UConn top women's seed NCAA Men Final Four
NCAA Women Final Four
Connecticut's path to another perfect season could include a renewal of the most heated rivalry in women's college basketball.
The undefeated Huskies earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA women's basketball tournament last night and will open against Southern in Norfolk, Va.
Geno Auriemma's Huskies have won an NCAA record 72 straight games, but none of them has come against Pat Summitt's Tennessee Lady Vols. The two pre-eminent teams in the sport broke off their annual matchup in 2007 in a testy split.
If both come through their regions, UConn and Tennessee could meet again in the national semifinals at San Antonio
"I'm not surprised that they would line us up with Connecticut if we both come out," said Summitt, whose team earned a record 20th No. 1 seed. "They want to see that matchup. We're a long way from thinking about that matchup."
Auriemma isn't focusing on that game — yet.
"I would venture to say that after that game is over, if we are fortunate enough to win it, I think there will be a lot of coaches and players on our team that will be smiling a little bit," Auriemma said.
Ten teams have entered the NCAA tournament unbeaten; only five have emerged victorious. UConn and Auriemma have done it three times, including last season.
Stanford and Nebraska earned the other No. 1 seeds.
The Cardinal, the last team to beat Connecticut, earned their first No. 1 seed since 1998. Tennessee earned the No. 1 seed a year after getting bounced from the tournament in the first round. And Nebraska has its first No. 1 seed in school history after winning its first 30 games this season. The Cornhuskers lost their only game of the season in the Big 12 tournament semifinals.
"We evaluated Nebraska's resume, and even though they lost in the Big 12 tournament we felt that it was important to keep them on that first line," NCAA selection committee chair Jane Meyer said.
UConn (33-0) is looking to become the fifth team to win consecutive titles. Tennessee last did it in 2007 and 2008.
ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF, WINTHROP IN OPENER
Boulder. Denver. El Paso. Akron. Tempe. Ann Arbor. Atlanta. Stillwater. Columbia. Eugene.
And Manhattan — as in Kansas, not New York.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff went on a brutal barnstorming tour to open the season. The Golden Lions visited 10 states in two months, seeing everything there is to see from the Great Lakes to the West Coast and the Deep South.
And, where did it get them? Nowhere, really.
When the calendar changed, the Golden Lions were 0-11 and seemed to have about as much direction as a broken compass.
They eventually found their way and are finishing in the one place they've never been — the NCAA tournament.
The Golden Lions (17-15) play Winthrop (19-13) in the opening round tonight at the University of Dayton Arena in Ohio, the annual game between the tournament's two lowest seeds. The winner plays Duke, the No. 1 seed in the South Regional, on Friday in Jacksonville, Fla. — one of the few places the Golden Lions missed on the opening jaunt that nearly did them in.
"It was tough, but the experience and being able to be in front of those crowds actually built us up for our tournament and conference schedule," guard Terrence Calvin said. "It made us a better team in the long run."
The Golden Lions hit the road on Nov. 13 to play at Colorado. The next few weeks quickly became a blur of bad outcomes — Denver, Texas-El Paso, Akron, Arizona State, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Missouri, Kansas State. The Golden Lions rarely got blown out, but couldn't get that win.
They never got above .500 until the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament in Louisiana, which ended with a 50-38 win over Texas Southern in front of a large contingent of Arkansas-Pine Bluff fans.
Winthrop knows about turnarounds, too.
The Eagles won seven Big South championships under Gregg Marshall, who left for Wichita State. Assistant Randy Peele got the job and got Winthrop to the NCAA tournament again in 2008, but the Eagles got off to a 1-10 start last season and never recovered, sliding to fifth in the league.
When they got off to a 5-9 start this season, there were some rumblings about the direction of the program.
Winthrop won 14 of its last 18 games, including the conference tournament title, to reach the NCAA tournament for the ninth time since 1999. The Eagles have one NCAA tournament victory, a 74-64 win over Notre Dame in 2007.
"We're playing a team that's a lot like us," Peele said.