UConn is back in its familiar position, even though there were some doubters when the season began.
The Huskies are the top overall seed in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament and No. 1 seed in the Bridgeport Regional.
The graduation losses of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck and the toughest non-conference schedule in the country were supposed to result in a loss or two this season for the young and unproven Huskies. Instead, UConn rolls into the tournament with a 32-0 record, winners of 107 straight games.
Can any team derail the Huskies’ quest for a fifth straight national championship and 12th overall? We’ll find out when the tournament starts this weekend.
The Oklahoma City Regional is loaded. Top-seeded Baylor has the inside players (6-7 Kalani Brown, 6-4 Beatrice Mompremier and 6-4 Lauren Cox) to give any opponent problems. Nina Davis, Alexis Jones and Alexis Prince are double-digit scorers, giving Baylor a formidable mix of talent. Washington made a surprising run to last season’s Final Four. Senior guard Kelsey Plum leads the nation in scoring at 31.7 points per game. The Huskies, the No. 3 seed, likely cost themselves a higher seed after an early loss to unranked Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament. The regional also includes No. 2 seed Mississippi State, No. 4 seed Louisville and No. 5 seed Tennessee. DePaul (No. 7 seed), Gonzaga (No. 11 seed) and Dayton (No. 12 seed) prove how deep this regional is.
Best first-round matchup
Stockton Regional: No. 9 Michigan State vs. No. 8 Arizona State: This should be a great game matching two sensational seniors. Sun Devils forward Sophie Brunner is averaging 13.5 points and 7.4 rebounds. Spartans guard Tori Jankoska is having a fabulous season, averaging 22.5 points. The winner would likely play No. 1 seed South Carolina.
Best potential second-round matchup
Bridgeport Regional: No. 6 West Virginia vs. No. 3 Maryland: West Virginia comes into the tournament on a roll and Tynice Martin is a big-time player. The Terps, ranked in the top 5 of both the latest AP and USA Today polls, received a surprising No. 3 seed. Maryland may use that snub as extra motivation in what would be a home game in College Park.
Best potential Sweet 16 matchup
Stockton Regional: No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 2 Oregon State: Florida State nearly beat UConn back in November, losing 78-76. Seminoles senior guard Leticia Romero is a difference-maker. Oregon State, led by senior guard Sydney Wiese, went 16-2 in the very tough Pac-12 during the regular season and has the experience of last season’s Final Four trip.
Best potential Elite Eight matchup
Lexington Regional: No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 1 Notre Dame: The Irish, the ACC champs, have the players capable of winning a national title with senior guard Lindsay Allen and junior forward Brianna Turner. Stanford can grind out wins with its tough defense, which is exactly what happened in the Pac-12 Tournament title game win over Oregon State.
No surprise, it’s UConn. Sophomore guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (21 points per game), sophomore forward Napheesa Collier (20.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game) and do-everything junior forward Gabby Williams (13.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game) give UConn the best trio in the country. Samuelson is coming off a 40-point game, including going 10-for-10 from three-point range, in the American Athletic Conference title game. Collier has led UConn in scoring in eight of its last 12 games. UConn is also well tested with non-conference wins over Florida State, Baylor, DePaul, Texas, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Maryland and South Carolina.