There's no doubt that a second round matchup between #7/9 UCLA and Gonzaga would be exciting for West Coast women's basketball fans: by far the most efficient point guard in the country in Gonzaga's Courtney Vandersloot going up against a whirlwind of defensive chaos devised by third-year UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell.
And there's no better way to account for what UCLA's defense can do to opponents than the words of a Pac-10 opponent that has had to try to figure it out over the past three years, as described in a Swish Appeal game summary of UCLA's New Year's Eve win against the Washington Huskies:
How UCLA's Pressure Defense Kept Washington "Outside Of Their Rhythm" - Swish Appeal
"It was not super aggressive and so it was kind of hesitating," said UW guard Kristi Kingma after Washington's 60-48 loss to the Bruins yesterday afternoon. "Like you would take a dribble and they would come at you and then you would take a dribble back and they'd stop. And so it was kind of confusing out there, whether they were gonna trap, whether they were gonna come back. And Georgia Tech was good prep for them, but I thought UCLA brought a lot more pressure. And we kinda anticipated that."
Behind their outstanding defense, UCLA went a school record 27-4, which should come with the caveat that three of those losses came against Stanford and the other a home lapse against LSU.
That's a really tough draw for a team ranked #20/19 as former Gonzaga player Vivian Frieson noted on Twitter.
And even getting to the second round isn't a given despite the support of a likely vibrant home crowd - Iowa, recently-resigned UW coach Tia Jackson's alma mater, has Hawkeye fans excited at SBN's Black Heart Gold Pants excited about their team this season, led by 5-foot-9 Kachine "The Machine" Alexander.
The "Machine" nickname could easily be derived from the work the senior puts in on the boards, averaging a team-high 9.9 rebounds per game and one of the best rebounding guards women's college basketball has seen. Her combination of scoring and rebounding ability helped her becoming the first Big Ten women's basketball player to record two triple-doubles in a season.
Women's Basketball - Black Heart Gold Pants
Kash Alexander: now senior and bad ass, became the first Big Ten women's basketball player to record two triple-doubles in the same season when she accomplished the feat as a sophomore; scored 1000th career point in game vs. Penn State on Feb. 6, 2011 Of course they can't do it alone.
The rest of team really pulls out the muscle and seriously fight, fight fight, until the game is won. We have a really young team that's really good now and will be a lot of fun to watch in the years to come.
Iowa is exactly the type of team that could give a finesse team like Gonzaga some problems and they will have to match their intensity for 40 minutes to even get a shot at second round play. That, of course, is strikingly similar to their Seattle sub-regional prospects last season when people expected a bigger North Carolina team to give them trouble and they came up big with a win on their way to the Sweet Sixteen led by 15 assists from Vandersloot.
The final team in the region is #14 Montana who will be facing UCLA's defense in the first round by securing an automatic bid as the Big Sky tournament champion after finishing fourth in the conference during the season. Check out Swish Appeal's capsule on Montana for more details.
For more on the bracket, check out our Women's NCAA Tournament StoryStream. To break down the bracket with Gonzaga fans, be sure to stop by SB Nation's The Slipper Still Fits.. For everything women's NCAA hoops, stop by Swish Appeal.