- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

Tennessee extended its run Monday as the only team to make every NCAA tournament, earning its lowest seed ever, No. 5, guaranteeing a tough road to a third consecutive title.

The Lady Vols will play Ball State in their opener.

“I’m really not surprised,” coach Pat Summitt said during the ESPN broadcast. “I thought we were probably a five seed.”

Tennessee (22-10) had only been seeded fourth once _ in 1986. The team also took 10 losses into the tournament in 1997, grabbing a No. 3 seed and winning the title.

The Lady Vols have been a fixture atop the bracket since the first NCAA tournament in 1982. They’ve earned a top seed 19 times, a No. 2 seed four times and No. 3 seed three times. Tennessee has advanced to the regional semis every season.

Looming in the Berkeley regional will be No. 1 seed Duke. The Blue Devils play Austin Peay in the first round at Michigan State _ coach Joanne P. McCallie’s former school. She could meet up with the Spartans in the second round if they beat Middle Tennessee State.

Stanford received the No. 2 seed in Berkeley and will meet UC Santa Barbara in the Cardinal’s opener.

In other games, it’s Stanford vs. UC Santa Barbara; Ohio State vs. Sacred Heart; Iowa State vs. East Tennessee State; Texas vs. Mississippi State; DePaul vs. San Diego State; and Middle Tennessee State vs. Michigan State.

Joining Duke as No. 1 seeds are Maryland in Raleigh and Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

Connecticut, trying to achieve the fifth perfect season in NCAA history, was expected to be announced as the No. 1 overall seed later Monday.

Nine teams have entered the NCAA tournament unbeaten, and only four have emerged unscathed. UConn was the last in 2002.

The field went back to 16 first and second round sites for the first time since 2004, when it set an attendance record. The Final Four is scheduled for the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 5 and 7.

Maryland earned its top seed after winning the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament titles. The Terps (28-4), who won the national title in 2006, will face Ivy League champion Dartmouth on Sunday at home in the opening round.

Big 12 champion Baylor earned the No. 2 seed in Raleigh and will play UT-San Antonio. In other games: Louisville vs. Liberty; Vanderbilt vs. W. Carolina; Kansas State vs. Drexel; LSU vs. Green Bay; South Dakota State vs. TCU; Villanova vs. Utah.

Despite losing in the Big 12 semifinals, the Oklahoma Sooners earned the No. 1 seed in the Oklahoma City region. Senior center Courtney Paris, who set an NCAA record with 112 straight double-doubles, has guaranteed she will pay back her scholarship if she doesn’t lead the Sooners to a title.

That path to the championship for the Sooners begins Sunday, when the team opens against Southwestern champion Prairie View A&M; in Iowa City. Oklahoma could face host Iowa in the second round if the Hawkeyes can beat Georgia Tech.

In the other half of the region Auburn earned the second seed and will face Patriot League champion Lehigh, making its first appearance since 1997, in the opening round. The Tigers will travel up to Piscataway, N.J., where Rutgers faces tournament newcomer Virginia Commonwealth.

In other games in the Oklahoma City region, it’s North Carolina vs. UCF; Pittsburgh vs. Montana; Xavier vs. Gonzaga; Purdue vs. Charlotte; and Iowa vs. Georgia Tech.

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