NCAA Women's Tournament 2013: Sleeper Teams Sure to Make Noise

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIMarch 1, 2013

PALO ALTO, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Meighan Simmons #10 of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers in action against the Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion on December 20, 2011 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Brittney Griner of the Baylor Bears and Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame lead the top two teams heading into the women's NCAA tournament. However, if we're looking beyond the obvious favorites, there are a few programs fans and opponents should take note of.

These teams have been on a roll of late, and through their body of work and superstar leadership, they have proven they can compete with the best teams in the nation.


Tennessee Lady Volunteers

With the program's great history of success, it is hard to imagine calling a Lady Vols team a sleeper.

However, in 2013, this team would qualify.

They are currently ranked just eighth by the Associated Press (via ESPN) with a record of 22-5. The Lady Vols may not grab a top seed in the tournament, but they are still a force to be reckoned with.

This team is playing well and hitting their stride at the perfect time. They have won their last six games and wrapped up their 17th conference title in the process.

They will be the top seed in the SEC tournament, and if they roll through, they could even improve their seeding for the NCAA tournament.

Meighan Simmons (17.8 points per game) and Bashaara Graves (14.4 points and 8.6 rebounds) have led the way, but keep an eye on Tamiko Williams as well.

She put up 18 points and seven rebounds in the team's win over No. 13 Texas A&M on Thursday night. That type of production from someone other than Simmons and Graves will make the Lady Vols that much more dangerous in the tournament.


Kentucky Wildcats

The No. 10 ranked Wildcats were blown out by Griner and the Bears in Waco early in the season, but they have still compiled an impressive 24-4 record overall. They have won at No. 7 Louisville and swept Texas A&M this season.

Besides the loss to Baylor, they have been in every game they've played. None of their other losses have been by more than five points.

Considering the fact Kentucky has had the time to improve throughout the long season, it would be interesting to see if the Wildcats have closed the gap between themselves and Baylor.

A huge key for this team is the three-point shooting of A'dia Mathies and Jennifer O'Neill. Both have the ability to get extremely hot from deep, and accurate outside shooting could be a key against teams with a dominant inside presence.

Kentucky depends on the three, but in their lopsided loss to Baylor, the team made just five of 27 from deep—and that included a one-for-seven night from Mathies. 

A player to keep your eye on if Baylor and Kentucky should play in a rematch is JUCO transfer Jelleah Sidney. She doesn't play huge minutes, but the forward-center is a solid three-point shooter. She makes 38.5 percent of her shots from distance. 

If she gets hot, it may force Griner to step out and guard her, thus limiting Baylor's inside advantage.


Dayton Flyers

No one is respecting the Flyers. Perhaps it is solely because they play in a conference that doesn't challenge them quite as much as the SEC, Big Ten or other major conferences.

However, the Lady Flyers are a good team.

They are 25-1 and ranked 12th in the nation. Their lone loss was a blowout at the hands of unranked Bowling Green, but it is not like this team hasn't been tested.

Early in the season, they played and defeated No. 25 DePaul and No. 13 Vanderbilt. Since the loss to Bowling Green on Dec. 30, Dayton has won 13 games in a row. 

This team is dangerous because they defend, they shoot the three well (33.5 percent) and they have extremely balanced scoring. They have four players averaging double figures (Andrea Hoover, Ally Malott, Amber Dean and Samantha MacKay).

This makes them unpredictable and difficult to defend. Teams best beware underestimating this squad in March.


Follow Brian Mazique and Franchiseplay on YouTube and Twitter for reactions, analysis and news from the world of sports and sports video games