Commentary

Keep an eye on 11-seed Charlotte

Updated: March 17, 2009, 10:22 PM ET
By ESPN.com

Before the women's NCAA tournament opens Saturday, ESPN.com breaks down the four regionals. Check out the Berkeley, Raleigh and Trenton analysis, too.

Graham Hays' upset watch

GonzagaNo. 5 Xavier vs. No. 12 Gonzaga (ESPN2/ESPN360.com, 10 p.m. ET Saturday): This one is in Seattle, a few hours and a mountain range removed from Gonzaga's base in Spokane, Wash., but still a heck of a lot closer for it than for the team from Cincinnati. The logic for the seeds holding is pretty simple: Gonzaga is a good offensive team but not a great offensive team; it needs some volume to get its points, and Xavier is one of the toughest teams in the nation to get quality scoring chances against. That said, the Musketeers have not been at their defensive best in recent weeks -- allowing 60 or more points in four of their past seven games. And a team prone to turnovers could be in trouble against a Bulldogs defense that forces more than 20 a game. Pick: Gonzaga

PittNo. 4 Pittsburgh vs. No. 13 Montana (ESPN2/ESPN360.com, 8 p.m. ET Saturday): Pitt barely escaped a first-round upset last season, holding off Wyoming in Albuquerque, and it could be in for another fight this year. Perhaps the biggest question for the Lady Griz is whether they can stay close enough on the boards to keep scoring chances roughly equal. In their two biggest games, against Maryland and South Dakota State in Cancun, they lost the rebounding battle by a sizable margin. And if 6-foot-6 Pitt freshman Pepper Wilson plays the way she did in the Big East tournament, Montana will again be hard-pressed to compete on that front. What the Lady Griz have going for them is a guard combination in Sonya Rogers and Mandy Morales that could get the Panthers out of their rhythm, as Florida's Sha Brooks and Steffi Sorensen did in a 90-83 shootout earlier this season. Pick: Pitt

PurdueNo. 6 Purdue vs. No. 11 Charlotte (ESPN2/ESPN360.com, 2 p.m. ET Saturday: The underdog actually bears more than a passing resemblance to the favorite. Both teams boast good interior presences and are shooting the ball much better this season than they did a year ago. It might come down, in part, to which point guard comes through. Purdue's FahKara Malone is the distributor who needs to get the ball to Purdue's other weapons. Charlotte's Traci Ray took on a big scoring load in the A-10 tourney and must hit shots from outside. Pick: Purdue

Mechelle Voepel's breakdown

GaTechIowa(8) Iowa vs. (9) Georgia Tech (ESPN2/ESPNU/ESPN360.com, 9 ET Sunday, ESPN): The Hawkeyes are the host for their subregional, and they've won nine of their past 11 games. Their key combo is guard Kristi Smith (13.4 ppg) and 6-foot-6 center Megan Skouby (12.4 ppg). They are among five seniors on the team, which also has a redshirt junior in JoAnn Hamlin. She transferred after one season at Kansas State. Iowa is looking for its first NCAA tournament victory since 2002, when it won an 8-9 game.

The Yellow Jackets went 8-6 in the ACC -- just the second time the program has had a winning record in the league -- then fell to Clemson in the ACC tournament. Georgia Tech, which lost by just 11 against UConn back in November, is making its third consecutive NCAA appearance. Wing Alex Montgomery leads Georgia Tech at 13.7 ppg, and this is the second postseason in a row the Jackets have played a team from Iowa. Last year, they lost their NCAA first-round game to Iowa State.

Three stars
C Courtney Paris, Oklahoma: She is the best rebounder in Division I women's history and hopes to lead the program to its second Final Four.
G DeWanna Bonner, Auburn: The same height  6 feet, 4 inches -- as Courtney Paris but a completely different body type. An amazingly versatile player.
G Shavonte Zellous, Pitt: She's second in the Big East and seventh in Division I in scoring average (22.5 ppg) and has been one of the key factors in Pitt's elevation.

Three under the radar
G Courtney Vandersloot, Gonzaga: Her 7.4 assists per game average ranks third in Division I, and she also averages 16.4 ppg.
G FahKara Malone, Purdue: It makes a big difference for the Boilermakers when she's on the floor; she missed five weeks with a dislocated ring finger.
C Ta'Shia Phillips, Xavier: She's not as well known outside the Atlantic-10, but at 6-6, she's developing into one of the country's top centers (13.5 ppg, 11.9 rpg).

Charlie Creme's take

CharlotteWho's hot: No. 11 seed Charlotte. The 49ers put aside a rather pedestrian regular-season résumé with two terrific performances in the Atlantic 10 against Temple and Richmond. Few teams are as well-balanced. Charlotte has six players averaging double figures, and it was the team's fifth-leading scorer, Traci Ray, who won A-10 tournament MVP.

Who's not: North Carolina's Cetera DeGraffenreid. Sure, the sophomore point guard has been getting her points, but she's also in charge of a North Carolina offense that was turning the ball over at an alarming rate toward the end of the season. Her decision-making will have to be better if the Tar Heels are going to have a possible shot at another game against Oklahoma in the regional final.

Possible matchup to watch: C. Vivian Stringer's defensive scheme vs. DeWanna Bonner. The ability of Auburn's All-American to handle the waves of different defenders and physical play in a game at Rutgers will determine whether the Tigers can survive what could be the toughest second-round test for any of the top seeds.