Women's Region Breakdowns
Published: Friday, March 18, 2011
Updated: Saturday, March 26, 2011 10:03
No. 1 seed Connecticut is the clear favorite in the Philadelphia region. The Huskies have been the most dominant program in women's basketball over the last decade, and this year is no different. UConn will play on its home court for the first two rounds, so don't expect an early upset.
Duke, the No. 2 seed in the region, was considered to have an outside shot at a No. 1 seed before dropping some late-season games. However, the Blue Devils will likely have to beat out high-scoring No. 3 seed DePaul, a dark horse Final Four candidate. Look for a Blue Devil-Blue Demon track meet in the bottom of the bracket for the right to take on UConn.
Watch out for whoever wins the potential Georgetown-Maryland matchup in College Park, as they could make some noise against No. 1 UConn. When they are hitting from long range, the high-pressure Lady Hoyas have the look of a bracket buster.
No. 10 seed Marist out of the MAAC is 30-2 on the season — nothing to sneeze at regardless of conference. A possible Cinderella, they could potentially take out No. 7 Iowa State and even give Duke some trouble.
At the helm of her 30th consecutive tournament team, Pat Summitt and the No. 1 seed Tennessee Lady Volunteers are the favorites to emerge out of the Dayton region to the Final Four, but they are not without legitimate competition.
Two top-10 teams — No. 2 seed Notre Dame and the No. 3 seed University of Miami — figure to duke it out in the regional semifinal for a shot at the Lady Vols, who should not have too much difficulty advancing to the regional final.
All three of the region's top teams faced Georgetown this season, and ironically, the Hoyas only win was a 69-58 upset of the Lady Vols in the Paradise Jam in late November. The Blue and Gray fell at Miami 81-72 in overtime on Dec. 7 and lost at Notre Dame on Jan. 18, 80-58.
Key players to watch include leading Tennessee scorer and freshman guard Meighan Simmons, who averages 13.7 points per game, as well as junior forward Glory Johnson, who averages close to a double-double with 11.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
The top performer for Notre Dame is junior guard Natalie Novosel, who scores 14.6 per contest while adding 4.0 rebounds per game. She nearly suffered a devastating knee injury in the Big East championship game against Connecticut but returned at the end of the contest.
Outside of the top three, expect to see several early round upsets. Watch out for No. 12 Bowling Green (28-4) against No. 5 Georgia Tech (23-10), in particular.
Ultimately, expect Tennessee to advance to its 19th Final Four in school history, but the road won't be as easy as in years past for the Lady Vols.
This corner of the bracket has a chance to put on what would certainly be a well-attended regional final if the chalk holds. No. 1 seed Baylor and fellow in-state, Big 12 squad and No. 2 seed Texas A&M would meet in Dallas' Elite Eight contest if the region's favorites take care of business in the earlier rounds. Fittingly, 6-foot-8 Baylor center Brittney Griner would headline this Texas-sized contest.
Griner, who averages 22.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game, might be the first player to should watch across the entire women's bracket. She brings a tremendous 7-foot-4 wingspan to the court, and frankly, it's hard to take your eyes off of her when you watch Baylor play. She and the Bears have already played Texas A&M three times and beaten them three times this season, but Baylor's margin of victory has shrunk each time. In the Big 12 championship game last Saturday, the Bears eked out a 61-58 victory.
In terms of a sleeper, No. 5 Green Bay out of the Horizon League could make a run to the Sweet 16, but don't expect it to get past Baylor. With that said, Green Bay's 32-1 record — tarnished only by a Dec. 12 loss at Marquette — should have perhaps earned them a No. 4 seed in this year's tournament.
A pair of Pac-10 powers and a perennial mid-major threat lead the charge to Indianapolis from the talent-rich Spokane region. Top-seeded Stanford, searching for its fourth consecutive Final Four berth, is the clear favorite of the region. Led by junior forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike's 16.4 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game, the Cardinal outscore opponents by an average of 25 points.
No. 2 seed Xavier, winners of 17 straight, will seek revenge for a heart-breaking 55-53 Elite Eight loss to Stanford last season, but the Musketeers will be discouraged by their first bid at redemption, a 37-point defeat on Dec. 28 in Palo Alto, Cal.
Standout forward Jasmine Dixon and No. 3 UCLA hold opposition to 54.5 points per game with their defensive-minded approach, but having already fallen thrice to Stanford, the Bruins will be hard-pressed to win the region. The No. 11 Gonzaga Bulldogs, the nation's highest scoring team, are poised to make a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 and perhaps beyond. Playing in their home town and featuring one of the nation's best point guards, senior Courtney Vandersloot, the Bulldogs could give UCLA fits with their plethora of offensive weapons and collective 49.9 percent field goal percentage.
No. 9 Texas Tech, the only team to defeat Baylor in conference play, No. 5 North Carolina and No. 4 Kentucky are also included in this dangerous field of teams.
— Compiled by Pat Curran, Preston Barclay, Connor Gregoire and Beno Picciano