Wildest, worst scenarios for Memphis
What's the most that the teams in Memphis can hope for, and what's the way they don't want the season to end?
Best case: The Lady Vols' rebounding satisfies Pat Summitt for four games, then it completely dissatisfies Geno Auriemma for one game, as Tennessee, of all teams, ends the Huskies' winning streak. The Lady Vols enjoy the sweetest of all tournament runs, completely erasing the disappointment of last year's first-round exit by winning their third national championship in four years.
Worst case: With an entire nation of women's basketball fans hoping for Tennessee and UConn to finally meet again, Baylor ruins the storyline in the Sweet 16. This time it's the players who are so upset about losing that they call a practice right there in Memphis, not even waiting to get home. Meanwhile, the Nielsen ratings show that only three households in all of Knoxville tune in to the Final Four.
(16) AUSTIN PEAY
Best case: The Lady Govs remind everyone that they have as much NCAA tournament experience as Tennessee in the past year. That premise actually gets some attention, and people tune in to see Austin Peay compete for a half.
Worst case: That reminder only angers the Lady Vols as they think back to losing to Ball State. Tennessee's defense is so intense and focused that announcers actually utter the word "shutout" and aren't kidding.
Best case: Kendel Ross and Justine Raterman emerge as the best tandem in Knoxville, and the Flyers do the impossible by beating Tennessee on its home court in the second round.
Worst case: Dayton actually advances to the Sweet 16, but none of its fans come to Memphis to watch the game, claiming they'd rather stay home and get a glimpse of UConn.
Best case: The Lady Frogs beat Dayton in an epic seven-overtime thriller that starts airing on ESPN Classic before the game is even over. It's so good that people forget about last season's UConn-Syracuse game in the Big East men's tournament, and Jay Bilas starts doing commercials lauding Starr Crawford and Helena Sverrisdottir while he throws nuts at the guy in the airport.
Worst case: The Lady Frogs lose to Dayton in an epic seven-overtime thriller, and TCU doesn't last long enough for anyone to figure out the pronunciation of "Sverrisdottir."
Best case: Georgetown plays so well and lasts so long in the tournament that "Around the Horn" actually debates whether the star Hoyas freshman guard should go by "Sugar" or Ta'Shauna Rodgers.
Worst case: The Hoyas get bounced in the first round, leaving Trey Wingo without time to say that Rodgers has the best nickname in the tournament.
Best case: The Red Foxes don't stay in a hotel for their fifth straight trip to the NCAA tournament. They've been sent to California so often (three of the past four years) that they decided to get a time-share. The added comfort gives Marist a huge advantage. Georgetown and Baylor don't stand a chance. Rachele Fitz completes her career by playing in a second Sweet 16 in which the opponent is once again Tennessee.
Worst case: To get the time-share, the entire team has to sit through one of those six-hour sales presentations, which runs long, and Georgetown is allowed to start the game without it.
Best case: Miraculously, Baylor gets healthy while Brittney Griner's all-around game is so good that just people stop talking about "the punch" and "the dunks." Behind Griner's dominant play and some Morgan Medlock heroics, the Lady Bears win four games and become the toast of San Antonio.
Worst case: Fresno State never takes the ball into the lane. Griner gets so bored on defense that she starts to nod off. The Bulldogs and Baylor make the same number of field goals, but all of Fresno's are 3s. Baylor doesn't hit a single 3 and loses.
(13) FRESNO STATE
Best case: The Bulldogs' fans take advantage of the relatively short trip to Berkeley and create a home-court feel. Jaleesa Ross is all over the floor, outplaying whatever defenders Kim Mulkey throws at her. Ross becomes the individual story of the first round, establishing momentum for some national recognition heading into her senior season.
Worst case: The Bulldogs, still smarting from losing the WAC final to Louisiana Tech, are overwhelmed by the idea of playing in the NCAA tournament. Fresno gets down early, and even a late run when the Bulldogs finally get comfortable can't save them.
Best case: The light finally comes on for the enigmatic Longhorns, who take full advantage of the two home games and advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004.
Worst case: The home court means nothing, the turnover problems continue and the shooting remains suspect. Defensive assignments are missed. San Diego State outtoughs Texas, and the Longhorns make an unceremonious first-round exit in Austin.
(11) SAN DIEGO STATE
Best case: The Aztecs land in Austin with an us-against-the world attitude and channel that into a high-level performance. The confidence and consistency built during the season's final month carry them into the first round, and Jene Morris dominates Texas' struggling backcourt. Paris Johnson is all over the backboards while the Davis sisters play as if there are four of them, not two.
Worst case: The Aztecs' travel itinerary is somehow switched with that of the San Diego State men's team, and the women end up in Providence.
(3) WEST VIRGINIA
Best case: The Mountaineers reach the Sweet 16, look across the court and swear they are looking into a blue-tinted mirror. What they are seeing is Duke. Guard play and defense dominate the game, with West Virginia doing it a little bit better and then imposing its will on Tennessee to reach the Final Four. The Mountaineers are joined in San Antonio by Big East mates Connecticut and Notre Dame.
Worst case: The Mountaineers' fans, so upset about a second-round game against Texas in Austin, decide to picket outside NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis instead of going to the game. That leaves hundreds of tickets available to a suddenly growing Lamar fan base, and the Cardinals' fans turn Austin into a mini-Beaumont. The "unfair" matchup never happens.
Best case: Jenna Plumley does it all -- hitting 3-pointers, setting up teammates and turning steals into baskets. This surge has Lamar in front of West Virginia for a half, and the TV coverage shifts to Austin, where the country starts to recognize the onetime Oklahoma sharpshooter. However, West Virginia's Sarah Miles shuts Plumley down from that point, and the upset bid fades.
Worst case: Liz Repella does all of those same things for West Virginia but has more help, and Lamar is never in the game. The nation never gets to see any of the game, and Plumley continues to play in relative obscurity.
Best case: Katherine Graham emerges as a third scorer behind Allison Hightower and LaShondra Barrett while LSU's bench provides some much-needed and usually lacking production. The Lady Tigers stun Duke in the second round and go all the way to the Elite Eight.
Worst case: LSU is so used to playing NCAA tournament games in Baton Rouge that the Lady Tigers can't get going in Durham, and the crowd gets behind a short-handed but inspired Hartford team. The fans, hoping for an LSU-Duke showdown Monday, try out some new lines. That game never happens because Hartford wins and, more surprising than that, Van Chancellor is at a loss for words.
Best case: Jennifer Rizzotti wakes up to realize that Erica Beverly's injury is just a bad dream. Beverly plays and shuts down Hightower, and Hartford advances.
Worst case: Rizzotti continues her reality that Beverly is still injured and has to dream up a way to beat LSU.
Best case: The Blue Devils take offense to those questioning their offense. They score plenty while sacrificing nothing on defense to cruise into an Elite Eight showdown with Tennessee. The Blue Devils win an inartistic slugfest, and Joanne P. McCallie gets a second team to the Final Four.
Worst case: Duke reaches the Sweet 16 to face West Virginia, and offense is so hard to come by that the officials just declare that the first team to 40 points wins. The Mountaineers get there first, but 52 minutes of playing time actually elapses before that occurs.
Best case: The Cameron Crazies are too hung over from watching the men's team play the night before and just aren't into it, allowing Hampton to thrive on the lack of atmosphere. The Lady Pirates actually feel at home and even lead for a while. When the fans do start to come to life, Duke begins to pull away, sending Hampton home with a loss.
Worst case: The Lady Pirates' Selection Monday party turns into a weeklong event with the players having so much fun that they forget to practice or get on the bus.
Charlie Creme can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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