The check-in: Here's a viewing guide to one of the biggest women's sports weekends of the year!
Let's get ready for the fun together.
First off, an update: Unfortunately, I am not in Greenville this weekend for the NCAA regionals as initially planned. I am incredibly sad about this, but it was ultimately the best decision for the financial health of Power Plays and the mental and physical health of me, so there we go! I’ll be watching from my couch all weekend long, though.
Which brings me to the point of this newsletter: This weekend is, low-key, one of the biggest women’s sports weekends of the year, particularly here in the United States. I don’t do “what to watch” posts that often, because there’s so much happening all the time that I wouldn’t have time to ever write anything else. But this weekend? It just feels right for a viewing guide of sorts.
(I do want to note that for paying subscribers at Power Plays who are members of the Slack, the phenomenal Dave provides us with women’s sports viewing guides throughout the week, and we watch games together in the liveslacking channel, and it’s a blast. If you’re a paid subscriber that hasn’t joined the Slack yet, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll get you a sign-up link. If you’re not a paid subscriber yet, I have an idea for how you can fix that.)
Anyways, here are just some of the big women’s sporting events you can watch this weekend, as well as all the links you can handle for in-depth dives on everything from March Madness to the NWSL season openers to the Isobel Cup to the Athletes Unlimited basketball championship, and more!
Okay, friends, let’s do this.
1. Obviously I have to start with the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, because March Madness is my favorite and this tournament has been phenomenal so far.
First and foremost in my heart is my favorite tournament of the year: March Madness. The first and second rounds last weekend were absolutely fantastic — we two saw historic upsets in the second round, with No. 8 Ole Miss stunning No. 1 Stanford and No. 9 Miami doing the same to No. 1 Indiana. This is the first time since 1998 that two No. 1 seeds went down in the first weekend! If, like me and Marie Kondo, you love mess, then you’re in heaven right now.
I meant to get this newsletter out a little earlier in the day, but life happens and we’re already 2.5 games into the Sweet 16 so far, and all 2.5 games have been absolute thrillers. Like, this is getting ridiculous.
I mean, MIAMI is going to the Elite Eight!
Here’s the full Sweet 16 and Elite Eight schedule, including the games that have already happened.
Friday, March 24 (Sweet 16)
2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN): No. 9 Miami d. No. 4 Villanova 70-65 (Greenville 2)
5:00 p.m. ET (ESPN): No. 3 LSU d. No. 2 Utah 66-63 (Greenville 2)
7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN): No. 6 Colorado v. No. 2 Iowa (Seattle 4)
10:00 p.m. ET (ESPN): No. 8 Mississippi v. No. 5 Louisville (Seattle 4)
Saturday, March 25 (Sweet 16)
11:30 a.m. ET (ESPN): No. 3 Notre Dame v. No. 2 Maryland (Greenville 1)
2:00 p.m. ET (ESPN): No. 4 UCLA v. No. 1 South Carolina (Greenville 1)
4:00 p.m. ET (ABC): No. 3 Ohio State v. No. 2 UConn (Seattle 3)
6:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2): No. 4 Tennessee v. No. 1 Virginia Tech (Seattle 3)
Sunday, March 26 (Elite Eight)
7:00 p.m. ET (TBA): Miami v. LSU
9:00 p.m. ET (TBA): Colorado/Iowa v. Mississippi/Louisville
Monday, March 27 (Elite Eight)
7:00 p.m. ET (TBA): ND/Maryland v. UCLA/SC
9:00 p.m. ET (TBA): OSU/UConn v. Tennessee/VT
There are simply too many games I am excited to watch, it is the best problem of all time.
Now, are you ready to be absolutely overloaded with links to get you even more excited than you already are about this weekend? Good, because I challenged myself to include at least one link about all 16 teams playing this weekend, and I didn’t realize how excessive that was until I was far too deep into the project to quit.
