- Charlie Creme, Women's College Basketball
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Wondering which 64 teams might wind up hearing their names called on Selection Monday in 2009? See who the front-runners might be:
1. Connecticut: Not much is removed from a team that, despite the disappointment of losing in the national semifinals, still went 36-2 and beat everyone in its path except Stanford. Maya Moore might be the best player in the country and Elena Delle Donne might be the best freshman.
2. Maryland: Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman will have to take on even greater responsibility with Crystal Langhorne and Lauren Harper gone, but if the Terps have to lean on anyone, those are two pretty good players.
3. Oklahoma: The guard play needs to be better, but with another year and the healthy return of Nyeshia Stevenson, that should happen. Courtney Paris, who will be on the short list of candidates for preseason player of the year, makes the Sooners a top team all by herself.
4. Rutgers: C. Vivian Stringer will have the task of blending a solid returning core led by Epiphanny Prince and a group of talented freshmen.
5. Stanford: The Candice Wiggins era has ended, but there is plenty left in Tara VanDerveer's cupboard as the Nnemkadi Ogwumike era opens.
6. Duke: The Blue Devils will still be relying on depth and defense -- and now have had a year to transition to Joanne P. McCallie's system.
7. California: Devanei Hampton, Ashley Walker and Alexis Gray-Lawson will be taking their final shot at a Pac-10 title.
8. Tennessee: It's the dawn of a new day in Knoxville, Tenn. But if any coach can transition from veterans to freshmen after a national championship, it's Pat Summitt.
9. North Carolina: This could be Rashanda McCants' year to really shine.
10. Louisville: Angel McCoughtry likely will join Maya Moore and Courtney Paris as favorites for the Wade Trophy and Naismith Award. And the Cardinals likely will battle Rutgers for second in the Big East.
11. Texas A&M: Takia Starks and Danielle Gant will be charged with trying to equal this season's trip to the Elite Eight.
12. Virginia: Lyndra Littles and Monica Wright give the Cavaliers a formidable one-two punch in an ACC that's as deep, but not as top-heavy, as in recent seasons.
13. Oklahoma State: This remains Andrea Riley's team. The question is how much better she can become.
14. Arizona State: The Sun Devils remain deep and experienced. But will a distant third-place Pac-10 finish and second-round NCAA exit be good enough in 2009?
15. Texas: The Longhorns could be a team that makes a big jump in 2009.
16. Vanderbilt: With Tennessee and LSU losing so many seniors, the Christina Wirth-led Commodores might have an opportunity to break through in the SEC.
17. Notre Dame: With Charel Allen gone, Ashley Barlow takes over as the Irish's go-to player. The return of the injured Devereaux Peters would give Notre Dame a tough inside-outside combo.
18. Ohio State: Jantel Lavender's career is off to a great individual start. Now, she needs to help lift the Buckeyes past their recent NCAA tournament struggles.
19. Baylor: The health of Jhasmin Player's left knee is the X factor for the Lady Bears.
20. Marist: Wins in the NCAA tournament each of the past two years are no fluke. Led by returning top scorer Rachele Fitz, the Red Foxes should be back again.
21. Florida State: With a solid core of returnees and a difficult season behind them, the Seminoles should not be sweating out Selection Monday again.
22. Michigan State: The Spartans didn't let the disappointment of missing the NCAA tournament bother them and made a run to the WNIT finals. Allyssa DeHaan leads a deep returning group that likely won't miss March Madness again next season.
23. Auburn: With Tennessee's Candace Parker and LSU's Sylvia Fowles gone, DeWanna Bonner might emerge from the shadows as the SEC's top player.
24. Xavier: Amber Harris is an extremely versatile 6-foot-5 player who will begin to surface in those conversations regarding the "best players you don't hear about."
25. Marquette: Led by Krystal Ellis, the Golden Eagles hope that a WNIT championship was just the beginning.
26. Kansas State: The Wildcats missed Kimberly Dietz in the NCAA tournament and now will have to get used to playing without her permanently. Shalee Lehning, Marlies Gipson and Ashley Sweat are a solid core, though.
27. Pittsburgh: Shavonte Zellous indicated with her play in the NCAA tournament that she is ready to go to another level in her senior season.
28. Iowa State: The Cyclones had four double-figure scorers, led by Alison Lacey. They all return next season.
29. Utah: Leilani Mitchell's departure will mean a different look for the Utes in 2009, but coach Elaine Elliott's system remains, as does Morgan Warburton.
30. Syracuse: Coach Quentin Hillsman orchestrated a 13-game improvement in 2008. Maintaining that success could be even more difficult in a competitive Big East.
31. LSU: With eight seniors departing, a sixth straight Final Four is unlikely. Allison Hightower might feel a little lonely at the Lady Tigers' first practice.
