UConn, Tennessee earn top seeds
It's too soon for Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma to think about meeting in the national championship game.
For now, the two most successful coaches in women's college basketball over the last two decades are focused on just getting Tennessee and Connecticut through the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.
"The Tennessee-Connecticut matchup has gotten a lot of hype, especially since we ended the series this season," said Summitt, whose Lady Volunteers, led by All-American Candace Parker, open Sunday against Oral Roberts. "My mind is not on anything but getting better this week."
Along with defending champion Tennessee and Connecticut, Maryland and North Carolina earned No. — seeds in the NCAA women's basketball tournament Monday.
Before meeting Tennessee, Connecticut could face Big East rival Rutgers. The Huskies are the top seed in Greensboro, and the Scarlet Knights are No. 2. Rutgers handed Connecticut its only loss this season.
Those seedings have created a bit of a stir before play even begins.
"In the NCAA tournament, you'd love to play teams you haven't played before," Auriemma said. "The top two teams in the league have to play again. I guess Rutgers was penalized for getting knocked out early in the Big East tournament, I don't know."
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer stared at the television in disbelief when the announcement was made that the Scarlet Knights, who lost in the championship game last season, would have to face Connecticut to advance to the Final Four.
"I didn't think there was any way on God's Earth that this would happen," said Stringer, whose Scarlet Knights lost to Louisville in the Big East quarterfinals. "I am just stunned and shocked. This is a mindblower.
"I just assumed that they would ask us to go through North Carolina, they have a very similar style to our play and we didn't see them this year. If I were a betting woman I would have lost all my money today."
The Huskies (32-1) will open against No. 16 Cornell on Sunday in Bridgeport, Conn. Rutgers will face No. 15 Robert Morris on Saturday. UConn, ranked atop the AP poll for 12 of the final 13 weeks, is hoping to get to the Final Four for the first time since 2004. The Huskies lost to LSU in the regional final last season.
Connecticut's four seniors have added motivation: They're in danger of becoming the first Huskies' class in 20 years to have never made it to the Final Four. The Huskies are led by freshman star Maya Moore, who became the first Big East freshman to win Player of the Year.
"I'm excited, I try not to let the nerves affect me in a negative way," Moore said.
North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, however, was clearly frustrated by her team's draw. She had lobbied for the Tar Heels to be sent to Greensboro &
about an hour west of the Chapel Hill campus &
after they won the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament there last week.
Instead, her team might have to face second-seeded LSU in New Orleans for the right to go to the Final Four. The Tar Heels open play on Sunday against Bucknell. "I don't really have any thoughts," Hatchell said when asked about the draw. "We're just ready to play.
LSU has made the last four Final Fours. First-year coach Van Chancellor hopes to continue the streak and finally win a national championship for the Lady Tigers, who are led by preseason All-American Sylvia Fowles.
The only real surprise among the top seeds was Maryland getting the No. — in Spokane over Stanford, which is No. 2. Maryland lost in the semifinals of the ACC tournament to Duke.
"I tell you, we're ecstatic," said Terps coach Brenda Frese, whose month-old twin boys were on hand for the announcement. "We obviously feel like you play the entire season for this moment. The fact that our non-conference schedule really prepared us for now, to play in one of the toughest conferences, to go 30-3. I think it's a tribute to our team and to our program, just how hard we worked throughout the course of the entire season."
Frese delivered the twins in late February, but is back on the bench as the Terrapins seek their second national championship in three seasons.
Stanford, behind preseason All-American Candice Wiggins, has won 18 straight games and is trying to become the first Pac-10 team to make the Final Four in a decade.
"This is a very motivated team," Wiggins said. "This is extra motivation for us. We have been the hunters the whole season. We're very good in that position. We know what we really want. We know what our goals are. We're going to go after them."
While the Big East and Big 12 both have eight teams in the tournament, there are nine first-timers &
Cleveland State, Cornell, East Tennessee State, Fresno State, Miami (Ohio), Murray State, Texas-San Antonio, UTEP, and Wyoming.
"There's no words to explain it," East Tennessee coach Karen Kemp said.
"It was really, really exciting there for everyone. The players were ecstatic. It's just a great feeling."