What's the most the teams in Dayton can hope for, and what's the way they don't want the season to end?
Best case: Another tournament goes by with little challenge, the win streak reaches 78, Tina Charles concludes her amazing UConn career with four 20-20 games and the Huskies get to do it by beating Tennessee in the national semifinals by 25.
Worst case: UConn cruises to the Final Four, but Charles lands right on top of Samantha Prahalis (while the 5-foot-7 Ohio State point guard is standing up) in the Elite Eight matchup and sprains her ankle on the Buckeyes' shoulder. Charles is not the same in San Antonio and Tennessee's Kelley Cain dominates her for 18 points and 14 rebounds as the Lady Vols pull off the upset. The streak is over, Geno can't get the Huskies out of Texas fast enough and Pat Summitt spends more time smiling on Monday than the Cheshire Cat in 3-D. Maya Moore is just devastated, having now lost three games in her collegiate career.
Best case: Leading scorer and Baton Rouge native Hannah Kador whips up a big batch of her famous (but oh-so-spicy) gumbo to share with UConn the day before the game as a goodwill gesture. Ultimately, the spicy doesn't "agree" so well with a number of Huskies. Sitting on the bench is hard enough; playing in the first half is nearly impossible. Eventually, the Pepto kicks in and UConn wins, but the Jaguars become the first team all season to get within single digits.
Worst case: Turns out gumbo is Moore's favorite food and works for her like spinach works for Popeye. Fueled by the tasty cuisine, Moore outscores Southern all by herself in the first half and UConn wins going away.
Best case: The Owls handle James Madison in the first round and then Tonya Cardoza reveals that she has a mysterious book from her days as a UConn assistant filled with all of Geno Auriemma's secrets, just like when Elaine found all of the Soup Nazi's recipes in that episode of "Seinfeld." Shaken, with all of their strategies now public domain, UConn can't function and Temple pulls off the biggest Cinderella story since Carl Spackler in "Caddyshack."
Worst case: Something goes terribly wrong with air travel in Philadelphia all week and Temple has to drive to Norfolk. Traffic is a bear and the Owls are forced to do their morning walk-through on the bus when three players realize they forgot their sneakers. They barely make it on time for tipoff against JMU. It's all too much to handle and Temple loses badly.
(9) JAMES MADISON
Best case: Every UConn fan decides to sell their tickets to all the local Old Dominion supporters, who cheer like crazy for the Dukes. Inspired by such strong support from their big CAA rival, James Madison cruises past Temple into the second round.
Worst case: Temple goes to an unconventional box-and-one defense, meaning four Owls literally surround JMU's Dawn Evans in a box the entire game. Inexplicably, the JMU players can't seem to score against a lone Temple defender and the Owls advance easily.
Best case: Refusing to see her career end, Monica Wright averages 34.5 points in the two games in Ames, setting up a meeting with UConn in Dayton. Wright badly outplays Maya Moore in the regional semifinal, but the rest of her teammates prove to be a bit too young and the Cavaliers fall just short, but not before putting a bit of a scare into Husky Nation.
Worst case: Virginia trails Green Bay early and Wright picks up two fouls within the first two minutes, ultimately fouling out with four minutes to go. Despite getting close a number of times, the Cavaliers never lead and Wright's career ends with her sitting on the bench with a towel covering her head.
(12) GREEN BAY
Best case: Kayla Tetschlag's shooting ignites and the junior sets a record for 3-pointers in a subregional. Even the Iowa State fans give her a standing ovation near the end as the Phoenix upset the Cyclones. Green Bay sticks it to all of its doubters and advances to the Sweet 16.
Worst case: Cleveland State coach Kate Peterson Abiad zooms from her game at Notre Dame to Ames to serve as special consultant to Virginia coach Debbie Ryan. Given the Vikings' recent success against the Phoenix in the Horizon League tournament, Ryan is happy for the help and Virginia routs Green Bay.
(4) IOWA STATE
Best case: Alison Lacey wakes up Sunday morning with a clear head and clear chest, no longer feeling any effects from her pneumonia. In fact, the senior point guard has more energy than anyone after missing three games. Lacey shoots out the lights and doesn't turn over the ball once in two games and the Cyclones advance to the Sweet 16 in front of the home folks. Iowa State comes up short against UConn, but Lacey impresses Geno Auriemma so much he asks her to join the national team, only to be disappointed when Lacey reminds him she's Australian.
Worst case: Lacey isn't healthy, and while Kelsey Bolte and the home crowd barely save Iowa State against Lehigh, Virginia proves to be too much in a blowout. The Cyclones faithful at Hilton Coliseum are so stunned that the host organizers drop in fake crowd noise so fans watching at home don't think the arena has been deserted.
