March 16, 2003
By CHUCK SCHOFFNER
AP Sports Writer
LSU joined regulars Connecticut, Tennessee and Duke as No. 1 seeds Sunday in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, which might have some suspense now that UConn actually lost a game.
It’s the first No. 1 for LSU (27-3), which beat Tennessee in the finals of the Southeastern Conference tournament and tops the bracket in the West Regional.
Connecticut (31-1), the defending national champion, was made the top seed in the East, Tennessee (28-4) in the Mideast and Duke (31-1) in the Midwest.
UConn, a No. 1 seed for the ninth time in 10 years, remains the favorite for the national title, though the Huskies no longer are trying to extend a long winning streak.
Their 52-48 loss to Villanova in the Big East tournament finals broke a 70-game streak that was the longest in NCAA women’s history, showed that UConn was vulnerable on a given night and gave hope to others.
“I think this is probably the most exciting year of all,” Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. “Because I think so many teams can get to the Final Four and win the national title. It’s wide open.”
Connecticut, which also won national titles in 1995 and 2000, opens at home Sunday against Boston University, which made the NCAA tournament for the first time and as a reward gets a team stinging from its first loss since the 2001 Final Four.
The Huskies would advance to the East Regional in Dayton if they win their first two games.
Tennessee, a top seed for the 14th time in 16 years, could play its way to the Final Four in Atlanta without leaving home. The Lady Vols are hosting first- and second-round games and also have the Mideast Regional on their court. They open against Alabama State on Saturday.
Duke and LSU have a much more challenging road to the Final Four because neither will play at home in the tournament and both could play games on the opponent’s home court.
Duke, a No. 1 seed for the third straight year, plays Georgia State in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday and also would play the second round in Raleigh.
The Blue Devils then would head to the Pit at New Mexico for the Midwest Regional. New Mexico is the No. 6 seed in that regional and is hosting first- and second-round games.
LSU would advance to the West Regional at Stanford if it survives the first two rounds and might have to play the third-seeded Cardinal in the regional finals. LSU goes to Eugene, Ore., for its subregional and plays Southwest Texas State in the first round Saturday.
Previously, first- and second-round games were played on the courts of the 16 highest seeds. The sites for those games this year were chosen last summer, with the agreement that the host teams would be placed there if they made the tournament.
Duke and LSU will play at the only two sites that don’t have a home team – North Carolina State and Oregon.
Subregionals will be played Saturday and Monday at Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico, Old Dominion, Oregon, Purdue, Stanford and Tennessee.
The other first- and second-round games are Sunday and Tuesday at Cincinnati, Connecticut, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, North Carolina State, Oklahoma, Penn State and Texas Tech.
The Mideast and Midwest regionals are March 29 and 31, with the East and West to be played March 30 and April 1. The Final Four is April 6 and 8 at the Georgia Dome.
Pairings for the national semifinals are Mideast vs. Midwest and East vs. West. That sets up the possibility of Connecticut meeting Duke or Tennessee for the national championship. The Huskies defeated both this season.
LSU got the nod over Texas as the final No. 1 seed, mainly due to its SEC tournament victory over Tennessee, said Cheryl Marra, who chairs the selection committee.
“They played through their conference tournament and they beat another No. 1 seed,” Marra said.
Texas is the No. 2 seed in the West and its Big 12 rival, Texas Tech, was seeded second in the Midwest. Texas won the regular-season league title and beat Tech in the championship game of the conference tournament.
Villanova’s victory over Connecticut and a 25-5 record helped the Wildcats become the No. 2 seed in the Mideast. Big Ten tournament champion Purdue is seeded second in the East.
The SEC and Big East have the most teams in the tournament with seven each.
Along with LSU and Tennessee, the SEC has Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Besides Connecticut and Villanova, the Big East has Boston College, Miami, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Virginia Tech.
The Big Ten got six teams in, while Conference USA matched the more highly regarded Big 12 with five teams.
Virginia (16-13) became the first at-large team in the tournament with more than 12 losses. The Cavaliers won eight of their last 10, including an upset of North Carolina.
Miami (18-12) made it after finishing seventh in the Big East, an indication of the selection committee’s high regard for that league this season.
“They were the No. 3 conference in the country and clearly, night in and night out, they were playing a very, very tough schedule,” Marra said. “What was impressive is what the Big East teams did against the tough teams out there in the country.”