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Archive for Monday, March 14, 2005

Spartan women claim top seed

March 14, 2005

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Michigan State first muscled its way through the Big Ten Conference. Then the Spartans pushed aside some of the nation's biggest names to get the program's first No. 1 seed in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.

Southeastern Conference powers LSU and Tennessee also received No. 1 seeds, as did ACC champion North Carolina on Sunday. Despite jumping to No. 1 in the Associated Press poll in the last week of the season, Stanford only was a No. 2 seed in the Kansas City Regional opposite Michigan State.

Never before seeded higher than fourth, Michigan State was placed at the top of the bracket in Kansas City and will take a 12-game winning streak into a first-round game against Alcorn State on Saturday at Minneapolis.

The Spartans (28-3) can't wait.

"We're just kind of ready to play a game, to be honest," said Michigan State coach Joanne P. McCallie, wearing a wide grin with her jubilant team behind her. "We've had a week off, and these girls are getting grumpy."

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer looked defiant when she saw the bracket. The Cardinal, who climbed to the top of the poll just last week, are the first No. 1-ranked team not to earn a top tournament seed since Texas in 1984.

"The numbers are irrelevant," VanDerveer said. "I believe in our team. I love coaching this team, and I want to play six more games. There's no sense overanalyzing this thing."

LSU (29-2) received the top seed overall and was placed in the Chattanooga Regional. The other No. 1s in order were Tennessee (Philadelphia), Michigan State and North Carolina (Tempe).

The women's tournament scrapped the East, Mideast, Midwest and West designations for regionals this year and replaced them with the name of the city playing host to the regional semifinals and finals.

Baylor was the top No. 2 seed and was put in the Tempe Regional opposite North Carolina. Stanford was ranked as just the sixth team overall despite winning the Pac-10 regular-season and tournament championships. The Cardinal (29-2) have won 20 straight since a 62-58 loss Dec. 29 at Oregon. Their only other loss was by three points at Tennessee.

Picking those final two No. 1 seeds from among North Carolina, Michigan State, Stanford and Baylor wasn't easy, said Lynn Parkes, who chairs the selection committee.

"There was just not much that really separated them, other than the fact that Stanford and Baylor both had losses out of the Top 50," said Parkes, associate athletic director at Memphis.

"We just felt like Michigan State and North Carolina, given the fact both won conference tournaments and the regular season and the success they had in the Top 25, that they were worth those (last) two seeds."

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