No. 2 seed Utah (25-4) vs. No. 15 seed Gardner-Webb (29-4)

NCAA women’s basketball tournament first round

Friday, 5:30 p.m. MDT

Huntsman Center (Salt Lake City)


Radio: 700 AM

How the Utes got here: Utah earned a share of the Pac-12 regular-season championship with Stanford by going 15-3 in conference play. The Utes, who were ranked as high as No. 3 during the season, earned an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament — the No. 2 seed is the highest NCAA seed in program history.

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How the Runnin’ Bulldogs got here: Gardner-Webb, which is on a 21-game winning streak, went undefeated during Big South Conference play, then won the conference tournament to earn an automatic NCAA Tournament bid. 

Key players: Alissa Pili is the Pac-12 Player of the Year and averages 20.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Utes while shooting 58.5% from the field; Gianna Kneepkens has made a team-high 66 3-pointers for a Utah team that is 15th nationally in 3-pointers per game (8.6).

Jhessyka Williams paces Gardner-Webb by averaging 19.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game — she was named the Big South Player of the Year — while Alasia Smith contributes across the board, averaging 13.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.   

What’s at stake: The winner of Friday’s game will play the winner of No. 7 seed NC State and No. 10 Princeton in the NCAA Tournament’s second round on Sunday.