UNC No. 1 overall; Duke, LSU, Ohio State other No. 1s
North Carolina was rewarded for its near-perfect season with a No. 1 seed -- in an unthinkably tough bracket. Connecticut's bumpy ride earned the Huskies a No. 2 seed that essentially puts the five-time champions in front of a home crowd.
The six-time champ Tennessee Lady Vols, who played the hardest schedule in the land?
They're just plain mad.
Tennessee drew a No. 2 seed Monday in the tough Cleveland Regional that includes the Tar Heels, the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament; third-seeded Rutgers, who finished the Big East regular season unbeaten; and Big 10 power Purdue, the fourth-seeded team.
"It's like the Final Four!" Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "I don't know how any bracket can get tougher than our bracket. ... But hey, that's just the way it is. We have to go play those games."
The other top seeds were Ohio State, LSU and Duke.
While North Carolina was lamenting its tough road to the Final Four, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was simply disgusted at not getting a top seed. The Lady Vols beat LSU to win the Southeastern Conference tournament, played the toughest schedule in the nation and was ranked second in the RPI.
"That's a slap in your face," Summitt told her players after they watched the selection show. "It's a slap in our program's face. I guess it's my fault for putting together the toughest schedule in the country year in and year out. But as far as I'm concerned we got no respect and I don't understand it."
The Lady Vols get No. 15 seeded Army, a NCAA Tournament newcomer and Patriot League champion on Sunday in Norfolk, Va.
By way of explanation, Joni Comstock, chairwoman of the NCAA selection committee, suggested that the traditional powers aren't the only good teams in women's basketball these days.
"I don't know that there's been a year where there's been greater parity," Comstock said. "Strength of schedule is something we do look for and it's important to the committee. The schedule Tennessee played this year and plays most years, however, as close as it was, we felt that Tennessee this year was a No. 2 seed."
Duke, LSU and Ohio State were ranked as second, third and fourth No. 1 seeds, respectively, Comstock said. A No. 1 seed has won 17 of the 24 titles.
North Carolina, ranked atop the final AP Poll, and No. 2 Ohio State each won their regular-season and conference championships in their respective Atlantic Coast and Big Ten conferences.
All four No. 1 seeds have started atop the NCAA brackets before, but the Tar Heels are the only ones already with a national title. It's the third No. 1 for North Carolina, which is seeking its second championship since 1994.
Duke has been a No. 1 seed five times and LSU has been selected atop the bracket three times. Ohio State received its second top seeding and the first for the Buckeyes since 1993.
"Every draw's tough. Everybody speculates, but at this stage of the season most teams are on spring break. The good ones are still playing," Ohio State coach Jim Foster said.
Duke's road to the Final Four runs through Connecticut -- and that means a possible matchup with homestate favorite UConn. The Blue Devils (26-3) were assigned the Bridgeport Regional, as were the five-time national champion Huskies, who are making their 18th tournament appearance.
"Everybody can say all they want about who's in a tough bracket and who's not, but starting this weekend, everybody gets a chance to prove whether they belong there or not," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
UConn's last march through Bridgeport in the tournament in 2004 ended with the Huskies' fifth national title in New Orleans.
It's the first time since 1987 that neither Tennessee nor UConn received a No. 1 seed and the first time in the 25-year history of the NCAA Tournament that two ACC teams were No. 1 seeds.
Georgia earned the third seed in the Bridgeport bracket and is matched up against 14th-seeded Marist on Sunday in Trenton. No. 4-seeded Michigan State, also placed in Bridgeport, opens with 13th-seeded Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday in a Chicago subregional.
LSU, aiming for its third straight trip to the Final Four, was placed in the San Antonio Regional. The Lady Tigers open Saturday against Atlantic Sun champion Florida Atlantic in Norfolk.
The bracket sets up a potential meeting of two of the top centers in the game in the Lady Tigers' Sylvia Fowles and Oklahoma's freshman star Courtney Paris.
The Sooners finished unbeaten in the Big 12 and Paris was a big reason why. She had 24 points and 26 rebounds against defending national champion Baylor in the tournament title game. She needs three rebounds to become the first player in NCAA history to log 700 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocked shots in a season. The Sooners open against 15th-seeded Pepperdine on Saturday in Denver.
The Cardinal of Stanford are the third seeded team in the San Antonio bracket and also open in Denver on Saturday against Southeast Missouri State. Big East newcomer DePaul earned the No. 4 seed in the region and plays Liberty on Saturday in Chicago.
The Buckeyes (28-2) landed in the Albuquerque Regional, where second-seeded Maryland and defending national champion Baylor await. The Terps handed North Carolina its only loss this season and the Lady Bears are led by Big 12 player of the year Sophia Young.
Ohio State plays 16th-seeded Oakland, the Mid-Continent champ, in its tournament opener on Sunday in West Lafayette, Ind. Baylor locked up the No. 3 seed and play Big Sky champion Northern Arizona, the 14th seed, on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.
Pac-10 power Arizona State is the fourth seed in the Albuquerque bracket and also opens in Tucson against 13th-seeded Stephen F. Austin, champion of the Southland Conference.
The Big East (Connecticut, DePaul, Louisville, Notre Dame, Rutgers, St. John's and South Florida) and ACC (Boston College, Duke, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State and Virginia Tech) led the way with seven teams each, followed by six each from the SEC (Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Tennessee and Vanderbilt) and Pac-10 (Arizona State, Cal, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington).
The field included a slew of first-time participants, including Army, Florida Atlantic, UC Riverside, Sacred Heart, Northern Arizona, Tulsa, Southeast Missouri State and South Florida.
The state of California sent six teams (Cal, Stanford, UC Riverside, USC, UCLA, Pepperdine). Four got in from Florida (Florida, Florida State, Florida Atlantic, South Florida), Tennessee (Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Chattanoga, Middle Tennessee State) and Texas (Baylor, Texas A&M, TCU, Stephen F. Austin).
The field was notable also for who wasn't in.
Indiana State, which won the Missouri Valley Conference regular season but lost in the conference finals to Missouri State, was left out. Also sitting at home is Western Illinois, the Mid-Contintent regular-season champ, which lost in the conference final to Oakland.
The committee also snubbed Western Kentucky, the Sun Belt East Division champ. It's also the fourth time in 25 years that Texas did not make the tournament, and Texas Tech saw its string of 16 straight appearances snapped.
The women's Final Four is April 2 and 4 in Boston.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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