Best case: Erica Prosser plays all 45 minutes and looks like the best player on the floor for most of them. Ultimately, Lehigh comes up short playing on Iowa State's home court, but at least now the entire world knows they are no longer the Engineers.
Worst case: Iowa State makes more 3-pointers in the first half than Lehigh saw in the entire Patriot League tournament (eight). By the second half, 12,000 Cyclones fans are yelling "Swish" before Bolte or Lacey even release the ball. Lehigh is intimidated right out of the tournament without even being competitive.
(6) ST. JOHN'S
Best case: The young Red Storm aren't bothered at all having to play Florida State in Tallahassee in the second round or Ohio State in Dayton in the regional semifinal. They make it an all-Big East Elite Eight matchup with UConn and play the Huskies even tougher than they did in mid-February. Again, St. John's falls short, but can celebrate the best season in school history.
Worst case: St. John's is repeatedly asked about playing on Florida State's home court in the second round, but Princeton makes the questions moot by stunning the Red Storm, who become the first major upset victims of the tournament.
Best case: The excitement of being the highest-seeded Ivy League team ever carries the Tigers to an upset of St. John's. League administrators are reminded of the last time an Ivy team won an NCAA tournament game -- when 16th-seeded Harvard upset No. 1 seed Stanford in 1998.
Worst case: The weight of being the highest-seeded Ivy League team ever proves too much for the Tigers, and the league administrators long for the days when 16th-seeded Harvard upset No. 1 seed Stanford in 1998.
(3) FLORIDA STATE
Best case: Riding the wave and momentum of some great crowds in Tallahassee, Florida State reaches the Elite Eight. That's where Jacinta Monroe blocks Tina Charles' shot four times in the first half and the Seminoles lead UConn at the break. Alas, they fall short, but the program gets its most national attention and Monroe's WNBA stock sores.
Worst case: The home court does nothing for the Seminoles and they can't shake off their quarterfinal ACC tournament loss to Boston College. Just like last season when FSU received a program-best 3-seed, the Seminoles fail to make the regionals.
(14) LOUISIANA TECH
Best case: The Lady Techsters' student manager finds a loophole in the rules that allows Teresa Weatherspoon to play. The head coach scores 14 points and Louisiana Tech stuns Florida State on its home floor. The student manager gets carried off on the shoulders of the entire team.
Worst case: The Lady Techsters' student manager finds a loophole in the rules that allows Teresa Weatherspoon to play. The move backfires. The rest of the team accuses their coach of being a ball hog and not playing hard enough on defense. The chemistry is gone, and so is Louisiana Tech from the tournament. The student manager is forced to withdraw from school.
(7) MISSISSIPPI STATE
Best case: The Lady Bulldogs finally live up to the Sweet 16 potential many thought they had all season and, in fact, get there. For one night the much smaller Armelie Lumanu proves to be every bit the player Jantel Lavender is in Mississippi State's second-round upset of Ohio State in a rematch of last year's second-round meeting.
Worst case: The only game tape anyone in Starkville can find is the Lady Bulldogs' 50-36 loss to Auburn. Head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis focuses on the defensive effort in that game, but her team merely repeats the offensive performance. Offensive-minded Middle Tennessee takes full advantage and effectively ends the game by halftime.
(10) MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Best case: Alysha Clark pulls a Wilt Chamberlain and scores 100 against Mississippi State as the Lady Raiders win 140-88. Clark has an "off" night Sunday and only gets 48, but MTSU still knocks off Ohio State to reach the Sweet 16. Clark and the Blue Raiders run out of gas in Dayton, but Clark still gets a spot on Letterman.
Worst case: The night before the game, Clark falls asleep in the hotel with the TV on. "The Thorn Birds" is on cable. Somehow it seeps into her subconscious and she plays more like Richard Chamberlain. She shoots 4-for-18 from the field and Mississippi State wins easily.
(2) OHIO STATE
Best case: Lavender draws first blood in what will become a regular battle in the WNBA by completely outplaying Tina Charles, as Ohio State ends its NCAA tournament frustration and the streak on the same night, upsetting UConn in front of a frenzied Dayton crowd.
Worst case: Lavender loses so much sleep thinking about UConn and Charles, she actually yawns while taking a free throw in the second round in a game that Ohio State doesn't escape. The Buckeyes' continued NCAA tournament disappointment causes plenty more people in Columbus to have sleeping problems.
(15) ST. FRANCIS (PA.)
Best case: Thousands of Red Flash fans make the 78-mile drive from Loretto to Pittsburgh and storm the court after Britney Hodges leads the upset of the tournament over Ohio State.
Worst case: The short distance from Loretto to Pittsburgh does turn out to be a huge advantage … but only for the fans. The game tips at noon local time and Ohio State has it won by halftime, meaning the St. Francis fans are home in plenty of time for Sunday dinner.
Charlie Creme can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.