Tennessee performed over the long haul, Vanderbilt at the end.
Ultimately, the Commodores won out.
Vanderbilt edged conference rival Tennessee for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA women's basketball tournament Sunday and joined Connecticut, Duke and Oklahoma at the top of the brackets.
Top-ranked Connecticut (33-0) is the overwhelming favorite in the tournament and was the No. 1 seed in the Mideast Regional. The Huskies will begin their quest for a third national championship at home against St. Francis, champion of the Northeast Conference.
Duke was the No. 1 seed in the East, Vanderbilt in the Midwest and Oklahoma in the West.
Vanderbilt was the surprise of the top four. The Commodores (27-6) finished three games behind regular-season champion Tennessee (25-4) in the Southeastern Conference standings, but split two late games with the Lady Vols and won the conference tournament.
"They've always said the last 10 games are really important, and I've heard that over and over and over again," Vanderbilt coach Jim Foster said. "It's reinforcing something that they're saying, the reality of, 'We say it, we mean it.'
"I'm not surprised by it."
Tennessee lost to LSU in the semifinals of the SEC tournament and also had a late-season loss to Texas. The Lady Vols were the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, and that puzzled coach Pat Summitt as much as not being a No. 1.
Why, she asked, would you put the two top teams from the SEC in the same regional?
"I thought we had earned (a No. 1) with the schedule we played and our RPI number one the country and we only lost one conference game in the SEC which had eight teams get in the tournament," Summitt said.
"So the conference tournament it appears, not only in our bracket but all brackets, really became more of a factor than I had anticipated."
The three other No. 1 seeds all won their conference tournaments and regular-season titles.
It's only the second time in the last 15 years that Tennessee, a six-time national champion, has not been a No. 1 seed. The Lady Vols were seeded third in 1997 and won the national championship.
"The committee came down to how teams did at the very end and we just really felt that Vanderbilt deserved that number one," said Maryalyce Jeremiah, who chairs the committee.
As for putting Tennessee and Vanderbilt in the same region, Jeremiah said it was done to remain true to the seeds. Vanderbilt ranked fourth among the No. 1 seeds, Tennessee was first among the No. 2-seeded teams.
"We would have compromised Tennessee's seed in order to move them," Jeremiah said. "If we would have moved them to another region, it theoretically would have made them play someone with a higher seed."