Friday, March 19, 2010

Your NCAA Tournament guide

Having trouble filling out you're NCAA women's tournament bracket? Here's a primer on the 32 first-round matchups, with our picks in bold at the end of each one. You're on your own for successive rounds. Have some fun with it - we know we did.

P.S. - A word to the wise: our men's tournament bracket is already shot to pieces. Thanks for nothing, Georgetown.



No. 1 UConn (33-0) vs. No. 16 Southern (23-8)

Don't feel bad for the Jaguars. In addition to an all-expenses-paid trip to beautiful Norfolk, years from now Jamie Floyd and her teammates will be able to tell their children about they time they scored a few points against the most dominant team ever. Uh, Southern's players will score a few points, won't they? UConn

No. 8 Temple (24-8) vs. No. 9 James Madison (26-6)
After scouting this contest, UConn's Geno Auriemma becomes the 73rd head coach from a BCS conference to walk away from a Dawn Evans performance shaking his head and muttering, "Why didn't we recruit that kid?" By the way, there are 73 BCS schools. James Madison

Ames, Iowa
No. 5 Virginia (21-9) vs. No. 12 Wisconsin-Green Bay (27-4)
The Cavaliers have vowed to make sure Monica Wright doesn't have to carry the whole load. Problem is, they made that same vow before the ACC Tournament, and we all know how that turned out. So while we're rooting for Virginia, we'll believe it when we see it. Wisconsin-Green Bay

No. 4 Iowa State (23-7) vs. No. 13 Lehigh (29-3)
Game will be played at Iowa State's Hilton Coliseum where the Cyclones average attendance is 9,663. A typical Mountain Hawks gate is 834. The entire enrollment of Lehigh University is 6,858. Iowa State

Tallahassee, Fla.
No. 6 St. John's (24-6) vs. No. 11 Princeton (26-2)
The Tigers enter on a 21-game winning streak; the Red Storm lost by "only" 14 at UConn. Advantage: St. John's. But don't sleep on Tigers freshman Niveen Rasheed. Girl can really ball.
Tiger tale: Niveen, the Palestinian-American shooting guard, and Laura Polansky, the Jewish point guard, are the best of friends - and it breaks them up in laughter than anyone would find that strange.

No. 3 Florida State (26-5) vs. No. 14 Louisiana Tech (23-8)
The last time the Lady Techsters were in the NCAA Tournament, in 2006, they were eliminated 80-71 by Florida State. The more things change.... Florida State
Seminole moment: For some reason, there was a lot of back-and-forth during the preseason about the merits of the Seminoles' sexy team website. Then the games started, and the Seminoles started kicking all kinds of butt on the court. And we don't hear much bitching about what kind of dresses they're wearing any more.

No. 7 Mississippi State (19-12) vs. No. 10 Middle Tennessee State (25-5)
MTSU's Alysha Clark, the Elena Delle Donne of the Sun Belt, will be bidding for her fourth straight 40-point game, and the high-scoring Raiders also start three other 1,000-point career scorers. For pure entertainment value, we'd love it if the Lady Bulldogs engaged these guys in a track meet. But we suspect Mississippi State is too smart for that. Mississippi State.
Bulldog bullet: It's now or never for both squads as each team starts four seniors.

No. 2 Ohio State (30-4) vs. No. 15 St. Francis (17-12)
If women's college basketball had more players like flashy point guard Samantha Prahalis, the sport would be a lot more fun to watch. More annoying to opponents and purists, too, but that's part of the fun, right? Anyway, Prahalis will dribble circles around these Terriers. Ohio State
Buckeye buzz: Prahalis' boyfriend is Ohio State men's basketball star Evan Turner, the soon-to-be national player of the year.

Knoxville, Tenn.
No. 1 Tennessee (30-2) vs. No. 16 Austin Peay (15-17)
The few Lady Govs fans sprinkled among the Lady Vols faithful at Thompson-Boling Arena won't need to bother delivering their infamous "Let's Go Peay!" chant. Their players might do it right there on the court once they get a taste of the Lady Vols' pressure. Tennessee
Peay shooters: The Lady Govs are just the eighth team ever to make the NCAA women's field with a losing record.