My friend Marissa Sisk has a good preview of the Greenville regionals, and Megan Gauer has the Seattle regionals covered. (Her Hoop Stats)
Gabriella Lewis on Madison Scott’s journey at Ole Miss (The Next).
Here’s Tee Baker on Villanova and Maddy Siegrist. (The Next)
Lisa Leslie joins Howard Megdal on Locked on Women’s Basketball to preview the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
David Yapkowitz on UCLA’s twin towers. (The Next)
Ben Pickman takes us inside Coach Yo’s magical story at Ole Miss. (The Athletic)
Sabreena Merchant on an underrated part of Caitlin Clark’s game: her passing. (The Athletic)
Andrea Adelson on Notre Dame’s resilience without its star point guard, Oliva Miles. (ESPN)
Kareem Copeland on how Maryland’s Brenda Frese has turned in one of her most impressive coaching performances ever. (Washington Post)
Copeland also looks at how former Maryland star Angel Reese has found a home away from home at LSU. (Washington Post)
Gene Wang on the relationship between Virginia Tech star Elizabeth Kitley and her sister, Raven. (Washington Post)
Jay Drew writes about how Utah is embracing its underdog status, despite being seeded higher than LSU. (The Desert News)
Paul Klee gets to know Colorado star Jaylyn Sherrod, who powered her team to the Sweet 16. (The Denver Gazette)
Larry Stone on Hailey Van Lith’s return to her hometown of Seattle with Louisville. (The Seattle Times)
Great piece by Jere Longman about the impact of South Carolina’s Laeticia Amihere, on and off the court. (New York Times)
Louis Zatzman dives into the numbers behind Tennessee’s success this month. (FiveThirtyEight)
This is a good look at Ohio State’s mentality ahead of its big matchup against UConn. (Land-Grant Holy Land)
Lila Bromberg on how Azzi Fudd’s return has provided a much-needed spark for UConn. (Hartford Courant)
PS: If you’re in Portland this weekend, I am very jealous, because you should be at this:
2. Also this weekend? The 11th NWSL season kicks off!
I have to say, realizing that this is the 11th season for the National Women’s Soccer League makes me feel a bit old, so I’m going to need a moment to gather myself.
*deep, youthful breath*
Okay, better! Kind-of. Anyways, this is a big season for the no-longer-so-nascent league. So much of the past two years have been about fighting for a collective bargaining agreement and ridding the league of abusive coaches and owners, that it feels nice to go into a season with what seems like a solid foundation under the players’ feet. It also feels nice going into a season with a more reasonable schedule, one that has the Challenge Cup incorporated into the regular season, rather than wedged unceremoniously into the preseason.
I’m not going to get too deep into preview content, because I’m going to link to people who are much more in-the-know than I am. But first, here’s the schedule of games and where to watch them this weekend:
Saturday, March 25
2:00 p.m. ET: North Carolina Courage v. Kansas City Current (Paramount Plus)
10:00 p.m. ET: San Diego Wave FC v. Chicago Red Stars (CBS Sports Network)
Sunday, March 26
4:00 p.m. ET: Washington Spirit v. OL Reign (Paramount Plus)
5:00 p.m. ET: Portland Thorns FC v. Orlando Pride (Paramount Plus)
7:00 p.m. ET: Houston Dash v. Racing Louisville FC (Paramount Plus)
9:00 p.m. ET: Angel City FC v. NJ/NY Gotham FC (Paramount Plus)
Now, here’s where to read and listen to some of the best NWSL preview content around:
Meg Linehan and Steph Yang at The Athletic get you up-to-date on the basics of the new season, and then some.
Dan Lauletta of The Equalizer looks at 11 major talking points ahead of the season.
On the Diaspora United podcast, Courtney Smith and André Carlisle preview the entire league in three episodes.
Also check out Attacking Third, a CBS Sports women’s soccer podcast, for team-by-team breakdowns, previews, and interviews by Sandra Herrera and Lisa Roman, two of the best in the business.