32. Nebraska: Danielle Page is gone, but Kelsey Griffin is back and could be one of the top scorers in the Big 12.
33. Purdue: The Boilermakers are just hoping for a healthier season. If that happens, Purdue shouldn't have to scramble in the Big Ten tournament to reach the NCAA tournament.
George Washington: Jessica Adair is back, but the Colonials won't look quite the same without Kimberly Beck and Sarah-Jo Lawrence.
35. Georgia Tech: MaChelle Joseph has the security of a new four-year contract extension and the security of Alex Montgomery for the next three years.
36. Old Dominion: Without TJ Jordan, the Lady Monarchs might not be as dynamic and dominant, but should still be the CAA's best.
37. Georgia: The Tasha Humphrey years ended with disappointment. Coach Andy Landers will have plenty of regrouping to do in the fall.
38. Iowa: Johanna Solverson is the only significant loss for a Hawkeye team that tied Ohio State for the Big Ten regular-season crown.
39. Southern California: The Women of Troy are no longer young. Camille LeNoir is hoping to lead them back to the tournament.
40. Florida: If Sha Brooks and Marshae Dotson play more consistently as seniors, then so will the Gators.
41. Boston College: Stephanie Murphy and Carolyn Swords led the Eagles as freshmen and should be even better next season.
42. Minnesota: Ashley Ellis-Milan and Katie Ohm will have to raise their games to make up for the loss of Leslie Knight.
43. NC State: Khadijah Whittington will not be around to see the maturing of coach Kay Yow's young team.
44. Illinois State: Kristi Cirone is back for a run at a third consecutive Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award.
45. Bowling Green: Kate Achter led an otherwise young team to 25 wins. The Falcons will now have to continue the maturation process without one of the best players in Bowling Green history.
46. Hartford: The Hawks will have to replace Danielle Hood but have plenty back to remain atop the America East.
47. Western Kentucky: The Lady Toppers lose their star in Crystal Kelly, but most of the other key players are back from the Sun Belt title team.
48. UTEP: Jareica Hughes has star quality, but with the loss of three senior starters much more will be asked of her, and she'll have to deliver for the Miners to make a second trip the NCAA tournament.
49. Liberty: Megan and Molly Frazee should be rejoined by a healthy sister Moriah (yes, they are triplets) as the Lady Flames go for a 12th Big South title in 13 seasons.
50. Montana: The starting backcourt and top two scorers Mandy Morales and Sonya Rogers return for their final season. Expect the Lady Griz to again be the class of the Big Sky.
51. Wisconsin-Green Bay: Rachel Porath should again lead the Phoenix to a Horizon League regular-season title.
52. Gonzaga: Heather Bowman and her 20 points-per-game average are back for the Bulldogs.
53. Chattanooga: Without standout Alex Anderson, is won't be as easy. But the Lady Mocs remain the perennial favorite in the Southern Conference.
54. UC Santa Barbara: The Gauchos will have a new look without Mark French on the sidelines, but if center Jenna Green is granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing most of the 2007-08 season with a bad back, UCSB should still be the favorite to win the Big West.
55. Boise State: Top two scorers Tasha Harris and Jessica Thompson return for a Broncos team that finished 23-7 and shared the WAC regular-season title with Fresno State.
56. East Tennessee State: The Buccaneers' top three scorers in 2007 were freshmen, so don't expect this trip to the NCAA tournament to be ETSU's last.
57. South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits got their first taste of the postseason with the WNIT. Next season, they hope to make it the NCAA tournament now that the probationary period has ended and they are eligible.
58. Quinnipiac: The Bobcats went 25-5 a year ago but faltered in the NEC tournament semis. The starting backcourt returns for a chance to get over the hump to the NCAA tournament.
59. Murray State: Rob Cross has been elevated to head coach and takes the reins of a club coming off its first NCAA tournament appearance. The team returns Ohio Valley Conference MVP Ashley Hayes and tournament MVP Amber Guffey.
60. Texas-Arlington: Just two seasons removed from an unbeaten Southland season, the Mavericks return all but two letter winners.
61. Holy Cross: The Crusaders will hope to ride returnees Brianna McFadden and Bethany O'Dell back to the tournament after missing it in 2008.
62. Harvard: Katie Rollins and Emily Tay are back for their senior seasons, hoping to avoid another three-way tie atop the Ivy League and win it outright.
63. North Carolina A&T: This past season's NCAA tournament representative, Coppin State, loses the MEAC's top two scorers. But Amber Bland returns for the Aggies.
64. Prairie View A&M: Candace Parker and Candice Wiggins are gone from college basketball, but Candice Thomas returns to the Panthers, who will be looking for a third straight SWAC regular-season title.
Charlie Creme can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wondering which 64 teams might wind up hearing their names called on Selection Monday in 2009? A look at the front-runners.