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Women’s bracket winners, losers and a difficult path for Iowa

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Women’s bracket winners, losers and a difficult path for Iowa


There won’t be a rematch of the national championship game in women’s college basketball in 2024, but LSU vs. Iowa could be a blockbuster of an Elite Eight matchup. If both even get that far, that is.

Who are the winners and losers of the women’s NCAA tournament bracket? We start on the losers’ side, and it begins with the last two teams standing in 2023. Both aren’t going to make it to Cleveland. In fact, neither one might be there.

The Albany 2 Regional has three teams that many might have picked to make the Final Four before the bracket was revealed: defending national champion LSU, national runner-up Iowa and UCLA.

Who thought this was a good idea? Apparently the NCAA selection committee, which decided to jam-pack that trio together, along with No. 4 seed Kansas State.

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As ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo said, South Carolina, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and top seed in the Albany 1 Regional, earned — and received — what appears to be the so-called “easiest” regional bracket. Iowa — a No. 1 seed for the first time since 1992 — should have earned the second-easiest corner of the bracket, but instead got the hardest.

The Big Ten tournament champion Hawkeyes, SEC tournament runner-up LSU and Pac-12 semifinalist UCLA were all in the top four in the preseason Associated Press poll and are in the top eight now. Of course, poll rankings are one thing and NCAA tournament placement another. Still, it’s a surprise to see them all together.

“Initially, I just thought, ‘Oooh, this is a tough, tough region,’” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said of her first reaction to the bracket.

Let’s further break down the women’s bracket winners and losers, and what the path ahead looks like for unbeaten South Carolina and Caitlin Clark and Iowa.

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Winners

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1:25

Carolyn Peck: South Carolina is motivated going into the tourney

Carolyn Peck, Andraya Carter, Rebecca Lobo and Elle Duncan break down South Carolina’s path in the women’s NCAA tournament.

South Carolina Gamecocks

Two-time national champion South Carolina is in Albany 1 Regional along with No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 3 Oregon State and No. 4 Indiana. The Irish are the ACC tournament champions and are playing well, but the Gamecocks have the benefit of having faced them already this season. That was back in November in Paris — a 29-point Gamecock victory — and both teams have since grown a lot.

The Gamecocks have been so good they were probably going to be “winners” regardless of their bracket matchups. But coach Dawn Staley should be pleased with the path in front of her team.

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Center Kamilla Cardoso will miss South Carolina’s opener against the Presbyterian-Sacred Heart winner after her ejection for fighting in the SEC tournament final. That will be of little consequence in that game. But the Gamecocks will be glad to have her back against the winner of North Carolina-Michigan State, the 8-9 matchup.

Provided the Gamecocks get through to the Sweet 16 — they last fell in the second round in 2013 — they could face a No. 4 seed Indiana team that hopes to be much healthier since its quarterfinal loss in the Big Ten tournament.

If there is an Elite Eight matchup between South Carolina and Notre Dame, we’ll see two of the best freshmen in the country in the Gamecocks’ MiLaysia Fulwiley and the Irish’s Hannah Hidalgo. But South Carolina’s inside presence and depth should take the Gamecocks through to Cleveland.

Ivy League

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The conference got two teams in the field: Ivy Madness champion Princeton and runner-up Columbia. It’s just the second time two Ivy teams reached the field (Penn and Princeton advanced in 2016).

The Tigers and Lions both finished 13-1 in league play, with Columbia handing Princeton its lone league loss, 67-65 on Feb. 25 in New York.

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0:40

Andraya Carter: Regional 3 is the ‘certified bucket’ region

Andraya Carter breaks down how Regional 3 in the women’s NCAA tournament is filled with “certified bucket” getters.

USC Trojans

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Not since 1986, Trojans legend Cheryl Miller’s senior year, had the program earned a No. 1 seed until Sunday. USC, the top seed in the Portland 3 Regional, has had a breakthrough season, thanks in large part to JuJu Watkins, the top freshman in a stellar rookie class. But as the Trojans proved in winning the Pac-12 tournament final when Stanford focused on shutting down Watkins, USC is more than just its young superstar.

The Trojans have waited a long time — since 1994 — to host the early rounds of the NCAA tournament again, so that’s exciting for USC, too.

USC looks to have a good path to the Elite Eight, where an epic showdown with Paige Bueckers and No. 3 seed UConn — by far the most decorated team in this corner of the bracket – could await.

Texas Longhorns

The Big 12 tournament champion earned its first No. 1 seed since 2004. The Longhorns, like fellow No. 1 seed Iowa, didn’t win their conference regular-season title but did win the league tournament.

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After losing star guard Rori Harmon for the season in late December to a knee injury, Texas had to navigate Big 12 play without her. They lost to Baylor, Kansas State and regular-season champ Oklahoma twice. In the Big 12 tournament, the Longhorns beat Kansas, K-State and Iowa State, with freshman Madison Booker winning MVP honors.

