washingtonpost.com  > Sports > Leagues and Sports > College Basketball - Women > NCAA Women's Tournament
NCAA Women

Usual No. 1 Seeds, but U-Conn. Is 2

Associated Press
Monday, March 15, 2004; Page F06

For once, Connecticut did not quite measure up with the best in women's basketball.

Tennessee earned the top overall seed in the NCAA women's tournament yesterday and will play in the Midwest Regional. Duke (Mideast), Penn State (East) and Texas (West) received the other No. 1 seeds.

Coach Pat Summitt's 6-time national champion Volunteers earned their 15th No. 1 seed in 17 years. (Mark Humphrey -- AP)

And what of Connecticut, winner of the last two NCAA championships and three of the last four? No. 2 in the East.

"We didn't win enough games, I guess," Coach Geno Auriemma said.

Tennessee and Duke, the top-ranked team in the Associated Press poll, had been considered locks to be seeded No. 1. Penn State and Texas edged Purdue and Connecticut for the two other spots.

"It was exciting this year because we had more teams to consider for number ones," said Cheryl Marra, who chairs the selection committee. "For the first time we had a larger pool, which is exciting for the game, but made it very difficult for the committee."

In the end, Marra said Connecticut could not match the credentials of the four who were seeded No. 1. The Huskies (25-4) had been in line for a No. 1 until losing to Villanova in their next-to-last regular season game and then getting upset by Boston College in the semifinals of the Big East tournament.

Duke was ranked second among the No. 1 seeds, followed by Penn State and Texas. Purdue was the top No. 2, with Connecticut next.

This is the first time that U-Conn. has not been a No. 1 seed since 1998, when as a No. 2 it was upset by North Carolina State in the East Region final.

"Taking a look at [Connecticut's] full body of work, when you put it up to the other schools being considered, the other four we believe had a better overall performance this year," said Marra, senior associate athletic director at Wisconsin.

Tennessee (26-3) received its 15th No. 1 seed in 17 years after winning the Southeastern Conference regular season championship at 14-0 and playing the nation's toughest schedule. The Lady Vols have 18 victories over teams that made the NCAA tournament, including a 72-69 win at top-ranked Duke.

Duke (27-3) won the ACC regular season and tournament championships, while Texas (28-4) shared the Big 12 title with Kansas State and finished second in the conference tournament. The Longhorns also went 2-1 against the other No. 1 seeds, beating Duke and Tennessee and losing to Penn State.

Penn State (25-5) lost to Purdue in the championship game of the Big Ten tournament, but beat the Boilermakers twice during the season and played a challenging schedule that included a 20-point win over Texas.

Now the Lady Lions face a challenging road to get to the Final Four in New Orleans. They could play eighth-seeded Virginia Tech on Tech's home court in the second round and have a potential meeting with Connecticut at Hartford Civic Center in the regional final.

Though Marra said Hartford "is not their home," the Huskies play several games a year there and are 37-2 at the Civic Center since the 1996-97 season.

"That's how the games are set up at this time," Penn State Coach Rene Portland said. "I've got to believe for the last few years people thought that way when they had to come to State College."

It was a banner year for the Big East, which got a record-tying eight teams in the NCAA tournament. U-Conn. will be joined by Boston College, Miami, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Villanova, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

Every Big East team except West Virginia had an RPI in the top 30, Marra said, and West Virginia had four victories against teams among the top 50 in the RPI.

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.

Tennessee, which has overcome the midseason loss of starting point guard Loree Moore to a knee injury, will open the tournament on the road for the first time ever. The Lady Vols will play Colgate in Chattanooga on Saturday.

That's of no concern to Summitt.

"We've been everywhere," she said. "I don't know [if] we've ever had a team better prepared at this time of the season to hit the road."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company