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March Madness: What to know about the NCAA women's tournament Portland 4 region

[Regional Breakdowns: Albany 1 | Albany 2 | Portland 3 | Portland 4]

Texas took the No. 1 seed in Portland 4, but this region is wide open. With teams like Stanford, NC State, Utah and Tennessee, and mid-major powers in Green Bay and Gonzaga, this region is set for chaos.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Portland 4 region:

Five things to know

Madison Booker leads Texas

When Rori Harmon tore her ACL in December, it was hard to imagine Texas going 30-4 and earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Madison Booker made it possible. In a class of elite freshmen, Booker has flown somewhat under the radar, but she’s ready to shine on the biggest stage.

When Harmon got injured, Booker not only took on a bigger scoring load, she also switched positions. The forward shifted to point guard and has led the Longhorns to wins over programs like Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma, and to a Big 12 championship. She plays over 30 minutes a game, averaging 16.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

The freshman will lead Texas, but she also has a skilled cast of supporting characters that help make the Longhorns a Final Four-caliber team. Taylor Jones, Aaliyah Moore, Shaylee Gonzales, DeYona Gaston, Shay Holle and Amina Muhammad all play at least 18 minutes a game. Other than sophomore Muhammad, the rest of the Longhorns are juniors and seniors who can help guide Booker through her first March Madness.

Utah seeks Elite Eight for first time since 2006

The Utes have one more chance to make a run with Alissa Pili, who coach Lynne Roberts calls the “best player in the country.” Last year they made it to a Sweet 16 before falling in a heartbreaking 66-63 loss to LSU, who went on to win the title.

It’s not an easy path for Utah, but it's certainly doable. The Utes open with a solid mid-major in South Dakota State, and then would likely play No. 4 Gonzaga for a spot in the Sweet 16. Then, in order to get to the Elite Eight, Utah will have to get past Booker and the Longhorns (barring an early exit for the No. 1 seed).

Pili gives Utah a chance to win in every contest because she’s such a unique player. She’s averaging 20.8 points per game, and earlier in the season she dropped 37 points on 6-foot-7 Kamilla Cardoso and South Carolina. Pili’s footwork and ability to extend defenses by shooting 39.4% from 3-point range makes her a mismatch for defenses. That, plus the quickness and playmaking of floor general Ines Vieira will make the Utes a difficult team to beat.

Utah's Alissa Pili gave South Carolina's Kamilla Cardoso all sorts of trouble during the Gamecocks' win over the Utes on Dec. 10. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Utah's Alissa Pili gave South Carolina's Kamilla Cardoso all sorts of trouble during the Gamecocks' win over the Utes on Dec. 10. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images) (Greg Fiume via Getty Images)

Gonzaga hosts for the first time

The Bulldogs have appeared in 15 NCAA tournaments since making their first in 2007, but this is the first time they’ve been a high enough seed to host. The No. 4 Bulldogs welcome UC Irvine for a first-round matchup, with No. 5 Utah and No.12 South Dakota State also playing in Spokane.

The Zags have made just one Elite Eight, coming in 2011 thanks to Courtney Vandersloot and a 76-69 win over Louisville in the Sweet 16. This group is the school’s best chance to get there again.

This is Gonzaga’s best season in program history with a 30-3 record that includes a win over Stanford. They are led by a senior-laden roster that includes three fifth-year seniors who have plenty of postseason experience. Look for senior forward Yvonne Ejim (19.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game) to fuel the attack.

Winner of Tennessee/Green Bay could go far

Tennessee is one of women's basketball's most historic programs, and Green Bay is one of the best mid-major programs, making their first-round game one of the more exciting matchups in this region.

Green Bay has been consistent all season, starting with their top-25 wins over Creighton and Washington State in November. They enter March Madness with a 27-6 record and the Horizon League’s automatic bid. Because of their success against big-name programs, Green Bay will be a popular upset pick, but Tennessee is a difficult draw for the Phoenix.

The Vols are playing their best basketball right now, coming off a 74-73 loss to South Carolina in the SEC tournament. They also have one of the best players in the country in Rickea Jackson, who will be a WNBA lottery pick this summer.

[Fill out your bracket at Yahoo | Printable women's bracket | Men's]

Young Iowa State players get first March Madness experience

After graduating Ashley Joens and losing Lexi Donarski to the transfer portal, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Iowa State. In many ways, it has been, but the Cyclones have also won big games. They defeated West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma — all tournament teams — this season, and earned themselves a No. 7 seed and a first-round game against Maryland. A win would mean a second-round matchup with Stanford.

Even if the Cyclones don’t get past Maryland, this is still a great experience for freshman stars Audi Crooks and Addy Brown and the team's three other freshmen. Crooks is averaging 18.9 points and 7.7 rebounds, and Brown records 13.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.

Get used to them now, because this group will likely be a mainstay in March Madness for years to come.

Players to watch

Yvonne Ejim, Gonzaga: The senior forward has been dominating the WCC for the last three seasons, and this year, she’s finally starting to get recognition. Ejim was one of just two mid-major players to be named to the Midseason Naismith Player of the Year watchlist after posting nearly a double-double average and recording 19.8 points per game (24th in the country).

Rickea Jackson, Tennessee: The Vols have had their struggles over the last few seasons, but Jackson has been a consistent threat. With an average of 19.4 points, 8 rebounds and 2.4 assists, the senior impacts the game in a variety of ways. Any time Jackson suits up, she’s likely to be the best player on the court, making her a must-watch in the NCAA tournament.

Aziaha James, NC State: The Wolfpack were unranked to start the season, but find themselves ranked 11th and entering March Madness as a No. 5 seed. A lot of that is because of junior guard Aziaha James, who leads NC State with 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. She’s stepped up in big games this season, scoring 18 points in a win against UConn and 28 against Louisville.