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No doubt who No. 1 seeds were in women's NCAA tournament

There was little mystery who the top seeds in the women's NCAA tournament were going to be.

Duke, Tennessee, North Carolina and Connecticut were four of the top teams all season and were selected as No. — seeds Monday night.

Travel won't be a problem for Duke.

The Blue Devils, who went 29-0 in the regular season and then lost to N.C. State in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinals, play Sunday against No. 16 Holy Cross in Raleigh. With a regional in Greensboro, Duke would stay in North Carolina until the Final Four in Cleveland.

"We're really excited. We're playing all year long, hoping to get a chance to stay in Raleigh, and stay in Greensboro which is about an hour and 15 minutes down the road," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "I think it's a huge advantage. When you're in the tournament you want to be as comfortable as possible because there's so much excitement and pressure."

Duke, ranked atop the AP poll for the final nine weeks, hopes for better results than the last time the Blue Devils finished No. — &

the 2003-04 final poll. They lost to Minnesota in the regional finals that season.

Rival North Carolina, which won the ACC conference tournament, earned a No. — seed for the third straight season and will open Sunday against Prairie View. The Tar Heels are the top seed in the Dallas region.

"We expected to be (a No. 1). We're excited to be playing," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "We got a good draw, a whole lot better than last year.

"Hopefully we can keep our momentum going from winning the ACC tournament."

Tennessee most definitely has the toughest draw in the Dayton regional.

The defending champion Maryland Terrapins are No. 2 in Dayton, while Big 12 champ Oklahoma is No. — and Big 10 power Ohio State is the fourth seed.

"This region is very, very stacked, but am I surprised? Absolutely not," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "I'd have been surprised if it hadn't been. There's a lot of great teams obviously in our bracket, and yet there's no easy bracket in women's basketball these days."

Now those four teams, all national title contenders, are competing for that one Final Four spot.

"I think a lot of people would say, 'Oh, man. That's not fair. There's so many great teams in that one little section,' but I'm excited," said Oklahoma center Courtney Paris said. "I heard those teams being called, and I thought that's going to be a fun challenge.

"If you want to win it all, you've got to be able to face teams like that and beat them. You've got to beat everybody."

The 64-team tournament begins Saturday.

Although all four rank in the top 10 in the RPI standings, committee chair Judy Southard defended putting them in the same region.

"One of the things we have to remind everyone of is that the RPI is just one of the tools we use," she said. "The RPI is a quantitative measure that doesn't reflect the quality of a team."

Surely, being the defending champion does. The last repeat champion was Connecticut, which won three straight from 2002-04.

The Terrapins will face Ivy League champion Harvard on Sunday afternoon in Hartford. Maryland, which returned all five starters from last season's team, was 0-5 against Duke and North Carolina this season.

"The only team that's going into the tournament knowing they can win it is Maryland, 'cause they've won it, and they've got a lot of the players back from the team that won it," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said.

While competitive balance is the hot topic in Dayton, the Fresno region is bursting with subplots off the court.

LSU, the No. — seed, is without coach Pokey Chatman, who abruptly resigned last week.

A school official with direct knowledge of the matter told The Associated Press on Monday that Chatman was not allowed to be alone with her players after assistant Carla Berry reported alleged improper conduct to the university in February. The official requested anonymity because it was a personnel matter.

Chatman, who told her team last Thursday that she would not coach in the NCAA tournament, has not been available for comment.

"The kids have done a wonderful job," said acting head coach Bob Starkey. "They are a very resilient bunch. They have been through difficult times with Sue Gunter's death and Hurricane Katrina."

The Tigers will play UNC Asheville on Friday night in Austin, Texas.

"Our mission will never change," said LSU center Sylvia Fowles. "We know what we're here for. We know where we're trying to get and what we're trying to prove, so our mission stays the same."

But the sentimental choice in Fresno might be North Carolina State and coach Kay Yow. The Wolfpack, who have won 11 of 13 games since Yow returned from breast cancer treatments, are the No. 4 seed. They will play Robert Morris on Sunday in the first round in the Raleigh subregional.

"The team was just really excited to have me back. I was excited to come back," Yow said. "When you have a player that is out and not with you, you're not whole. You want everyone there doing what they can. It inspires me to be back, and I think it inspires my staff and my team to be back."

Waiting for them in the regionals likely will be No. — seed Connecticut (29-3), which opens against No. 16 UMBC on Sunday in Hartford and eventually could face No. 2 Stanford, which plays No. 15 Idaho State at home.

If they advance past the first two rounds, the Huskies must travel to Fresno, Calif. for the regionals. During its run of five national championships since 1995, Connecticut hasn't been farther West than Kansas City.

Tennessee's now the only team that has competed in every NCAA tournament after Louisiana Tech didn't make the field this year. The Lady Vols, a No. — seed for the 17th time in 20 years, play No. 16 Drake on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Holy Cross and Drake became the fifth and sixth teams with losing records to make the tournament. The Crusaders won the Patriot League, and the Bulldogs were victorious in the Missouri Valley Conference.

The women's Final Four is April 1-3 in Cleveland.