Charlotte Gibson at ESPN and Gwendolyn Oxenham at Sports Illustrated both did profiles on teen phenom and Angel City FC rookie Alyssa Thompson.
I AM SO READY FOR THIS.
3. It is also a huge weekend for women’s hockey, as the PHF championship game will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday night. We better watch!
The Premiere Hockey Federation (formerly known as the National Women’s Hockey League) is wrapping up its ninth (!!) season this weekend with a championship game between the Minnesota Whitecaps and the Toronto Six for the Isobel Cup.
For the second straight year, the championship will be broadcast live on ESPN2. So, yes, it’s likely that we will have an Elite Eight game on ESPN and the Isobel Cup game on ESPN2, and this is when we make sure we have a way to watch two things at once, because our viewership matters. Get prepared now.
Sunday, March 26
9:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2 and TSN, for our Canadian friends): Minnesota Whitecaps v. Toronto Six
Now, admittedly, I have not done a good job of keeping up with the PHF this season, it just fell through the cracks and I very much regret it. But I will be watching on Sunday night for sure.
If, like me, you need to study up, here are highlights from the semifinals:
Kristen Shilton of ESPN has a wonderful breakdown of the championship game, including information on how both teams got there. Jerry Zgoda at the Star Tribune takes you inside the Whitecaps’ journey to the final, and the CBC gets you caught up on the Six.
4. ALSO it is championship weekend for the second season of Athletes Unlimited basketball. Phew!
Athletes Unlimited just keeps chugging along and notching phenomenal seasons of competition under its belt in volleyball, softball, lacrosse, and basketball. The start-up league, which heavily incorporates players into leadership positions and bucks sporting tradition to have self-contained, one-site, five-ish week seasons where teams are re-drafted every week and everyone is scored with individual points, fantasy sports style, has had a very successful basketball season in Dallas, and on Saturday an individual champion will be crowned.
This is the schedule:
Friday, March 24
6:00 p.m ET (WNBA League Pass): Team Harrison d. Team Smith 94-80
8:30 p.m. ET (WNBA League Pass): Team Hillmon vs. Team Sims
Saturday, March 25
6:00 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network): Team Harrison vs. Team Hillmon
8:30 p.m. ET (Bally Sports; WNBA League Pass): Team Smith vs. Team Sims
Here is the leaderboard, where you can see that Odyssey Sims looks to have a pretty comfortable hold on the top spot, but anything can happen with NaLyssa Smith and Naz Hillmon nipping at her heels. Here’s a breakdown of the Athletes Unlimited scoring system for basketball, which is always good to bookmark.
Arie Graham over at The Next previewed the final week of action in Dallas.
And finally, here’s an interview with one of Power Plays’ favorite players, Layshia Clarendon:
5. There are a lot of other things happening that I don’t have time to really get into, but here’s a quick and incomplete list.
The Miami Open is happening!! It’s not championship weekend which is why I’m not giving it a separate line, but Bianca Andreescu is playing her best tennis in a long time, and here is where you can check the daily OOPs and find what to watch on Tennis Channel.
NCAA softball season is also in full swing, I will be turning a lot of attention to that once the basketball is over, but here are the scores and schedule for this weekend.
The LPGA Drive-On Championship is in full swing HAHA and Alison Lee, Jenny Shin, and Gaby Lopez all have a share of the lead headed into the weekend.
The figure skating world championships just wrapped up today in Japan, with Kaori Sakamoto winning gold, which it feels like is worth a mention. And NCAA gymnastics regionals start next week, so that will be going on at the same time as the women’s Final Four, meaning next weekend will be madness, too.
As far as international soccer goes, we’ve got some WSL action on Saturday and Sunday mornings on Paramount Plus, and La Liga MX and the A-League are in action, too.
I AM SO SORRY TO EVERYONE I LEFT OUT I LOVE YOU.
I hope you all have some good snacks for this weekend, friends. We’re in for a fun one.