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The 2024 NCAA Women's Tournament is finally here, and based on the bracket it won't have a shortage of entertainment. Some great matchups lie ahead of us, and a lot of teams are trying to prove themselves after an extremely competitive regular season. 

While we've covered how No. 1 overall seed South Carolina looks even stronger than before, and how we could get a potential national title game rematch between Iowa and LSU during the Elite Eight, it's time to look at what's directly ahead. The First Four is taking place Wednesday and Thursday, then the first round tips off Friday.

March is all about surprises, so it's hard to predict what will happen. Still, here are the first round matchups that should bring the most excitement.

10. No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 12 winner of Vanderbilt-Columbia 

Friday  | 6 p.m. ET | ESPNU 

The First Four matchup before this game will be compelling on its own, as Columbia coach Megan Griffith had criticized the selection committee -- before the Lions got an at-large bid -- for "consistently putting SEC teams in [the NCAA Women's Tournament] that are 15-14" ahead of mid-majors. Vanderbilt coach Shea Ralph responded by saying the Commodores are ready to represent the SEC and show they are battle-tested. Whichever team Baylor faces will be collecting a great amount of confidence and momentum. The Bears are making their 20th consecutive appearance in the Big Dance, and they bring in a lot of experience as 10 of their 13 players have made the NCAA Women's Tournament.

9. No. 6 Louisville vs. No. 11 MTSU 

Friday 1:30 p.m. ET | ESPN2 

Louisville has made the Big Dance every year since 2011, and last year it made the Elite Eight before falling to national champion runner-up Iowa. However, the Cardinals will have to find some momentum if they want to make another deep run because they have lost six of their last 11 games. Middle Tennessee is on a 19-game winning streak and will certainly not be overlooked by Louisville coach Jeff Walz, who calls the opponent a "legit" team. He recently reminded everyone that the Blue Raiders "kicked our ass" in 2022 by a score of 67-49.

8. No. 6 Nebraska vs. No. 11 Texas A&M 

Friday | 10:30 p.m. ET | ESPNU

Nebraska already showed everyone how tough it's going to compete in March. The Cornhuskers almost upset Iowa in the Big Ten tournament championship, but the Hawkeyes escaped with an overtime win. Texas A&M battled through injuries this season, but the Aggies' health was better during the SEC Women's Tournament. During the tournament, Aicha Coulibaly scored a career-best 32 points against No. 1 South Carolina.

7. No. 8 Kansas vs. No. 9 Michigan

Saturday | 2 p.m. ET | ESPNEWS

Michigan made sure the selection committee didn't leave the team out by upsetting Indiana in the Big Ten quarterfinals behind a career-best 30 points by Laila Phelia. Kansas didn't seem like an NCAA Women's Tournament team earlier this season, but the team turned things around by going 10-3 over its last 13 games. One of Kansas' strengths is experience, as while freshman S'Mya Nichols is leading the offense with 15.2 points per game, the super-senior trio of Holly Kersgieter, Taiyanna Jackson and Zakiyah Franklin makes a huge impact as well. 

6. No. 8 West Virginia vs. No. 9 Princeton

Saturday | 5:30 p.m. ET | ESPN2

West Virginia has given top opponents some tight battles, including pushing Kansas State to overtime in February. The Mountaineers will come in with confidence, as head coach Mark Kellogg already told his team they need to win this one to "send Caitlin Clark packing" in the next round. Princeton just won its fifth consecutive Ivy Tournament to reach a 25-4 record this season. The Tigers have one of the top-20 defenses in the nation, holding opponents to just 56 points per game. They almost handed then-No 3 UCLA its first loss in November, and went on to beat Big 12 regular-season champion Oklahoma later that month. 

5. No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 10 UNLV

Saturday | 7 p.m. ET | ESPNEWS

The trio of Lauren Jensen, Emma Ronsiek and Morgan Maly led Creighton to the Elite Eight in 2022, and the three All-Big East stars are still here. The team failed to get out of the first round last year, but it's back in the Big Dance with something to prove. The Lady Rebels are fresh off winning their third consecutive Mountain West Women's Tournament trophy. They are not a mid-major to be overlooked as they have the sixth-best scoring margin in the nation. UNLV was one of the last undefeated teams in the country, and its resume includes a double-digit win over Oklahoma in December.

4. No. 8 UNC vs. No. 9 Michigan State

Friday | 11:30 a.m. ET | ESPN2

It has been a roller coaster of a season for the Tar Heels. They've gotten wins over several ranked teams such as NC State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame, but they've also lost some games they shouldn't have. North Carolina has the pieces to make a deep run with Deja Kelly and Alyssa Ustby; it's just a matter of staying consistent. Meanwhile, Michigan State is another team to watch out for when it comes to upsets. The Spartans almost beat Iowa in January, gave Ohio State and Indiana some tough battles, and found a win against Maryland.

3. No. 6 Syracuse vs. No. 11 winner of Auburn-Arizona 

Saturday | 3:30 p.m. ET | ESPN2

All three of these programs could sneak up on anybody on a given night. Syracuse was in the WNIT last year, but now the Orange are dancing again for the first time since 2021. Syracuse was a tough team to face for ranked opponents this season, as the Orange picked up wins over Notre Dame, Florida State and Louisville, among others. Auburn had really close games with top opponents during the regular season too, including against LSU twice. Meanwhile, Arizona gave USC an upset scare during the Pac-12 Women's Tournament. 

2. (7) Ole Miss vs. (10) Marquette 

Saturday | 4:45 p.m. ET | ESPNU

Ole Miss hadn't made it to the second round of the tournament since 2007, but head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin took the Rebels on a Sweet 16 run last year. They only lost to LSU by eight points in the SEC Women's Tournament semifinals, so they seem ready to compete in March. Marquette's most recent game was an ugly 58-29 loss to UConn, but their resume includes two wins against ranked opponents.

1. (7) Iowa State vs. (10) Maryland 

Friday | 7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN2

Both of these teams suffered three losses in November, largely because their schedules were tough. However, both finished the regular season better than they started. Since Feb. 14, Iowa State has beaten every single opponent except Texas. Meanwhile, Maryland -- a team that has been to the NCAA Women's Tournament every year since 2011 -- made a statement with an upset win over Ohio State during the Big Ten Women's Tournament.