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Monday, March 13, 2006
Updated: March 14, 9:34 AM ET
Tar Heels face one of toughest regions -- ever

By Mechelle Voepel
Special to ESPN.com

North Carolina, to most eyes, was the clear top No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament. As a reward for that, the Tar Heels got one of the toughest regions I've ever seen.

Anyone want to clue me in on how the two top teams in the RPI -- as best I can figure -- are in the same region? Yes, if seeds hold, North Carolina faces Tennessee in the Cleveland Regional championship game. Wow.

Oh, and let's throw in No. 3 Rutgers and No. 4 Purdue in that region, too.

And just in case North Carolina is still feeling too comfy about its draw -- note to committee, this is sarcasm -- the Tar Heels might also face Vanderbilt on the Commodores' home court in the second round. Likewise, Tennessee could have to face Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va., in the second round.

I can sum this up in one sentence: I don't get it.

After their Lewis and Clark-like trek to the Midwest last year (they played in the Kansas City Regional), the UConn Huskies are back in their home state for a regional. If -- that is -- they get past the early rounds in University Park, Pa. Then they'll head back to Bridgeport, Conn.

Duke is the No. 1 seed there, and once again the Blue Devils won't have to travel far for the early rounds (they're in Norfolk, some three hours from Durham). Duke has been very fortunate in that regard for quite a while now.

A potential matchup of big, strong centers could be looming in the San Antonio Regional, as LSU with Sylvia Fowles and Oklahoma with Courtney Paris are the 1-2 seeds. OU might meet No. 3 Stanford in the regional semis, and those two programs don't have a very friendly history, of course.

Ohio State got a No. 1 and has nothing to complain about in the Albuquerque Regional. The Buckeyes could have a matchup with No. 2 Maryland, which should also be pleased with how it was rewarded for its season.

The Big 12, despite being the league of the defending national champion in Baylor, got a cold shoulder from the committee compared to other leagues. The ACC and Big East have seven teams in, the Pac-10 six, the SEC six, the Big Ten five and the Mountain West and Big 12 four each.

Yeah, I really believe the Pac-10 and SEC are identical, as are the Big 12 and Mountain West. Don't you? (Note to committee: more sarcasm).

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.