Texas has made the Elite Eight twice since Vic Schaefer took over as coach in 2020-21. He said after the Big 12 final that he thought the Longhorns had proven they deserved a No. 1 seed. The committee agreed.

“When you win a championship in a league, you play the schedule these kids have played, I don’t know what else we could do,” Schaefer said. “I feel really confident in this team. They’ve done nothing but show me that they can do it.

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0:54

Why Texas is a team to fear in the women’s tourney

Charlie Creme, Rebecca Lobo, Carolyn Peck and Andraya Carter break down Regional 4 in the women’s NCAA tournament.

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UConn Huskies and Tennessee Lady Vols

Both teams could make waves in the bracket. UConn ran the table in the Big East this season. The Huskies could be motivated by a potential revenge matchup with Ohio State in the Sweet 16, as the Buckeyes knocked UConn out of the tournament in that round last year.

Tennessee, the Portland 4 Regional No. 6 seed, comes into the NCAA tournament smarting from a last-second loss to South Carolina in the SEC semifinals. But the Lady Vols know from the way they’ve played the Gamecocks that they can compete with anyone.

Tennessee’s potential path to the Sweet 16, which would likely involve a win at No. 3 seed NC State in the second round, isn’t easy. But the Lady Vols have a chance.

Losers

Iowa Hawkeyes

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Last season, Stanford — the No. 1 seed in Iowa’s regional — was eliminated in the second round by Ole Miss. The Rebels were subsequently defeated by Louisville, which then fell to Iowa in the Elite Eight.

It wasn’t an easy path to the Final Four for the Hawkeyes in 2023, but it seems easier in retrospect to what they could face this season in Albany 2.

The potential difficulty starts in the second round. The Hawkeyes, who shouldn’t have trouble in their opener against the Holy Cross-UT Martin winner, would face the 8-9 West Virginia-Princeton winner next.

Last year, Georgia’s ability to defend Iowa made for a nerve-wracking second-round win for the Hawkeyes. It could be similar if they face West Virginia, which leads the Big 12 in steals. Against Princeton, Iowa would face a program that upset Kentucky two years ago.

Should seeds hold, Iowa will have a third meeting this season vs. Kansas State; the teams played twice in November, with the Wildcats winning the first and the Hawkeyes the second. Center Ayoka Lee provides the muscle inside for a K-State team that pushed Texas in the Big 12 semifinals.

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If Iowa makes the Elite Eight against either No. 2 UCLA or No. 3 LSU, one of the biggest issues will be how the Hawkeyes combat the size inside for both teams.

UCLA Bruins

Placement-wise, the Bruins wouldn’t mind trading spots with their Pac-12 rivals Stanford in Portland 4 or USC in Portland 3. But it didn’t work out that way after UCLA fell to the Trojans in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals. The Pac-12, in its final season as we know it, has three teams in the top two seeds for the first time in conference history. UCLA appears to have the toughest path of the three.

The Bruins won an AIAW championship in 1978. But it’s fair to say UCLA is the best program to never make the women’s Final Four in the NCAA era, which began in 1982. During parts of this season, the Bruins looked as if they had a strong chance to make that breakthrough in 2024. We’re not ruling them out, especially with a fifth-year senior leader in Charisma Osborne and a stellar sophomore class that includes 6-foot-7 post Lauren Betts.

But being in this regional makes it more difficult for the Bruins. If seeds hold, they would have to get through LSU and Iowa back-to-back, two very different types of teams. Can UCLA do it? Yes, but it’s a real challenge.

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LSU Tigers

The defending champs, the No. 3 seed in Albany 2, also fit into our bracket losers. However, their path doesn’t seem quite as tough as that of Iowa or UCLA. For three reasons: One, they’ve already played the best team in the country, South Carolina, twice. The Tigers lost their SEC regular-season and tournament matchups with the Gamecocks, but they hung with them both times. Second, LSU won the NCAA title last season, beating Iowa in the final, so the Tigers should face this regional with confidence. Third, Mulkey already has four national championships as a coach. This is her time of year.

Miami Hurricanes

Last year, the Hurricanes were one of the biggest stories of March on the women’s side. A No. 9 seed, they beat No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 1 Indiana and No. 4 Villanova to reach the Elite Eight, where they lost to eventual national champion LSU.

But last year’s mojo didn’t carry over for Miami to 2024. The Hurricanes went 19-12 overall but were 8-10 in the ACC. Victories over NCAA tournament teams NC State, Duke and North Carolina weren’t enough to offset some of Miami’s losses.

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Cubs roster move: José Cuas optioned to Iowa, Keegan Thompson recalled

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Cubs roster move: José Cuas optioned to Iowa, Keegan Thompson recalled


The Cubs quietly demoted José Cuas to Triple-A Iowa late Thursday. I say “quietly” because no press release was issued; some of us simply noticed the move posted on the Cubs transactions page.

