Connecticut’s path to a third straight national championship could include a renewal of the most heated rivalry in women’s college basketball.
The Huskies earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament Monday night.
For Geno Auriemma to match Tennessee coach Pat Summitt with an eighth national championship he might have to go through her Lady Vols, who earned the top seed in the Dayton region. If both come through their regions, UConn and Tennessee could meet again in the national semifinals at Indianapolis.
Auriemma’s Huskies didn’t have to face Tennessee during its record 90-game winning streak that was ended by Stanford on Dec. 30. The two pre-eminent teams in the sport broke off their annual matchup in 2007 in a testy split.
First up for UConn is former star Jen Rizzotti and her Hartford Hawks, who won the America East title. The two teams have played each other over the last six years but didn’t meet this season. Hartford is winless in 11 meetings against UConn.
Baylor and Stanford were the other two No. 1 seeds. It was the second straight No. 1 seed for the Cardinal, who fell to UConn in the title game last season.
The Huskies will be trying for their third consecutive title, matching their run from 2002-04 and Tennessee’s from 1996-98. UConn is one of a record nine Big East teams in the field. The Big East got 11 men’s teams in their field announced Sunday.
Unlike the men’s bracket that expanded to 68 teams this year, the women decided to stick with 64. Indianapolis will host the Final Four on April 3 and 5.
The last time the Final Four was in Indianapolis, Baylor won the championship as a No. 2 seed.
The Lady Bears, led by sophomore center Brittney Griner, will face No. 16 Prairie View in their opener on Sunday in the Dallas region. No. 8 Houston will play No. 9 West Virginia, No. 5 Wisconsin-Green Bay takes on No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock, and No. 4 Michigan State plays No. 13 Missouri Valley champion Northern Iowa.
In the other part of the bracket, No. 6 Georgia takes on No. 11 Middle Tennessee State, which is still dealing with the death of Tina Stewart. Her Blue Raiders teammates played, and lost, their lone game in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
No. 2 Texas A&M meets No. 15 McNeese State, No. 7 Rutgers plays No. 10 Louisiana Tech and No. 3 Florida State plays No. 14 Samford.
If the seeds hold, the Aggies and Lady Bears will meet for the fourth time this season. Baylor beat Texas A&M by a total of 15 points in their three meetings—including a three-point win in the Big 12 title game.
Stanford, which opens against UC Davis, could also face UCLA for a fourth time this year. The Cardinal swept the No. 3 seed in Spokane three times, but the Bruins had a late lead in the Pac-10 title game on Saturday.
Tennessee will open at home in the Dayton region against No. 16 Stetson, which needed a 55-footer at the buzzer to advance to the Atlantic Sun tournament championship game. No. 8 Marquette will play No. 9 Texas in the other game in Knoxville.
No. 5 Georgia Tech will play No. 12 Bowling Green and No. 4 Ohio State faces No. 13 Central Florida. The Buckeyes have had a roller-coaster season, winning their first seven games before dropping seven of the next nine. They righted themselves and have won their last nine games capped by a Big Ten tournament title.
No. 2 Notre Dame plays No. 15 Utah and No. 7 Arizona State meets No. 10 Temple. Rounding out that part of the bracket, No. 3 Miami plays No. 14 Gardner-Webb and No. 6 Oklahoma plays No. 11 James Madison. The Sooners have made the Final Four the last two seasons.
In the Spokane region, No. 8 Texas Tech takes on No. 9 St. John’s. Fifth-seeded North Carolina plays No. 12 Fresno State, and No. 4 Kentucky faces No. 13 Hampton.
No. 2 Xavier plays No. 15 South Dakota State, and No. 7 Louisville faces No. 10 Vanderbilt. Xavier lost to Stanford last season in the regional finals when the Musketeers missed two layups with the clock running down and the Cardinal hit a shot at the buzzer. No. 6 Iowa plays 11th-seeded Gonzaga while No. 3 UCLA takes on No. 14 Montana.
In the Philadelphia region, No. 8 Kansas State plays Purdue; fifth-seeded Georgetown takes on No. 12 Princeton; and No. 4 Maryland faces No. 13 Saint Francis, Pa. No. 2 Duke hosts 15th-ranked Tennessee-Martin, and No. 7 Iowa State plays 10th-seeded Marist. Finally, No. 6 Penn State hosts No. 11 Dayton and third-seeded DePaul faces No. 14 Navy.