Connecticut’s path to a third straight national championship could include a renewal of the most heated rivalry in women’s college basketball.
For Geno Auriemma to match Tennessee coach Pat Summitt with an eighth national championship he might have to go through her Lady Vols, who earned the top seed in the Dayton region. The Huskies earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament Monday night.
If both come through their regions, UConn and Tennessee could meet again in the national semifinals at Indianapolis.
Baylor and Stanford were the other two No. 1 seeds. It was the second straight No. 1 seed for the Cardinal, who fell to UConn in the title game last season.
“I think if it’s a four-horse race, there are some dark horses,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “We’re not a clear-cut favorite. Tennessee’s not a clear-cut favorite; Baylor’s not; and UConn’s not.”
First up for UConn is Hartford, which won the America East title, and is coached by former Huskies star Jen Rizzotti. The two teams have played each other over the last six years but didn’t meet this season. Hartford is winless in 11 meetings against UConn.
The Lady Bears, led by sophomore center Brittney Griner, will face No. 16 Prairie View in their opener on Sunday in the Dallas region.
If the seeds hold, Baylor could face No. 2 Texas A&M; for the fourth time this season.
“I can’t ever use the word shocked with the NCAA anymore,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “I don’t think anybody wants to see the same teams that you see from your conference.”
Stanford, which opens against UC Davis, could also face a team for the fourth time this season — UCLA. The Cardinal swept the No. 3 seed in Spokane three times, but the Bruins had a late lead in the Pac-10 title game on Saturday.
“I didn’t know UCLA would be in our bracket. Honestly, I’m shocked about that,” VanDerveer said.
Tennessee is making its 30th trip to the tournament. This time the Lady Vols will open up against No. 16 Stetson.
Summitt was focused on the team’s first-round opponent and not worried about a potential showdown with UConn in the Final Four.
“Well, we’re not even going to think about that,” she said. “It’s all about one game at a time and survive and advance.”
Indianapolis will host the Final Four on April 3 and 5.