Notre Dame. Oh, by the way, they also entered the tournament undefeated at 32-0. With all the hype surrounding Connecticut you almost wouldn’t know it.
Tennessee. The Lady Vols are trying to end a Final Four drought – by their standards. Would be something for them to end that five-year skid and make it to Nashville. Stanford was the last team to win a national championship in its home state and that was back in 1992.
Louisville. The Cardinals shocked the basketball world by upsetting Baylor in the regional semifinals last season en route to an appearance in the national championship game. Now to get back to the Final Four, Louisville would just need to win two home games if the Cardinals can make it to the Sweet 16.
South Carolina. Dawn Staley has led the Gamecocks to their first No. 1 seed in school history. They’ll be out west for the first four rounds of the tournament playing in Seattle and Stanford if they can last that long.
Breanna Stewart, Connecticut. The sensational sophomore is the hardest player in the country to guard. Her wingspan is nearly 7-feet making her a factor on both ends of the court.
Samantha Logic, Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ stellar point guard is a triple-double waiting to happen. She had three on the season and will have the benefit of a home crowd in the first two rounds.
Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford. She’s put up video game-like numbers this season, averaging 26.8 points and 12.3 rebounds while shooting 61 percent from the field.
Odyssey Sims, Baylor. She’s got a chance to take down Jackie Stiles’ record for points in a season. She’s increased her scoring average by nearly 16 points a game and can almost single-handedly win a game for the Lady Bears.
TOP OPENING MATCHUPS
Middle Tennessee vs. Oregon State, Stanford Regional. The ninth-seeded Beavers rode an 11-game winning streak, the second-longest in school history and best since 1982-83, into the Pac-12 championship game before losing to USC. They hope to keep it going against Ebony Rowe and Middle Tennessee.
St. John’s vs. Southern California, Louisville Regional. Cynthia Cooper-Dyke has gotten her alma mater back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006 after winning the Pac-12 championship. They’ll get a first-round test against eighth-seeded St. John’s, which has had an up-and-down season.
UConn vs. Prairie View A&M, Lincoln Regional. Sure it won’t be close, but any time you can watch UConn execute on offense it’s a treat. The Lady Panthers became the ninth team with a losing record to make the NCAA tournament.
Eleven may be the magic number for upsets. All four No. 11 seeds – James Madison, Chattanooga, Marist and Florida – have a good shot of pulling off a victory over their sixth-seeded opponents.
Other possibilities include:
BYU over N.C. State, Lincoln Regional. The 12th seeded Cougars are led by 6-foot-7 Jennifer Hansom who is second in the nation in blocked shots. She also shoots 72 percent from the free throw line.
Albany (N.Y.) over West Virginia, Stanford Regional: The 15th-seeded Great Danes almost became the first No. 14 seed to win a game in the tournament last season against North Carolina. They are a year older and have NCAA experience.
Fordham over California, Notre Dame Regional. Sure the Golden Bears made the Final Four last season and the Rams were 0-29 a few years back. Still this 10th-seeded Fordham team came out of a tough Atlantic-10 conference that got more bids to the NCAAs then the American and Big East.
Hampton over Michigan State, Stanford Regional: The 12th-seeded Lady Pirates earned the highest seeding ever for a MEAC team since the women’s field expanded to 64 teams. Now they could win the second game ever by the conference and a 19th straight victory overall.
0-Games won in the NCAA tournament by No. 14 and No. 15 seeds. That’s right, a No. 2 or No. 3 seed has never lost a first-round game. The No. 16 seeds would be in there as well if Harvard hadn’t beat Stanford.
4-Different teams that Jim Foster has led to the NCAA tournament. His latest stop is Chattanooga and the Lady Mocs have won 25 straight games heading into the tournament.
5-Newcomers to the NCAA field this season. Welcome Akron, North Dakota, South Dakota, Winthrop and Wright State.
9-The record number of national championships that UConn or Tennessee could reach this season.
33-Tennessee has been in all 33 NCAA women’s tournaments since play started in 1982.
1,062-Points Stiles scored in one season to set the NCAA record. Sims is 124 behind and could make a run at it if Baylor can make it far in the tournament. She hasn’t scored in single digits since February of last season.
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