Before thinking about a trip out west, top-seeded Connecticut will have to take care of business close to home.
That shouldn't be too difficult Sunday when the Huskies meet 16th-seeded Maryland-Baltimore County in Hartford, Conn., in a first-round game of the Fresno Regional.While the five-time national champions have a chance to play their first two games near their Storrs campus, they must travel the farthest of any No. 1 seed if they advance to the regional semifinals. That doesn't seem to bother the Huskies (29-3), who are making their 19th straight NCAA tournament appearance and earned a No. 1 seed for the first time since 2003 when they won the second of three straight national titles."I hear that Fresno isn't the best part of California," said Renee Montgomery, who averages team highs of 13.0 points and 4.7 assists. "But it's still Cali, so we're going there."If UConn wins its first three games, it could face a regional final matchup with second-seeded Stanford, which would have a significantly shorter trip to Fresno."Somebody's always going to play close to home," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Duke gets to drive an hour-and-a-half (to Greensboro, N.C.) if they win their first two games. That's just the way it is."Connecticut is 31-4 in NCAA tournament games played in its home state, having won 29 in a row before losing 63-61 in overtime to Duke in a regional final last season. The Huskies are 58-13 all-time in NCAA tournament play.UConn went undefeated in Big East play this season to win the regular-season title, but is coming off a 55-47 loss to Rutgers in the conference tournament title game on March 6.Forward Charde Houston scored 12 points in the loss as the Huskies shot 34.5 percent from the field and committed 17 turnovers."I think that is something that is going to keep us in stride, not to have that feeling again," said freshman center Tina Charles, who averages 12.7 points and 8.6 rebounds. "We don't want that feeling."Maryland-Baltimore County (16-16) was the seventh seed in the America East Conference tournament, but defeated the top three seeds to win the championship.Carlee Hudson had 14 points and Amanda Robinson, the tournament MVP, added 10 as the Retrievers held on to beat Hartford 48-46 in the title game despite going scoreless over the final six minutes."We've gone from worst to first in a couple of years," UMBC coach Phil Stern said.Led by leading scorer Sharri Rohde at 13.6 points per game, UMBC will try to slow down the tempo against Connecticut on Sunday in the first meeting between the schools."We know what we are up against," Stern said. "We're going up there and going to have a lot of fun with it."Sunday's winner plays Wisconsin-Milwaukee or New Mexico in Tuesday's second round.