Stanford, UConn, Notre Dame lead way
Stanford, Connecticut and Notre Dame have received No. 1 seeds in the women’s NCAA tournament.
The basketball madness gets started Saturday — the first step en route to the Final Four, which begins April 1 in Denver.
Connecticut hopes to win its eighth national championship, tying Tennessee, and will start with a matchup against Prairie View.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma told the Huskies’ faithful in the preseason that this team wouldn’t win a national championship. But his young team has developed over the past five months, and Connecticut looks poised to make another run after beating Notre Dame for the Big East tournament title.
The Irish also have been focused on winning a title after falling just short last season, losing in the championship game to Texas A&M, which is a No. 3 seed in the Raleigh region. The two teams could meet in the regional final.
Notre Dame, which will open up at home against Liberty, reached the national title game last year by knocking off UConn in the Final Four. It was the fourth straight season that UConn made the Final Four. The two teams, who already have played three times this year, could meet for a fourth time in Denver.
The Cardinal also have advanced four straight seasons to the Final Four, and coach Tara VanDerveer is looking to get her first title in 20 years. She’ll begin with a trip East to Norfolk, Va. to face Hampton.
Standing in the way of a fifth trip to the Final Four could be second-seed Duke, which lost in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. The Blue Devils are led by talented freshman post Elizabeth Williams and sophomore guard Chelsea Grey and will face Samford in the opening round.
Another intriguing team in that region is third-seeded St. John’s, which ended UConn’s 99-game homecourt winning streak in February. The Red Storm have won 14 of their last 17 games after falling to the Huskies in the semifinals of the Big East tournament. Third seed St. John’s faces Creighton in its opener.
In the Fresno region, eight-seed West Virginia plays No. 9 Texas; No. 5 South Carolina meets 12th-seed Eastern Michigan; No. 4 Purdue faces 13th-seed South Dakota State; sixth-seed Oklahoma hosts No. 11 Michigan; and No. 7 Vanderbilt hosts No. 10 Middle Tennessee.
In the Bridgeport region, No. 8 Kansas State will play ninth-ranked Princeton, which became the first Ivy League team to make the Top 25 on Monday; fifth-seed LSU hosts No. 12 San Diego State; No. 4 Penn State plays 13th-ranked UTEP; No. 6 Rutgers visits 11th-seed Gonzaga; No. 3 Miami plays 14th-seed Idaho State; No. 7 Green Bay takes on 10th-seed Iowa State; and second-seed Kentucky plays No. 15 McNeese State.
In the Raleigh region, No. 8 California will play ninth-seed Iowa; No. 5 St. Bonaventure will take on No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast in a matchup of NCAA first-timers; fourth-seed Georgia meets No. 13 Marist; No. 6 Arkansas faces 11th-seed Dayton; No. 3 Texas A&M plays 14th-seed Albany; seventh-seed Louisville faces No. 10 Michigan State and second-seed Maryland hosts Navy.