If that NCAA women’s tournament bracket looks familiar, it should.
Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Stanford all earned No. 1 seeds when the field was announced Monday night.
Those four schools are in the top slots for the second straight year _ the first time that’s ever happened in NCAA tournament history.
The similarity to 2012 doesn’t stop there. Three of the No. 2 seeds are repeaters from last year also.
“We probably all knew who the No. 1 seeds were,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.
Unlike the men’s side, where it was a topsy-turvy season with major upsets seemingly every week, women’s basketball hasn’t had the same parity. The top six teams in the final Associated Press poll only had two losses outside of each other, the fewest by far since writers began voting for the AP’s No. 1 in the 1994-95 season.
“To think that the rest of the field is going to catch up to Baylor or Notre Dame or the top four or five teams in the country this year is probably unrealistic,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “But I think all those teams between five and 12 are way better than they’ve ever been.”
The women’s basketball madness gets started Saturday _ the first step en route to the Final Four, which begins April 7 in New Orleans.
Mulkey hopes to make it there with her Lady Bears. For the NCAA selection show, the Louisiana native wore a black shirt featuring a bedazzled fleur-de-lis along with New Orleans in print.
“I can’t hide the fact that I want to go New Orleans pretty bad,” Mulkey said.
Last season, Baylor was trying to becoming the first team to win 40 games in a season. Now the Lady Bears are just focused on becoming the fourth team to win consecutive national championships, joining Tennessee, UConn and Southern California.
“Nothing’s different this year,” Griner said. “Our goal is to win the six games and win the national championship.”
Standing in the way could be Tennessee. The Lady Vols, who have made every NCAA tournament since it began in 1982, are the No. 2 seed in Baylor’s region. This will be the first time that coach Pat Summitt won’t be on the sidelines. Summitt stepped down after last season because she had been afflicted with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
“The whole season has been different, and at times, it’s hard,” said longtime assistant Holly Warlick, who took over this season and guided the Lady Vols to an SEC regular season title. “Other times, it’s OK. But I still have her there. She’s still around these young ladies. She’s still there in spirit and everything else, and she’s still a vital part of this team.”
While Tennessee set the standard in women’s basketball, Stanford has been one of the most dominant teams lately.