Clearly it’s not going out on a limb to predict UConn and Notre Dame meeting in the national championship game with history at stake.
There’s a bunch of other games in the women’s basketball tournament that may not be so obvious. Here’s one look at what could happen over the next three weeks:
The bracket breakdown (winners in all caps):
(1) UCONN vs. (16) Prairie View A&M – The Lady Panthers became ninth team to enter NCAAs with a losing record. All the previous ones have lost. Don’t expect that to change against the defending champions.
(8) GEORGIA vs. (9) Saint Joseph’s – The Lady Bulldogs have made the tournament in 31 of the 33 years. They’ve lost in the opening round twice in the past five years. Andy Landers young team will get through this time.
(5) N.C. STATE vs. (12) Brigham Young – Wes Moore has instilled confidence in the Wolfpack. Still, they haven’t seen a player like BYU’s Jennifer Hamson. The 6-foot-7 center is second in the nation in blocks. She just doesn’t have enough of a supporting cast to pull off the upset.
(4) NEBRASKA vs. (13) Fresno State – Jordan Hooper and Rachel Theriot are going to be way too much for the Bulldogs to handle.
(6) GONZAGA vs. (11) James Madison – Really great matchup between two strong mid-major programs. The Dukes have been on quite a roll this season winning the CAA regular season and conference tournament titles. Kelly Graves always has the Zags ready come tournament time.
(3) TEXAS A&M vs. (14) North Dakota – Gary Blair’s team has won 17 of its 21 games since Dec. 28 and the Aggies should have no problem at home against the tournament newcomer.
(7) DEPAUL vs. (10) Oklahoma – Strangely these two schools have only played once before, back in 2006-07. The Sooners came away with a 105-71 victory. This Oklahoma team has struggled lately going 4-6 in its last 10 games. DePaul on the other hand has been hot winning the Big East regular season and conference titles. The Blue Demons will keep rolling.
(2) DUKE vs. (15) Winthrop – The Eagles are getting quite the introduction to the NCAA tournament, having to play at Duke. The Blue Devils, even without guards Chelsea Gray and Alexis Jones, will be too much to handle.
UCONN vs. Georgia – There will be nearly 1,700 wins on the sidelines between Geno Auriemma and Andy Landers. Surprising the two schools have met four times. UConn has won the last three. It will be four after this game.
NEBRASKA vs. N.C. State – What does the winner get? A date with UConn in the regional semifinals. At least with the Cornhuskers winning, there will be a raucous atmosphere in Lincoln.
GONZAGA vs. Texas A&M – Lately the Zags have benefited from being near home in the first few rounds to advance. Kelly Graves will have a few tricks up his sleeve to help Gonzaga get past the host Aggies in one of the few upsets in the region.
DUKE vs. DePaul – The Blue Devils ended DePaul’s run in the regional semifinals a few years back. DePaul has no real answer for Elizabeth Williams.
UCONN vs. Nebraska – Rachel Theriot had a superb run in the Big Ten tournament. She didn’t have to face a defender like Moriah Jefferson. UConn rolls to the regional final.
DUKE vs. Gonzaga – The Zags were fortunate enough to get this far. Duke’s experience and strong defense will be too much for Gonzaga.
UCONN vs. Duke – These two teams met in December in North Carolina and UConn came away with a dominating 22-point win. The Blue Devils had Chelsea Gray and Alexis Jones for that game. They don’t anymore.
(1) SOUTH CAROLINA vs. (16) Cal State Northridge – The Gamecocks still have a bad taste in their mouth after losing in SEC semifinals. They will wipe it away against Cal State Northridge.
(9) OREGON STATE vs. (8) Middle Tennessee – The Beavers rode an 11-game winning streak, the second-longest in school history and best since 1982-83, into the Pac-12 championship game before losing to USC. They will keep it going against Middle Tennessee playing in an arena they had a lot of success in.
(12) HAMPTON vs. (5) Michigan State – The Lady Pirates earned the highest seeding ever for a MEAC team since the women’s field expanded to 64 teams. Now they’ll win the second game ever by the conference and a 19th straight victory overall.
