Believe it or not, there is another road besides the one to Lexington. The NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament will culminate in Austin, Tex., on March 31. This year's round of 16 features five new faces -- Ohio State, Penn State, UCLA, Auburn and Western Kentucky -- but mostly old ones as 11 teams are repeaters from last year.
In tonight's East Regional semifinals in Norfolk, North Carolina State plays the host school, Old Dominion. N.C. State (25-5) defeated North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference final, then beat St. Joseph's in the first round of the East Regional, the Wolfpack's 14th straight victory. The second game is Ohio State (27-2) versus Penn State (28-4).
In the West Regional semifinals at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, two-time defending champion Southern California will play Long Beach State.
Behind all-America junior Cheryl Miller, USC defeated Tennessee, 72-61, in the 1984 title game. But the McGee twins, Pam and Paula, who were so instrumental in the Trojans' success, graduated and left quite a void. Southern Cal (21-8) is 15th in the latest poll and has been out of the top 10 since early in the season. In the second game, Georgia (26-4) goes up against UCLA (20-9).
Should No. 1-ranked Texas (28-2) advance to the Final Four, it would have the home-court advantage. But in the Mideast Regional semifinals, which begin Friday, the tables are turned somewhat because the Longhorns play the host team, Western Kentucky, in Bowling Green. Texas, a regional finalist last year, is led by Fran Harris (15.5 points per game), Southwest Conference player of the year. Tennessee (22-9), with U.S. Olympic Coach Pat Head Summitt, plays Mississippi (28-2) in the second Mideast game.
Also beginning Friday, Northeast Louisiana is hosting the Midwest Regional in Monroe. If the seeds hold up, it could play Louisiana Tech, the only team it lost to this season. Louisiana Tech, trying to win another title for its retiring coach, Sonja Hogg, opens against San Diego State. NE Louisiana plays Auburn in the second game.