No. 8 Dayton (24-7) vs. No. 9 TCU (22-8)
The Horned Frogs were embarrassed in last season's NCAA first round as they got routed 90-55 by South Dakota State. We expect them to handle themselves much better this time around against a Dayton club getting its first real taste of life in the NCAAs. TCU
TCU tidbit: The Horned Frogs' best player, Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Helena Sverrisdottir, joined the Iceland National Team at age 14.

Berkeley, Calif.
No. 5 Georgetown (25-6) vs. No. 12 Marist (26-7)
We love what Suffolk's own Sugar Rogers has done for the Hoyas, but Marist is one of the most disciplined and battle-tested teams in this field. The seeding committee did Georgetown no favors with this matchup. Marist

No. 4 Baylor (23-9) vs. No. 13 Fresno State (27-6)
Brittney Griner will bring plenty of punch to the Baylor attack. Sorry about that. We mean, she'll take the fight to Fresno...oops, did it again. How 'bout if Griner gets a dunk, it'll be a real knockout blow to the....Cut it out! Baylor

Austin, Texas
No. 6 Texas (22-10) vs. No. 11 San Diego State (21-10)
The draw sets up nicely for the Longhorns - two games at home and then (most likely) an emotional showdown with Duke - which was formerly led by current Texas coach Gail Goestenkors - in the Sweet 16. The Longhorns should survive Step One - as long as they don't get caught peeking ahead. Texas
Texas toast
: Last season, San Diego State made its national breakthrough with a home triumph over then-No. 4 Texas. "I'll bet you they remember that game, and I know we sure do," SDSU coach Beth Burns said.

No. 3 West Virginia (28-5) vs. No. 14 Lamar (26-7)
Mountaineers coach Mike Carey is none-too-pleased about the second-round prospect of playing lower-seeded Texas on the Longhorns' home court. It's a legitimate beef, if they focus on that too much, Lamar could make it a non-issue. West Virginia
Lamar report: The Cardinals are led by former Oklahoma point guard Jenna Plumley, the Southland Conference Player of the Year who left the Sooners shortly after being arrested for shoplifting. Plumley led Lamar in scoring, 3-point shooting and assists - and no, she did not lead the Cardinals in steals.

Durham, N.C.
No. 7 LSU (20-9) vs. No. 10 Hartford (27-4)
Don't expect a lot of offensive fireworks here - Hartford ranks third in the country in scoring defense; LSU checks in at No. 6. But the Hawks' defense will be missing a key component - America East Defensive Player of the Year Erica Beverly tore an ACL during the conference tournament semifinals and is done for the season. LSU
Tiger talk: In 1999, Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor drafted a point guard named Jen Rizzotti. Today Chancellor coaches LSU while Rizzotti coaches Hartford.

No. 2 Duke (27-5) vs. No. 15 Hampton (20-11)
A team from the MEAC has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1983, and if the league's champion keep getting draws like this, that streak won't end any time soon. Duke has won 12 straight NCAA Tournament games at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke

Stanford, Calif.
No. 1 Stanford (31-1) vs. No. 16 UC Riverside (17-15)
Sure, the Highlanders are about to be chewed up and spit out by the powerful Cardinal. But if there's any team that's just happy to be here, it's these guys. After all, on Jan. 14, UC Riverside's record was 3-12. Stanford
Cardinal cut
: In its last 53 games, Stanford is 0-2 against UConn and 51-0 against everyone else.

No. 8 Iowa (19-13) vs. No. 9 Rutgers (19-14)
With Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer pitted against her former school, expect lots of emotion - until the game starts. The players weren't around when Stringer was roaming the sidelines at Iowa, and they'll be out to make their own history. Rutgers

Tempe, Ariz.
No. 5 Georgia (23-8) vs. No. 12 Tulane (26-6)
Georgia's record looks pretty impressive until you realize the Lady Bulldogs started out 16-0. One more reason Georgia won't overlook Tulane - the Lady Bulldogs lost in the first round of this tournament last year, to a No. 11 seed. Georgia
Georgia report: The Lady Bulldogs are making their 16th straight NCAA appearance, and coach Andy Landers has been to the tournament 27 times, second only to Tennessee's Pat Summit (29).

