By Jeffrey Newholm
Monday night the NCAA released its second and final preview of the top 16 women basketball seeds. It’s clearly a more balanced improvement over the first but still promises regional excitement regardless of who advances. NBS will again look more closely at each projected region as the conference tournaments soon christen March.
- UConn 2. Mississippi State 3. Oregon State 4. Miami
The UConn region is generally rather weak, but maybe this would change wit the dogs only the #4 overall seed. Well maybe not if so-so State and “the U” are the last two hosts. But the Bulldogs, a tremendous program and SEC champs, are far better than typical death-row northeast two seeds. But the Huskies again proved in their 57-47 triumph over South Florida that, like the Eagles’ Hotel California beast, they’re the monster that just won’t die. A Bulldog-Husky Elite 8 showdown may be the best elite eight showdown the east coast has seen in the post-Diana Taurasi era.
- Louisville 2. Stanford 3. Maryland 4. Iowa State
Louisville and Notre Dame have almost identical resumes. However, the Cardinals for now earn the approval of a bus to the windy city. The Cardinal and Terrapins have excellent coaching and would be tough outs even with lesser rosters. The Cyclones are almost an afterthought here as the last host. Louisville would be favored to at least make the regional finals, but should focus on the ACC tourney first.
- Baylor 2. Iowa 3. NC State 4. Texas A&M
The Bears earn a fair more equitably easy draw this projection. The other hosts are, relatively speaking, cupcakes compared to the #1 seed Bears. Granted, Baylor has been upset in six straight regionals. But surely this is the year they break the curse, right…? Considering how lady luck has pulled the rug out from favorites the last two postseasons, Bears fans shouldn’t book their hotels in advance.
- Notre Dame 2. Oregon 3. South Carolina 4. Syracuse
Well, the Irish are probably a 1 seed for the eighth year in a row. But they would have to fight past the very talented Ducks who have a new, invigorated fan base. Oregon has built to this point for years, properly focusing on process and not results. (Apart from seeding, which they may improve). The Gamecocks have a gripe about the committee yet again as they are sent very very far away from South Carolina. And the Irish would hate to play the Orange in the sweet 16. Clearly this is the toughest region, so Notre Dame should win the ACC tournament if a trip to Chicago is preferred.
“The playoffs mean everything in college”? Mostly, yes. Then no better time to pick up the remote! Despite talk of parity, six favorites clearly lord over the 64 team field. There’s just one high-major week left for those teams to wrestle away from pretenders are establish their claim as America’s best. And when the final horn sounds in the last qualifying tournament…are the other 58 teams ready to fight over March’s women’s dynamo screen?