Top teams and players remain in women’s bracket

While the gap may be shrinking, the women’s NCAA tournament is

still ruled by the elite programs.

Unlike the men’s bracket where top teams became mostly extinct

by the regional finals, the women’s field is dominated by the No. 1

and No. 2 seeds.

Seven of the eight teams still playing in the regional finals

are top seeds. It’s only the fourth time since the field expanded

in 1994 that it’s happened. In 2008, all eight of the top seeds

advanced to the regional finals.

”Everyone that’s left deserves to be here,” Connecticut coach

Geno Auriemma said.

With so many of the top teams remaining, it would be easy to say

there isn’t any sort of parity in the women’s game. Yet just a

glance at the scores from the round of 16 shows otherwise.

Tennessee, Connecticut, and Stanford all had to rally for victories

in their regional semifinal games.

It took Baylor awhile to put away feisty Wisconsin-Green

Bay.

The lone party crasher to the regional finals is No. 11 Gonzaga,

which become the lowest seeded team to make it this far. An

asterisk could be put next to that record though as the Zags have

had the benefit of playing the first two rounds at home in front of

a raucous crowd and then moving across town to Spokane Arena.

”I wouldn’t say that we’re even the favorite to win here

tomorrow. We’re playing in Spokane, Gonzaga’s here, they’re a

wonderful team, they’re playing in their city and it’s a really

great environment to play in,” Stanford’s Nnemkadi Ogwumike

said.

Gonzaga point guard Courtney Vandersloot has put on quite the

show in the first four games of the tournament. She’s shown the

nation what the Pacific Northwest has seen for the past four

years.

Vandersloot is averaging 30.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 10.3

assists in the Bulldogs’ three tournament wins.

If the Bulldogs can upset No. 1 Stanford in the Spokane regional

final on Monday night, they will become the first team from outside

the six major conferences to reach the Final Four since Jackie

Stiles led Southwest Missouri State that far a decade ago.

In fact in the past 20 years, only four different schools from

outside the power conferences have reached the Final Four.

For the Bulldogs to join that select group, they’ll have to stop

Stanford, which is trying for its fourth straight trip to the Final

Four. Gonzaga lost by six at home to Stanford in November.

Duke had an even worse showing against Connecticut in its

earlier meeting this season. The Huskies scored 23 of the first 25

points in that game to run away from the Blue Devils.

The Blue Devils clearly feel they’re a different team than the

one that faced the Huskies in their first meeting.

”I wouldn’t say (they’re) vulnerable, but every team has their

weakness,” said Duke forward Karima Christmas after her team beat

DePaul 70-63. ”If we try to exploit some things that we’ve seen

that, had they gone wrong last game, we would have been in better

shape.”

Not much went right for UConn in the first 30 minutes of their

semifinal game against Georgetown. With shots not falling and the

Hoyas playing a relentless defense, UConn found itself down by

seven with just over 8 minutes left in the game.

Senior Maya Moore wouldn’t let her stellar career end this soon

as she took over the game and helped the Huskies rally for the

victory.

Brittney Griner and her Baylor Lady Bears got everything they

could handle from Wisconsin-Green Bay. The 6-foot-8 sensational

sophomore scored a career-high 40 points against the Phoenix, who

had won 25 straight games.

Next up for the Lady Bears is a familiar foe in Texas A&M.

The two teams have already played three times this season with

Baylor winning all three by a combined 15 points.

While the Aggies’ drought against Baylor only goes back a few

seasons, Notre Dame’s struggles against Tennessee is historic.

The Irish are winless in 20 tries against the Lady Vols dating

back to 1983, including an 0-3 mark in the NCAA tournament.

”Me, personally, I haven’t been a part of any of those 20

games. But we know the history between the two programs,”

sophomore guard Skylar Diggins said. ”Two Hall of Fame coaches,

and it’s just going to be a great game. Teams that haven’t met up

with each other. We’re obviously looking to break that (losing

streak).”

If the four No. 1 seeds do win the regionals, it would mark only

the second time since 1989 that the top teams all made the Final

Four.

AP Sports Writers Stephen Hawkins in Dallas, Rusty Miller in

Dayton, Ohio, and Tim Booth in Spokane, Wash., contributed to this

report.