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Gonzaga women advance again to Sweet 16 as an 11 seed

It seems 11 is the perfect number for Gonzaga.

The Zags advanced to the Sweet 16 on Sunday for the third time in five years as a No. 11 seed. Now the Bulldogs get to go home to Spokane to play in a regional 3 miles from their campus.

The possible homecoming was one of Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier’s points of emphasis.

“Lisa said it before the game: ‘We’re capable, we can do this, and if we do it, we’re coming right back home and we’re playing where we’re comfortable,'” said Elle Tinkle, who added 14 points and seven rebounds. “It will be nice having a little home-court help for sure.”

Gonzaga isn’t the only surprise to the regional semifinals. Dayton upset Kentucky on its home-court earning Jim Jabir and his team their first trip to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s funny — you go to the NCAA Tournament six years in a row and you don’t get out of the first weekend (the first five times), and you start doubting yourself a little bit. What am I doing wrong, and what can we do better?” Jabir said. “Our team is very, very resilient. They really believed that we could win this game. We worked really hard to put them in a place where mentally that they believed they could.

“I really think that was the difference. I really do. They never faltered. In the timeouts, we were down 10. They knew we were going to win the game.”

While Dayton is making its first trip to the regionals, Iowa is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996. Texas is appearing for the first time since 2003-04.

They are joined in the next round by regional stalwarts Duke, South Carolina and Baylor.

This is the sixth season in a row that a double-digit seed has made it to the second weekend.

Here are some of the things we learned Sunday:

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REMATCH MISMATCH: Both South Carolina and Notre Dame won tight games early in the season over Syracuse and DePaul. This time around, they cruised to easy wins.

The Gamecocks jumped all over the Orange en route to a 97-68 win. Coach Dawn Staley said her players came out with a fire and focus apparent at Saturday’s practice and pre-game shootaround.

It took the Irish a little longer to put away DePaul. Notre Dame led by six at the half before an early run in the second half blew the game open.

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HOME COOKING: The women’s tournament went back to the top 16 teams hosting for the first time since 2003. The hosts went 8-0 on Saturday and didn’t lose in the first round after a perfect mark on Friday. Tennessee improved to 55-0 at home in the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Vols are the only team to play every season in the NCAAs.

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OLD BIG EAST: There was no question that the old incarnation of the Big East was the top conference in women’s basketball. Teams that spent time in that conference went 9-1 in the opening round with the lone loss coming when two former members squared off in Rutgers vs. Seton Hall. The Scarlet Knights took the New Jersey bragging rights with a 79-66 win over the Pirates.

Connecticut, Notre Dame, DePaul, Syracuse, Louisville, South Florida, Miami and Pittsburgh also won. The Hurricanes and Panthers pulled off upsets as double-digit seeds.

Most of those teams are in the ACC now and that conference went 8-0 in the opening round.

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Here are some things to watch Monday:

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LOTS OF VICTORIES: Princeton and Maryland have combined for 62 wins so far this season. That’s the most of any second-round matchup. The undefeated Tigers (31-0) will try to pull off the monumental upset against the host Terrapins (31-2).

Who knows if anyone from the White House will show up for the game. President Barack Obama attended the Tigers’ first-round win over Wisconsin-Green Bay.

His niece is a freshman on Princeton’s team.

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RENEWING ACQUAINTENCES: There probably isn’t much that UConn and Rutgers don’t already know about each other after spending years together in the Big East. One thing the Scarlet Knights won’t be is intimidated.

“Geno (Auriemma) has said this a thousand times and I know this: Any team that comes in and is in awe is down by 20 points right from the beginning,” coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “He knows that we don’t come in awe. We might be down at some particular point, but it’s not because we are in awe of UConn.”

Same thing could be said for Louisville and South Florida, who spent time together as well in the Big East and American Athletic Conference.

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SUNSHINE BRAGGING RIGHTS: Florida Gulf Coast and Florida State will face each other with a trip to the Sweet 16 at stake. The two Florida schools have played twice before

The Seminoles (30-4) and Eagles (31-2) match up for the third time in series history on Monday. Florida Gulf Coast has lost both the previous meetings, including its first game as a Division I team in 2007. The teams played again the next season.

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