Despite upsets, Dayton foes still tough for Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee coach Pat Summitt called the Dayton Regional "very, very stacked'' when the NCAA Tournament bracket was announced.

Look at it now.

Though most of the top teams were knocked off in the first two
rounds, Summitt is not convinced that makes it easier.

The top-seeded Lady Vols were grouped with defending national
champion and No. 2 seed Maryland, No. 3 seed Oklahoma and No. 4
seed Ohio State. The No. 5 seed, Middle Tennessee, was no slouch
either, with the nation's longest winning streak at 27.

Tennessee's opponent for the regional semifinal in Dayton on
Sunday (ESPN, noon ET) turned out to be little Marist, only the third No. 13 seed
to make it to the round of 16. The Red Foxes ousted Ohio State and
then Middle Tennessee.

"I think it speaks to the parity of the game. It also speaks to
the fact that if you're not ready to play on a given night you can
get beat,'' Summitt said Wednesday, the day after the Lady Vols beat
Pittsburgh on its court 68-54.

"It's like going into the Pitt game last night. I knew that was
going to be a tough game. And they played tough.''

Oklahoma will play in the other semifinal against No. 7 seed
Mississippi, which beat Maryland.

The other regions had fewer big upsets. The Dallas Regional with
top-seeded North Carolina has the only remaining second seed,
Purdue, plus third-seeded Georgia and fifth-seeded George

The Fresno and Greensboro regionals still have seeds one, three
and four. Florida State, a 10-seed, made it to the Sweet 16 in
Fresno. Seventh-seeded Bowling Green upset second-seeded Vanderbilt
for the last spot in Greensboro.

"Everyone is fighting to advance. There is such a sense of
urgency this time of year. I told our team, 'Take nothing for
granted,' '' Summitt said.

Tennessee returned to practice Wednesday and took a look at
Marist's motion offense.

The Lady Vols, who lost in the regional finals last year, are
trying to reach Cleveland and the Final Four for the 17th time.
With six national championships but none since 1998, Tennessee has
made it clear that another title is the goal.

"I think they are a very focused team. I think they want these
next two games,'' Summitt said. "There's no doubt in my mind where
they want to be. They want to be in Cleveland.''

Some people might already be punching Tennessee's ticket to the
Final Four. The Lady Vols haven't lost in the regional semifinals
since 2001, and that was only the fourth time since the tournament
began in 1982.

Tennessee has never lost to a seed lower than a four in the NCAA

If the Lady Vols make it to the regional finals, they could get
a rematch with Mississippi, which lost in Knoxville 81-69 on Feb.
15. Tennessee is 2-0 all-time against Oklahoma, having last played in 2003.

Summitt, however, is focused on Marist, a small school in
Poughkeepsie, N.Y., she has never faced.

"We just went right to Marist,'' Summitt said. "I thought we
had a great preparation day coming off a late night and a
hard-fought ballgame.''