Tennessee, UNC open NCAA Tourney in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh is an unlikely place for two of
women's college basketball's most successful programs, Tennessee
and North Carolina, to size up each other before a possible Final
Four matchup next month.

Due to a quirky bit of scheduling, the two No. 1 seeds -- North
Carolina in the Dallas regional, Tennessee in the Dayton Regional -- find themselves in the same unfamiliar city during the NCAA
Tournament but without a chance to play a rematch of the Tar Heels'
early season 70-57 victory. Yet.

"I've never heard of two No. 1 seeds coming to the same site,"
said Pitt coach Agnus Berenato, whose Panthers will play Tennessee
(28-3) on Tuesday night if both win their first-round games Sunday.

Vols coach Pat Summitt hasn't, either, and Sunday's game against
Drake (14-18) will be her 112th in the tournament. Summitt has seen
the sport grow from almost club-level status to a major event,
though not to the point that some peculiar contests don't occur.

Tennessee, for example, is playing in its 26th consecutive
tournament and Pitt is in its first, yet the Lady Vols might have
to beat the Panthers on their home floor to advance to the round of
16. There's almost no chance such an advantage would occur in the
men's tournament, yet Summitt accepts it as being necessary to grow
the women's sport beyond its renowned powers -- the likes of UConn
and Tennessee.

"It's great to see what's happened with women's basketball,"
Summitt said Saturday. "I mean we're talking parity, and no one
was talking about parity back then. Now we're talking about the
excitement, the arenas, the sellout crowds."

Tennessee's draw, with second-seeded Maryland, third-seeded
Oklahoma and fourth-seeded Ohio State in its regional, would be
tough enough without having to play a subregional on another team's
home court. However, Sunday opponent Drake (14-18) doesn't figure
to be much of a test, just as North Carolina (30-3) is expected to
easily beat Prairie View (19-13).

The two No. 8 vs. 9 games look to be much better balanced, with
Notre Dame (19-11) playing eighth-seeded California (23-8) in the
Dallas regional and Pitt (23-8) facing ninth-seeded James Madison
(27-5) in the Dayton regional.

One of only two losing-record teams in the 64-team field, Drake
dropped 12 of 13 at one point but won four games in four days on
its home court to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
That shouldn't worry dunk queen Candace Parker, the SEC player of
the year and the Lady Vols' top player, but Summitt doesn't plan to
take any chances.

"We're going to push, we're going to press, we're going to play
the way this team plays best," Summitt said. "It's a contrast in
style, a more deliberate team against a team that gets up and

Oh, and does Parker plan to dunk, as she did twice during last
year's NCAA Tournament against Army? She is the only women's
college player to dunk this season.

"My focus is on winning the NCAA championship," Parker said.
"I've proven I can do that [dunk]. I'm looking for bigger and
better things this year."

Prairie View doesn't look to be a challenge to North Carolina,
despite the immediate impact first-year Panthers coach Cynthia
Cooper-Dyke has made at a school that had never previously
qualified for the tournament or had a winning season. The former
WNBA star once played for Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell on the
U.S. national team.

"We were showing film this morning, and I described a few of
the players' moves as Cynthia Cooper moves," Hatchell said.

Still, the mismatch in size was evident as the Prairie View
players took the Petersen Events Center court for practice Saturday
afternoon as North Carolina was leaving. Three of Prairie View's
starters are 5-foot-9 or shorter, while only one of the Tar Heels'
top five scorers -- 5-6 Ivory Latta (18.4 points) -- is shorter than

"No team is invincible," Prairie View freshman Gaati Werema
said. "Don't look at the names or the careers, just go play

Notre Dame, an unlikely tournament team after being picked to
finished 11th in the Big East preseason poll, is led by former
Pittsburgh area high school star Charel Allen (17.0). California
has Pac-10 player of the year Devanei Hampton (16.7 points) but is
1-4 in NCAA play.

Pitt has gone from winning six games in Berenato's first season
to 23 this season, her fourth, and was rewarded with home-floor
advantage despite being an at-large team and finishing sixth in the
Big East. James Madison is making its first tournament appearance
since 1996.