New bracket, but another tough regional for Tennessee

Updated: March 13, 2007, 11:26 AM ET
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

UConn fans are studying maps to find out where this mysterious outpost called "Fresno" is located (um, you'll have to look past the Mississippi River … and the Rocky Mountains). Of course, the loudest Chicken Littles in Huskies Nation started screaming, "People! Do I have to remind you we lost at the Hartford Civic Center last week?! We might not even make it to Fresno!"

Pat Summitt
AP Photo/Bob ChildCoach Pat Summitt would have good reason to question Tennessee getting placed in what is regarded as the toughest regional for the second year in a row.

Duke's bus drivers are wondering whether they could drive to Raleigh, then possibly Greensboro, literally in their sleep. Blue Devils guard Lindsey Harding probably figures she'll just ride a bike over to Raleigh. It'll be a good workout.

North Carolina guard Ivory Latta is practicing her Texas two-step, getting ready for the Dallas Regional.

Then you have the top four seeds in the Death, er, Destruction, er, Doom, er, Damned, er, Dayton Regional.

So we asked NCAA selection committee chair Judy Southard about it all.

"Principles and procedures," Southard said.

Top-seeded Tennessee, 2-seed Maryland, third-seeded Oklahoma and No. 4 seed Ohio State have this to say about potentially meeting in Dayton: "GR%#@$! M%#$&! F@@%$&$!"

Well, maybe not publicly. The Women's Basketball Coaches Association has passed on the message to coaches to clam up no matter how ticked off they are, lest the selection committee get so offended it decides to hold the NCAA Tournament on another planet. (Memo to committee: Just in case the "principles and procedures" haven't been updated with this, Pluto is technically not a planet anymore.)

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt can pretty much say whatever she wants, though. Last year, she was in the Group of Death at the Cleveland Regional, and now this one in Dayton looks as if it might even be deadlier.

"Last year, we obviously gave them some options. We didn't run the table in the SEC by any means. I think this year's different," Summitt said of Tennessee going undefeated in its regular-season league play before falling to LSU in the league tournament.

"I thought Oklahoma was a No. 2 seed, I think Maryland's a No. 2 seed, I think Ohio State's a No. 3 seed. That's my opinion, and it really doesn't matter. I can't imagine the other teams being very thrilled about it, either. If I'm Ohio State, I'm like, 'A 4-seed?' Oklahoma, a 3-seed? Both of those surprise me."

Well, a lot of people have wanted to see Tennessee's Candace Parker and OU's Courtney Paris on the same court. Maybe it will happen in Dayton. But we know now it can't happen in Cleveland.

What could happen in Cleveland, though, is a Tobacco Road battle for the title (North Carolina vs. Duke) or an old reliable (UConn vs. Tennessee). Or a whole bunch of other stuff. At the rate things have been going, who knows what will go on between now and then. I'm starting to wonder whether women's hoops has unknowingly turned into a reality show.

Good gravy, what a day. What a week, really.

We have the ongoing Pokey Chatman saga, which obviously no one at LSU wants to -- or even can, really -- talk about. Certainly not LSU associate athletics director Southard, who in her worst nightmares couldn't have imagined her time as chairwoman coinciding so dreadfully with such sad times at her school.

"Principles and procedures," Southard said.

As if there isn't really enough going on with the tough times in Baton Rouge, and the little matter of the NCAA Tournament … we also have Texas coach Jody Conradt resigning Monday night after 31 years at the school.

The Longhorns were on the bubble thanks to their RPI and, let's face it, the fact that Austin, Texas, is an early-round site. But Texas' 6-10 record in the Big 12 and the Horns' 2-6 slide in February kept them out of the Big Dance for the second year in a row. That has never happened before at Texas, and Conradt decided it was time for a change.

Wow, that's not a big job opening or anything.

OK, so about Monday night …

There was Summitt doing the State Farm insurance commercial during the selection show. Did UConn coach Geno Auriemma dial up his agent and yell, "Look, if Pat's got State Farm, I want do a spot with that gecko! Or those offended cavemen! I don't care, just get it for me! I want that in my body of work!"

Lots of schools that didn't win their conference tournaments and were, as expected, shut out of the Big Dance, are trying to figure out just what Louisiana-Lafayette did to earn an at-large. Anybody see that one coming?

"Principles and procedures," Southard said.

The committee has to put the top three teams from any conference into different regions. And they can't meet any sooner than the regional final. Then there's the S-curve that's used to place teams geographically. Throw in some "We're trying to grow the game" reasoning wherever that might fit, but ignore it where it doesn't. Whatever.

The Dayton Regional really doesn't make sense to me, but I'm not up to giving the committee much guff in general. At least not yet. Maybe I'll sleep on it. It doesn't seem as though anyone was left out egregiously, although South Florida probably isn't too happy that practically the entire Big East got invited and it didn't.

"Principles and procedures," Southard said.

In all seriousness, Southard was in a very tough position: trying to keep her mind focused on the bracket when there was so much going on at LSU. She might have been better off reading a prepared statement on ESPN and on the post-bracket conference call with the media -- you know, acknowledging the situation without really saying anything -- but a decision whether to do something like that might have been out of her hands.

She stuck to "principles and procedures." And was surely thinking that the sooner the games tip off, the better.

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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