UConn's Auriemma reveals positive COVID test as NCAA women's bracket is announced
The NCAA women's college basketball tournament is right around the corner, and the field has been revealed.
Three of the 1-seeds are familiar faces in the forms of the Stanford Cardinal (the top overall seed), the Connecticut Huskies and the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The big winner of the bracket reveal was the North Carolina State Wolfpack, who were slotted in as a 1-seed for the first time in school history.
The Wolfpack were a 2-seed three times in program history before breaking through, thanks to their 20-2 record. They are one of eight teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference to make the tournament this year, the most bids of any conference.
While there are still six days before the games begin, there is already drama on the horizon for one of the top seeds.
After winning the Big East on the back of freshman sensation Paige Bueckers, who was named Big East Player of the Year and Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player, UConn got the news that legendary head coach Geno Auriemma tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently in self-isolation.
Auriemma said he feels fine and stressed that he has not changed his behavior since he received his second dose of the vaccine on Wednesday.
"It just goes to show you to everybody that's listening, you have no idea with this thing," he said.
Bueckers spoke about her reaction to the news that Auriemma tested positive just before the tournament.
"We were all shocked, just at the timing of it all. We have all been very cautious and very careful of where we have been going. We have been wearing our masks all of the time when we are out and about, out in public. The stuff that has happened this year, nothing can really surprise you, but I think we were all shocked."
Auriemma won't be able to rejoin the team until March 24 at the earliest, and an extended absence could put UConn's record of 12 straight Final Four appearances in jeopardy.
Nonetheless, the players' spirits were up.
Beyond the 1-seeds, there are several proud programs with favorable seeding, as the Texas A&M Aggies, Maryland Terrapins, Louisville Cardinals and Baylor Lady Bears all earned No. 2 seeds. The top eight teams in the field have won a combined 11 of the past 14 national championships.
There was plenty to be excited about deeper in the bracket, with a handful of programs making returns to the big dance.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are back for the first time since 1999. They are joined by the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and Washington State Cougars, who are making their first appearances since 1988 and 1991, respectively.
The women's NCAA Tournament is set to begin Sunday, March 21.