NCAA tournament women's capsules —Northwestern, DePaul, Notre Dame

Philip Hersh
Chicago Tribune

Northwestern (7) vs. Arkansas (10)

TV: 11 a.m. Friday at Waco, Texas, ESPN2.

Winner plays: at 1:30 p.m. Sunday vs. Baylor (2)-Northwestern State (15) winner.

Quick look: Can the team that finished fourth in the Big Ten regular season beat the ninth finisher in the Southeastern Conference? That may depend on how the Wildcats (23-8) react to being in their first NCAA tournament since 1997. Arkansas (17-13) last made the tourney in 2012. Both teams have short benches: Only seven Northwestern women averaged more than 5.3 minutes per game, only seven Razorbacks more than 8.5. Arkansas ranks 21st in Division I scoring defense (55.4) but is 262nd in offense (60.3). Pint-sized Northwestern guard Ashley Deary (5 feet 4) is 14th nationally in steals, and first team All-Big Ten forward Nia Coffey leads the Wildcats in points (15.8) and rebounds (8.7).

DePaul (9) vs. Minnesota (8)

TV: 4 p.m. Friday, South Bend, Ind., ESPN2.

Winner plays: 8 p.m. Sunday vs. Notre Dame (1)-Montana (16) winner.

Quick look: All eyes will be on Minnesota (23-9) redshirt sophomore center Amanda Zahui B. of Sweden. She had 39 points and a Big Ten record 29 rebounds in the Gophers' biggest victory of the season, Feb. 17 over conference runner-up Iowa. The 6-5 Zahui B. ranks fourth in Division I in rebounds (12.6) and blocked shots (4.19) and is averaging 18.8 points. "Going against (Zahui B.) is going to be a challenge," said 6-1 Megan Podkowa of Glenview, the Blue Demons' tallest starter. This looks like a classic inside-outside matchup, with Big East champion DePaul (26-7) relying on its quicksilver guards, including Big East player of the year Brittany Hrynko.

Notre Dame (1) vs. Montana (16)

TV: 6:30 p.m. Friday at South Bend, Ind., ESPN2.

Winner plays: 8 p.m. Sunday vs. DePaul (9)–Minnesota (8) winner.

Quick look: The Big Sky champion Grizzlies (24-8) will be hard-pressed to take home fond memories of their first women's basketball game at Notre Dame (31-2). This is the 21st NCAA appearance for Montana, which never has made it past the second round and is one-and-done in their last 10. Muffet McGraw's Irish, the ACC champions and a Final Four team the last four years, have won 17 straight with one of the nation's top players in guard Jewell Loyd of Niles West (20.6 points per game) and top freshmen in forward Brianna Turner of Pearland, Texas, who leads Division I in field goal percentage (.667).

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