(4) NORTH CAROLINA vs. (13) UT Martin – There may be some opening jitters, but the stellar North Carolina freshmen class led by Diamond Deshields will help the Tar Heels cruise.
(6) DAYTON vs. (11) Florida – Jim Jabir’s team came up short in the Atlantic-10 final against Fordham. Still the conference got more teams in the field than the American and Big East. The Flyers will advance to the second round for the second straight year.
(3) PENN STATE vs. (14) Wichita State – There will be no shocker here as the Lady Lions cruise at home into the second round.
(7) IOWA STATE vs. (10) Florida State – The Seminoles have the best player on the court with Natasha Howard. The Cyclones don’t lose too many at home. This will not be one of those occasions.
(2) STANFORD vs. (15) South Dakota – It’s rare when the Cardinal have to leave the West Coast to play an NCAA tournament game. South Dakota’s first trip to the NCAA tournament will be a short one.
SOUTH CAROLINA vs. Oregon State – Should be a really great matchup in the post between Oregon State’s Ruth Hamblin and South Carolina’s Alaina Coates. The Gamecocks have enough of a supporting cast to come away with the close win.
NORTH CAROLINA vs. Hampton – Playing at home will push the Tar Heels past the Lady Pirates. Having coach Sylvia Hatchell around could provide an extra lift for the host team.
PENN STATE vs. Dayton – Maggie Lucas won’t let her stellar career end at home getting Penn State to the regional semifinals.
STANFORD vs. Iowa State – The Cardinal will know what their opponents will feel like in the regionals facing a hostile crowd. Difference is Stanford has Chiney Ogwumike and the Cyclones don’t.
NORTH CAROLINA vs. South Carolina – The Tar Heels won by eight in Myrtle Beach in December. They’ve gotten better since then.
STANFORD vs. Penn State – The Lady Lions didn’t lose many road games this season, but they have no answer for Chiney Ogwumike.
NORTH CAROLINA vs. Stanford – Diamond Deshields thrives playing on the road in front of hostile crowds. Just ask Duke. She’ll help the Tar Heels pull off another upset ending the Cardinal’s run.
NOTRE DAME REGIONAL
(1) NOTRE DAME vs. (16) Robert Morris – The NEC is looking for its first win as a conference in the NCAAs. They’ll have to wait until next year.
(8) VANDERBILT vs. (9) Arizona State – Charli Turner Thorne has gotten the most out of her young team this season. If they can keep it within a few points they have a chance. Vanderbilt will have too much for it to stay close.
(12) FLORIDA GULF COAST vs. (5) Oklahoma State – The Eagles first appearance in the NCAAs two seasons ago was memorable with an overtime loss to St. Bonaventure after blowing a 10-point lead. Florida Gulf Coast will hang on this time.
(4) PURDUE vs. (13) Akron – The Boilermakers were 4-0 against MAC teams this season. They’ll remain undefeated after the first round.
(11) CHATTANOOGA vs. (6) Syracuse – Jim Foster is the first coach to take four different teams to the NCAA tournament. His Lady Mocs will win their 26th straight game and leave Syracuse still looking for its first NCAA win.
(3) KENTUCKY vs. (14) Wright State – After beating Wisconsin-Green Bay to win the Horizon League, Wright State earned its first trip to the NCAAs. They’ll face a Kentucky squad that has never lost to a Horizon League member. Don’t look for that to change.
(10) FORDHAM vs. (7) California – After falling a point short last season, the Rams are making their first trip to the NCAAs in 20 years. Should be a great matchup at the point between Erin Rooney and Cal’s Brittany Boyd. Why not Fordham?
(2) BAYLOR vs. (15) Western Kentucky – Kim Mulkey won’t be on the sidelines for the first round after getting suspended for the game for comments she made after Baylor was knocked out last season. The Lady Bears still have Odyssey Sims.
NOTRE DAME vs. Vanderbilt – Jewell Loyd is one of the most athletic players in women’s basketball. The stellar sophomore will be more than the Commodores can handle.