Cuas has not pitched well this year, after being reasonably good after being acquired by trade in 2023. This year he has a 9.00 ERA in five outings covering six innings.

At the time, no corresponding 26-man roster move was announced, but now we know that move.

Righthander Keegan Thompson has been recalled from Iowa. This move has not yet been officially announced by the team, but this would seem to be a good source:

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At the end of the 2022 season it appeared that the Cubs had two young pitchers vying to become top starters — Thompson and Justin Steele. Steele did that and got Cy Young votes. Thompson, relegated to the pen, did not pitch well and spent much of 2023 at Iowa. He made six appearances in Spring Training with a 4.05 ERA and 1.200 WHIP and so far this year at Iowa has a 4.50 ERA and 1.167 WHIP in four appearances covering six innings, with seven strikeouts. But after a rough first outing, he’s been lights-out over the last three, with six K’s in five innings.

If Thompson can recover some of his 2022 form, that’d be a big boost to the pen. Best of luck, Keegan. As always, we await developments.





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Opinion: Religious freedom isn’t only for Christians in Iowa

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Opinion: Religious freedom isn’t only for Christians in Iowa


Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs a bill banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat during the 12th annual Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines, Iowa on Friday, July 14, 2023. The event was hosted annually by the Family Leadership Foundation. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

After a contentious legislative debate, Gov. Kim Reynolds could have sent a message about the inclusion of all faiths as she signed Iowa’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. After all, religious freedom is not meant to protect one narrow view of religion.

Instead, the governor signed the bill at an event organized by the Christian conservative group The Family Leader that was closed to the public. The Family Leader has, for more than a decade, fought marriage equality, sought to encourage discrimination against LGBTQ Iowans and assailed transgender rights, despite the fact sexual orientation and gender identity are protected in the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

Reynolds has been an enthusiastic supporter measures targeting LGBTQ Iowans.

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So it seems clear that the state’s commitment to religious freedom is all about giving religious conservatives an escape route from the modern world, where old hatreds against LGBTQ people are no longer tolerated by law. That’s the intent, and the bill never should have seen the light of day in a state where our civil rights track record is a point of pride.

State and local governments, under the law, must not “substantially burden” the exercise of religion unless the government has a compelling interest, and its action is narrowly tailored and the least restrictive approach to meet the government’s interest.

The exercise of religion is defined as an act “substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”

So the law provides a rationale for legal action, which may or may not succeed.

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But we expect, for some, the law will be interpreted as permission to discriminate. Refusing to hire LGBTQ people, provide housing or allow them to use public accommodations will be justified as an exercise of religious freedom.

Republicans who backed the bill insist it’s Iowa’s version of a federal RFRA law. But the federal law wasn’t crated to override civil rights protections.

If the state law leads to widespread discriminatory practices, Iowa’s efforts to attract businesses and workers will be tarnished. That’s why the Krause Group, the Technology Association of Iowa, Principal Financial Group and the Iowa Chamber Alliance opposed the bill.

Religious freedom is not a wholly owned subsidiary of the Christian right. And one version of faith should not be elevated above all others. All we can hope for now is for the courts to not apply this law as a license to discriminate.

(319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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Opinion content represents the viewpoint of the author or The Gazette editorial board. You can join the conversation by submitting a letter to the editor or guest column or by suggesting a topic for an editorial to editorial@thegazette.com





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Reynolds signs illegal immigration bill | The Iowa Torch

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Reynolds signs illegal immigration bill | The Iowa Torch


DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday signed a bill, SF 2340, that makes illegal immigration a state crime under Iowa law.

“The Biden Administration has failed to enforce our nation’s immigration laws, putting the protection and safety of Iowans at risk. Those who come into our country illegally have broken the law, yet Biden refuses to deport them. This bill gives Iowa law enforcement the power to do what he is unwilling to do: enforce immigration laws already on the books,” Reynolds said in a released statement.

The Iowa Senate passed the bill in early March by a 34 to 16 vote followed by the Iowa House passing the bill days later by 64 to 30 vote.

Illegal immigration becomes an aggravated misdemeanor if the immigrant was denied admission to the United States, was deported from the United States, or departed the United States while a deportation order is outstanding and returned.

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Under Iowa law, an aggravated misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to two years in prison and fine of no more than $8,500.

An immigrant in the United States can be subject to Class D felony charges after removal due to a misdemeanor conviction involving drugs or crimes against a person or was subject to alien terrorist removal procedures. State law states the penalty for Class D felonies is up to five years in prison and a fine between $1,025 and $10,245. 

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Class C felony charges would apply if the immigrant was removed after a felony conviction carrying a penalty of up to ten years in prison and fine of at least $1,375 up to $13,660. 

Ultimately, the bill sets up a removal procedure for those found in the state of Iowa in violation of federal law. 

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The bill forbids law enforcement officers from arresting someone if the person is in a school, place of worship, a health care facility, or a facility for survivors of sexual assault.

Read SF 2340 below:

SF2340

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