Virginia, ranked sixth in the country and the top seed in the East, and Maryland, upset winner of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, were given first-round byes as pairings for the 40-team NCAA women's basketball tournament were announced yesterday.
Maryland (17-12) will play at 13th-ranked Ohio State (22-6) Sunday in the Mideast regional quarterfinals.
Virginia (26-2) plays host Saturday to the winner of Wednesday's James Madison (26-3)-Providence (24-5) game in the East regional.
Maryland and Virginia were the only local teams invited to the tournament, which expanded from 32 to 40 teams this season and took two others from the ACC -- North Carolina State (18-10) and North Carolina (22-8).
The Southeastern Conference had the most entries in the tournament, seven, breaking the old record of five, set by the SEC last year. Top-ranked Texas is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, No. 2 Georgia is the top seed in the Mideast and No. 3 Southern California heads the West.
Sixteen teams will play first-round games Wednesday with the second round taking place this weekend. The regional finals are March 20 and 22, the Final Four March 28 and 30 in Lexington, Ky.
"No matter who we face, I think the players will be ready," said Virginia Coach Debbie Ryan, whose team was shocked by Maryland in the ACC tournament semifinals, 92-68. "They were a little down at practice, but they will be very hungry."
In the Mideast regional, Georgia, which would not meet the Terrapins until the regional final, plays the first-round winner of Illinois (19-9)-Ohio University (26-2). Louisiana State, 25-5 and ranked ninth, plays the winner of Middle Tennessee State (19-9)-South Carolina (19-10). No. 12 Iowa (22-6) meets No. 15 Tennessee (21-9) in a second-round game. The Terrapins would play the winner of the Louisiana State game in the semifinals.
In the East regional, eighth-ranked and second-seeded Rutgers (27-3) plays the first-round winner of La Salle (21-8)-Villanova (22-7). Other second-round games are North Carolina State (18-10) against Penn State (23-7) and St. Joseph's (22-6) against fifth-ranked Western Kentucky (29-3).