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, 12 WNIT berths, and 18 Big Five Titles, including this year. 

This season, the ‘Cats finished second in the Big East, behind powerhouse No. 2 UConn. Villanova currently averages 71 PPG, shooting 44% from the field and 33% from behind the arc. 

Heading into the Big Dance this season, Villanova is led by Naismith Player of the Year Award Finalist Siegrist. 

“She’s an amazing player,” Miami head coach Katie Meier said. “…some of her games this year have been astounding. I mean, you just can’t believe what you’re watching.” 

Siegrist currently leads the nation with 29.2 PPG, and also contributes defensively with 9.1 rebounds per game. 

While all eyes are on Siegrist this weekend in Greenville, it will take more than one Wildcat to lead this team to its first Elite Eight in 20 years.  

Other key contributors include sophomore guard Lucy Olsen, who averages 12.5 PPG. Olsen recorded a career high 23 points in Villanova’s win over FGCU on Monday, March 20. 

“Luce just gives everything she has to the game, to her teammates,” Villanova head coach Denise Dillon said. “…I think when you see the scoring, the rebounding, the assists, she just gets after it… [she just] wants to be great. She wants her team to be great.” 

Upon arriving in Greenville, the Wildcats had a media day, as well as one hour practice on Thursday, March 23 to help familiarize themselves with the Bon Secour Wellness Arena.

The Wildcats are set to take on the Hurricanes on Friday, March 24. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:30 p.m, and the game will air on ESPN.