For the first time, the top four seeds in the NCAA women's tournament are the same in consecutive seasons. Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Stanford again are the No. 1 seeds.
Brittney Griner and Baylor’s path to a second consecutive national championship will have a familiar feel.
Then again, so will the whole NCAA women’s basketball tournament. For the first time, the top four seeds are the same in consecutive seasons.
Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Stanford again are the No. 1 seeds. The 64-team field was announced Monday.
The top six teams in the final Associated Press poll had a mere two losses outside of each other, the fewest by far since writers began voting for the AP’s No. 1 in 1994.
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“To think that the rest of the field is going to catch up to Baylor or Notre Dame or the top four or five teams in the country this year is probably unrealistic,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “But I think all those teams between five and 12 are way better than they’ve ever been.”
The women’s basketball madness gets started Saturday — the first step en route to the Final Four, which begins April 7 in New Orleans.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey hopes to make it there with her Bears, who will be trying to become the fourth different school to win consecutive national championships, joining USC, UConn, and Tennessee.
“Our goal is to win the six games and win the national championship,” the 6-foot-8 Griner said.
Standing in the way could be Tennessee. The Vols, who have made every NCAA tournament since it began in 1982, are the No. 2 seed in Baylor’s region. This will be the first time coach Pat Summitt won’t be on the sideline. Summitt stepped down after last season because she had been afflicted with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
“The whole season has been different and, at times, it’s hard,” said ex-assistant Holly Warlick, who took over this season and guided Tennessee to an SEC regular-season title. “Other times, it’s OK. But I still have her (Summitt) there. She’s still around these young ladies.”
Stanford will try and reach the Final Four for a sixth straight season and end Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer’s 21-year drought without a national championship.
Led by junior Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford might have the most noteworthy victory this season, ending Baylor’s 42-game winning streak in November. That is the only loss the Bears have suffered in the last two seasons.
Notre Dame will be trying to make it back to a third straight national-championship game. The Irish won their first Big East tournament championship last Tuesday and also went undefeated in the conference in the regular season.
Connecticut will open Saturday against Idaho, which will be making its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1985. It has been a somewhat disappointing season for UConn, which didn’t win the Big East regular-season and/or tournament title for the first time in 19 years.
UConn lost four of its five games against the other top seeds, faltering in stretch of the losses. The Huskies are again on the same side of the bracket with Notre Dame, setting up a possible third straight meeting in the national semifinals. The Irish won the previous two.