I’m Gone To Carolina: Wildcats Prepare for Greenville Regional


Graydon Paul/Villanovan Photography

The Wildcats celebrate after their first-round victory.

Colin Beazley, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Greenville, South Carolina was once known as “The Textile Capital of the World.” The city is the home of disgraced baseball great Shoeless Joe Jackson, future NBA Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett and Major Rudolf Anderson Jr., the only person killed by enemy fire in the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

However, over the weekend, Greenville will be better known for another reason: it will become one of two centers of the women’s college basketball universe.

This weekend, Greenville will host eight teams in two regionals with two berths to the Final Four on the line. No. 4 seed Villanova is one of those teams, heading to South Carolina after knocking off No. 13 Cleveland State and No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast at the Finneran Pavilion in the first two rounds of the tournament. 

Joining the Wildcats in the Southeast are some of the most interesting teams remaining in the tournament. Villanova will face No. 9 Miami on Friday in the Sweet 16, while No. 2 Utah plays No. 3 LSU on the opposite side of the bracket. The winners of each game will advance to play each other on Sunday. 

Miami (21-12) was not expected to make it to the tournament’s second weekend. The Hurricanes defeated No. 8 Oklahoma State (and former Wildcat Lior Garzon) on Saturday, erasing a 17-point halftime deficit to win 62-61. Miami then faced No. 1 Indiana on the Hoosiers’ home court, pulling the upset, 70-68, on a Destiny Harden jump shot with 3.3 seconds to go. 

Harden is the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 12.1 points and 5.8 rebounds. However, she is not the headliner. The Hurricanes are best known for the Cavinder twins, a pair of 5-6 guards from Arizona with more than four million followers on TikTok. Haley is the star, averaging 12.6 points and shooting 41% from three, but Hanna contributes off the bench, playing 17 minutes per game. 

Despite the upset, the Hurricanes haven’t exactly dominated this year. They finished seventh in the ACC and shot just 31% from behind the arc during the season but got hot from deep against Indiana, going 8 for 14. Miami and Villanova do have one common opponent this season, as the Hurricanes lost to DePaul, 98-83, in mid-November, while the Wildcats won three close matchups against the Blue Demons. 

If Villanova beats Miami, it will likely go into a tournament game as the underdog for the first time in four matchups. However, it’ll be close — No. 8 Utah and No. 9 LSU were the two teams directly ahead of No. 10 Villanova in the final AP poll. 

LSU (28-2) has grabbed more headlines this year. The Tigers started 23-0, only losing to undefeated South Carolina and historic power Tennessee in the SEC semifinals. Per Her Hoops Stats, the Tigers have the nation’s sixth best offense and the fifth best defense. 

The Tigers are also led by one of the greatest, yet most infamous, coaches in the women’s game. Kim Mulkey is in her second season as LSU’s head coach after 21 years and three national championships at Baylor. Controversy follows her wherever she goes, as Mulkey tends to speak her mind — but so do her results. The Tigers went 9-13 the year before Mulkey arrived and 26-6 the year after. 

But, the Wildcats are familiar with their star. Sophomore forward Angel Reese is the Tigers’ top player, averaging 23.8 points and 15.7 rebounds. She was one of five players to be named AP All-Americans, joining Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist on the team. Villanova faced Reese last year when she played at Maryland, and she scored 23 points in just 23 minutes in a blowout Terrapin win. 

However, the Utes come in as the higher seed. Utah (27-4) is currently having its best season in program history, tying national powerhouse (and NCAA one seed) Stanford for the Pac-12 regular season title.  

Their success has been largely unexpected. The Utes were picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 this year, but utilized the nation’s fourth highest scoring offense to rise as high as No. 3 in the nation in the AP Poll. 

The Utes score 83.5 points per game, but can score much more, most notably tallying 124 points against a very good Oklahoma team in November. Junior forward Alissa Pili is the leading scorer, averaging 21.0 points, but the Utes have a deep rotation, with 10 players who average 10 or more minutes per game.  

While Utah is good, it is beatable, especially away from Salt Lake City. The Utes were 14-0 at home, but they were upset by the Pac-12’s seven seed Washington State in the first round of the conference tournament in Las Vegas. (The Cougars lost to FGCU in the NCAA First Round at Villanova.)  

The Wildcats will head to Greenville on Wednesday night ahead of their Friday matchup with Miami (2:30 p.m., ESPN). Utah and LSU will tip-off immediately after. 

Greenville will be one of the centers of the women’s college basketball universe on Friday and Sunday. Villanova hopes it can be more — another stop on the road to the Final Four.