No. 4 Oklahoma State (23-10) vs. No. 13 Chattanooga (24-8)
As Andrea Riley goes, so go the Cowgirls. And for this game at least, Riley will be gone - she's serving a one-game suspension for taking a whack at an LSU player in an NCAA Tournament game two years ago (Oklahoma State didn't make the NCAA field last season). Chattanooga

No. 6 Vanderbilt (22-10) vs. No. 11 DePaul (21-11)
Run-and-gun (DePaul) meets spread-the-floor-and-shoot-3s (Vandy). On a hunch, we're going to lean towards the athleticism. DePaul

No. 3 Xavier (27-3) vs. No. 14 East Tennessee State (23-8)
In Ta'Shia Phillips and Amber Harris, the Musketeers have the most imposing frontcourt this side of Stanford. Of course, you can't win with just bigs alone. That is, unless you're at home against a 14 seed like ETSU. Xavier

No. 7 Gonzaga (27-4) vs. No. 10 North Carolina (19-11)
Sometimes, the records don't tell us much about the matchup. This is one of the times they do. Full credit to the Tar Heels for their stunning upset of Duke a couple of weeks ago. But outside of that, they really haven't been a very good team for about two months now. Gonzaga

No. 2 Texas A&M (25-7) vs. No. 15 Portland State (18-14)
They don't press like A&M in the Big Sky Conference. And the cool thing about this year's A&M team is that it's not just about defense. Coach Gary Blair calls this the best offensive team he's coached. Texas A&M

No. 1 Nebraska (30-1) vs. No. 16 Northern Iowa (17-15)
UNI freshman Mercedees Morgan and Nebraska senior Yvonne Turner both played at Bellevue East High in Omaha, Neb. And that, my friends, is about all these two teams have in common. Nebraska

No. 8 UCLA (24-8) vs. No. 9 North Carolina State (20-13)
In a one-on-one game pitting two ex-Lady Vols players, we'll take UCLA's Nikki Caldwell over N.C. State's Kelly Harper. Since those two are out of eligibility, we'll settle for Caldwell's Bruins over Harper's Wolfpack. UCLA

No. 5 Michigan State (22-9) vs. No. 12 Bowling Green (27-6)
Teams from the Mid-American Conference love to stick it to opponents from the high-and-mighty Big Ten, and the Falcons will get their chance on a neutral court. Bowling Green

No. 4 Kentucky (25-7) vs. No. 13 Liberty (27-5)
That the Lady Flames have 27 wins is remarkable considering the turnover from last season's NCAA Tournament team. But the Lady Flames have been unable to contain the few elite teams on their schedule, and this Kentucky bunch is probably the best one they've played all year. Kentucky.
Liberty leak: Lady Flames coach Carey Green likened Kentucky's Victoria Dunlap, the SEC Player of the Year, to ex-UNC great Marion Jones (the pre-BALCO version). "Dunlap is that type of athlete," Green said. "She's exceptional."

Norman, Okla.
No. 6 Georgia Tech (23-9) vs. No. 11 Arkansas-Little Rock (26-6)
Classic NCAA matchup featuring a team that dominated a mid-major conference (UALR won 21 straight before dropping the Sun Belt Conference title in overtime) against a major-conference also-ran. We're rooting for the little guy; wish we had enough guts to pick 'em. Georgia Tech

No. 3 Oklahoma (23-10) vs. No. 14 South Dakota State (22-10)
The Jackrabbits are personal favorites, but that seed is a pretty accurate reflection of where they stand in this tournament's pecking order. Besides, the Sooners could have about 10,000 fans cheering them on at their Noble Center. Oklahoma

South Bend, Ind.
No. 7 Wisconsin (21-10) vs. No. 10 Vermont (26-6)
The Catamounts are 0-5 in NCAA Tournament play but rarely get this good of a look at a competitive matchup - last year they were seeded 16th and opened against UConn. We think they'll capitalize. Vermont

No. 2 Notre Dame (27-5) vs. 15 Cleveland State (19-13)
President Obama believes the Fighting Irish will make it all the way to the Final Four. That pick might cost him a few votes in Cleveland - that is, until this game is over and they see what the prez was getting at. Notre Dame

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