Originally created 03/15/04

Tennessee gets top overall seed in women's tourney

Tennessee earned the top overall seed in the NCAA women's basketball tournament Sunday, but two straight national championships weren't enough to get a No. 1 for Connecticut.

Coach Pat Summitt's Lady Vols, winners of a record six national titles, were made the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional. Also placed at the top of the brackets were Penn State (East), Duke (Mideast) and Texas (West).

Tennessee, Duke and Texas, all of whom won or shared their regular-season conference championships, had been considered locks to be seeded No. 1. Penn State ended up getting the other after playing a challenging schedule, and the Lady Lions face an equally challenging road to the Final Four in New Orleans.

They could end up facing second-seeded Connecticut in the East Regional final at the Hartford Civic Center, which is UConn's second home court. The Huskies are 37-2 at the Civic Center since the 1996-97 season.

This is the first time that UConn, which has won three of the last four NCAA titles, has not been a No. 1 seed since 1998, when as a No. 2 it was upset by North Carolina State in the East Regional final.

Connecticut had appeared to be in line for a No. 1 seed until losing to Villanova in its next-to-last regular-season game and then falling to Boston College in the semifinals of the Big East tournament.

But it was a banner year for the Big East overall because the league got a record-tying eight teams in the NCAA tournament. UConn will be joined by Boston College, Miami, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Villanova, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

The Southeastern Conference had eight teams in 1999 and 2002. Seven SEC teams made it this time: Tennessee, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi and Vanderbilt.

The Big 12 also had seven and the Big Ten six.

First-round games will be played next Saturday or Sunday at 16 sites. Those winners play March 22 or 23.

Two of the regionals are March 27 and 29: the East in Hartford and the West in Seattle. The Mideast in Norfolk, Va., and the Midwest in Norman, Okla., are March 28 and 30.

At the national semifinals April 4, it will be East vs. Mideast and Midwest against West. That creates the possibility of a Tennessee-Connecticut championship game for the second straight year and fourth time since 1995. UConn won the three previous meetings, including a 73-68 victory in Atlanta last year.

Texas is a No. 1 seed for the first time since 1988 and Penn State for the first time since 1994. Duke earned its fourth straight No. 1 seed but is still looking for its first national title. Tennessee, which has survived the midseason loss of starting point guard Loree Moore to a knee injury, is a No. 1 for the 15th time in 17 years.

"We're really pleased with our adjustment both offensively and defensively," Summitt said. "Obviously, we wish Loree was with us, but I think everyone has taken on a lot more responsibility since the injury occurred."

The other No. 2 seeds are Kansas State in the Mideast, Vanderbilt in the Midwest and Purdue in the West. Purdue beat Penn State in the finals of the Big Ten tournament but lost to the Lady Lions twice during the season and its schedule didn't quite measure up to Penn State's in the selection committee's view.

Tennessee (26-3), ranked fifth in the latest Associated Press poll, won the regular-season SEC title at 14-0, then stumbled in the conference tournament, losing to Georgia in overtime in the semifinals.

However, the Lady Vols played the nation's toughest schedule and have 18 victories over teams that made the NCAA tournament, including a 72-69 win at top-ranked Duke.

They play Patriot League champion Colgate at Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday.

Duke (27-3), likely to be No. 1 in the final poll Monday, hosts Northwestern State of the Southland Conference on Sunday. The Blue Devils won the both the regular-season and tournament championships in the ACC.

Texas (28-4) also opens at home, taking on Southern of the Southwestern Athletic Conference on Sunday. The Longhorns lost to Oklahoma in the finals of the Big 12 tournament after tying Kansas State for the regular-season championship.

Penn State (25-5) opens against Hampton, champion of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, in Blacksburg, Va., on March 21. UConn (25-4) begins defense of its national title against Ivy League champion Penn at Bridgeport, Conn., on Sunday.

Missouri was the only at-large team that made it with a losing conference record. The Tigers (17-12) tied for seventh in the Big 12 at 7-9.

Mississippi (17-13) got in after going 7-7 in the SEC, while Maryland (17-12) and North Carolina State (17-14) were given at-large berths after finishing 8-8 in the ACC.


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