Top-ranked teams get top seeds in NCAA tourney
The top seeds in the NCAA Tournament have been unveiled and there was very little mystery this year.
Top-ranked Duke is the team to beat in the Greensboro Regional, meaning the Blue Devils could remain in North Carolina until the Final Four in Cleveland. Duke (30-1) owned a perfect overall mark until conference tourney time rolled around, where it fell to NC State in the semis.
"We're really excited. We're playing all year long, hoping to get a chance to stay in Raleigh, and stay in Greensboro which is about an hour and 15 minutes down the road," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said.
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The Blue Devils draw Holy Cross (15-17) in the opening round and will have to beat the likes of second-seeded Vanderbilt (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today; No. 7 AP) and No. 3 seed Arizona State (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today; No. 10 AP) to survive the West.
Second-ranked North Carolina earned its third straight No. 1 seed and is heading to the Dallas Regional. The Tar Heels (30-3) finished behind Duke in ACC standings, but won the conference tournament by knocking off the Wolfpack.
Big Ten runner-up Purdue (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today; No. 11 AP) is the No. 2 seed in the Dallas Regional.
After a perfect Big East regular-season run, Connecticut (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today; No. 4 AP) earned its first No. 1 seed since 2003. The Huskies are in the Fresno Regional. Connecticut finished 29-3 overall, including a loss to Rutgers in the Big East tourney final.
Connecticut will play No. 16 UMBC on Sunday in Hartford.
If they advance past the first two rounds, the Huskies then must travel to Fresno for the regionals. During its run of five national championships since 1995, Connecticut hasn't been farther west than Kansas City.
LSU, embroiled in a controversy surrounding the resignation of former head coach Pokey Chatman, is the No. 3 seed in the Fresno Regional. The Lady Tigers face UNC Asheville in the opening round with acting head coach Bob Starkey at the helm.
"The kids have done a wonderful job," Starkey said. "They are a very resilient bunch. They have been through difficult times with Sue Gunter's death and Hurricane Katrina."
Center Sylvia Fowles, however, did not shy away from talking about her former coach.
"Pokey's always been a great person, she's like my mom and it's going to stay that way from here on out," Fowles said. "Things happen, and we know our focus and we know where we're trying to go, so we're going to have to move on regardless and I think we got past that point."
Pac-10 regular-season and tournament champion Stanford rounds out the top three in Fresno.
The Wolfpack, who have won 11 of 13 games since coach Kay Yow returned from breast cancer treatments, are the No. 4 seed. They will play Robert Morris on Sunday in the first round in the Raleigh subregional.
"The team was just really excited to have me back. I was excited to come back," Yow said. "When you have a player that is out and not with you, you're not whole. You want everyone there doing what they can. It inspires me to be back, and I think it inspires my staff and my team to be back."
Tennessee (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today; No. 3 AP) is the top seed in the Dayton Regional. The Lady Vols finished the season 28-3 overall including a perfect 15-0 mark in SEC regular-season play. Tennessee's only conference loss came at the hands of LSU in the SEC semis.
Defending champion Maryland (27-5) is the region's No. 2 seed while Big 12 champ Oklahoma is No. 3 and Big 10 power Ohio State is the fourth seed.
"This region is very, very stacked, but am I surprised? Absolutely not," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "I'd have been surprised if it hadn't been. There's a lot of great teams obviously in our bracket, and yet there's no easy bracket in women's basketball these days."
Maryland, which returned all five starters from last season's team, was winless against Duke and North Carolina this season at 0-5. The Terps are looking to become the first repeat champions since the Huskies won three straight from 2002-04.
"The only team that's going into the tournament knowing they can win it is Maryland, cause they've won it, and they've got a lot of the players back from the team that won it," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "Everybody else is going in with the same mind-set, 'I think we can win it,' and that's how we're going into it."
Riding a 26-game win streak, Middle Tennessee (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today; No. 17 AP) is the No. 5 seed in Dayton.
The 64-team tournament begins Saturday.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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