PURDUE vs. Florida Gulf Coast – The Boilermakers haven’t advanced past the second round since 2009. That streak will end this year.
KENTUCKY vs. Chattanooga – It’s been a great first season for Jim Foster at Chattanooga. The Lady Mocs just don’t have enough fire power to knockoff the SEC tournament runner-ups.
BAYLOR vs. Fordham – Rams have no answer for Odyssey Sims and Lady Bears freshman Nina Davis is going to be too much handle in the middle.
NOTRE DAME vs. Purdue – The Irish can put points on the board in a hurry. Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd are going to be too much for the Boilermakers to handle.
KENTUCKY vs. Baylor – These two teams put on a show in Dallas with a game for the ages which the Wildcats won 133-130 in four overtimes. While this game won’t match that one, it still will be a thriller won again by Kentucky.
NOTRE DAME vs. Kentucky – The Wildcats love to pressure opponents. The problem is that the Irish guards are just too good. The Wildcats run will once again end in the regional final.
(1) TENNESSEE vs. (16) Northwestern State – The Lady Demons upset the top two seeds to win the Southland conference championship. Good luck trying to upend the Lady Vols in Tennessee.
(8) ST. JOHN’S vs. (9) Southern Cal – Cynthia Cooper has instilled a winning mentality with the Trojans. Winning the Pac-12 tournament will be a great highlight for the season. It will be another year before they win an NCAA tournament game.
(12) PENN vs. (5) Texas – The Quakers play good defense, hit 3s and free throws. So why not pull off the upset over Texas, giving the Ivy League its first win in the NCAAs since No. 16 Harvard beat Stanford?
(4) MARYLAND vs. (13) Army – Kelsey Minato has been stellar this season for the Black Knights. They just don’t have anyone who can stop Maryland’s star Alyssa Thomas.
(11) MARIST vs. (6) Iowa – Brian Giorgis always has his team ready to play in March. While this version of the Red Foxes may not be as good as some of the previous ones, they still have enough to knockoff the Hawkeyes at home.
(3) LOUISVILLE vs. (14) Idaho – The Vandals have made back-to-back NCAA tournaments for the first time in school history. Last season, Idaho was a 16-seed and lost to UConn. Facing Louisville won’t turn out much better.
(10) GEORGIA TECH vs. (7) Lsu – The Lady Tigers have been slumping lately losing six straight to close the regular season and winning just one game in the NCAA tournament. The Yellow Jackets will keep that trend going.
(2) WEST VIRGINIA vs. (15) Albany (NY) – This should be a great defensive battle. The Mountaineers have more offense than the Great Danes.
TENNESSEE vs. St. John’s – The Lady Vols are just too big for the Red Storm to handle.
MARYLAND vs. Penn – The Quakers can be happy they won one game in the tournament. Knocking off the Terps in Maryland will be virtual imposssible.
LOUISVILLE vs. Marist – Shoni Schimmel is one of the most exciting players to watch in women’s basketball. The Red Foxes won’t be able to contain her.
WEST VIRGINIA vs. Georgia Tech – Asya Bussie is probably one of the hidden gems in the tournament. People will know who she is after this game.
TENNESSEE vs. Maryland – Meighan Simmons will be the difference in this highly entertaining contest.
LOUISVILLE vs. West Virginia – Jeff Walz wouldn’t mention to his team how the Mountaineers were seeded better than his Cardinals would he?
LOUISVILLE vs. Tennesseee – The Cardinals have lost only one game at home this season and that was to UConn. Three-point shooting will be the difference in this one. The Cardinals will make theirs the Lady Vols won’t.
UCONN vs. North Carolina – The Tar Heels may be more athletic than the Huskies. They just don’t have anyone who can stop Breanna Stewart.
NOTRE DAME vs. Louisville – These two former Big East foes know each other well. Louisville couldn’t find a way to beat them last year. Nothing has changed.
UCONN vs. Notre Dame – There won’t be any hype on this game will there? Geno Auriemma has never lost in a national championship game. That won’t change as the Huskies win a record ninth title.