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March only comes around once a year. Lucky for you, the women's NCAA tournament provides another great opportunity to join in on the bracket madness.
UConn is the No. 1 overall seed, and the Huskies are tri-ing (get it?) to win their third straight NCAA tournament. Their coach, Geno Auriemma, will attempt to match Pat Summitt's eight NCAA championships. Tennessee happens to be another No. 1 seed, and if the two teams win their regions they will meet in Indianapolis in the national semifinals. Will this be the year Auriemma gets it done, or will the Huskies crack under the pressure of being the top seed? And don't forget about Baylor and Stanford, the other two No. 1 seeds in the Big Dance. Middle Tennessee State, which lost in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference tournament, was also included in this year's NCAA tournament as a No. 11 seed. Will the Blue Raiders be able to make a magical run in honor of their fallen teammate, Tina Stewart?
Here's a little insight into how our espnW contributors filled out their brackets.
Amanda Rykoff's bracket
Unlike the wide-open men's field, there really are four women's basketball super powers in the game right now, and each of them deserve their respective No. 1 seeds. I had no problem advancing UConn, Stanford, Tennessee and Baylor into the Final Four without hesitation. In the earlier rounds, I favored teams from the stronger conferences such as the Big East and Big 12. I was surprised to see Baylor and Texas A&M on a collision course in the Elite Eight, but I'm guessing the committee wanted to keep each of them close to home in Dallas.
I'll be disappointed if we don't see an UConn-Stanford rematch in the championship game. To get there, I can't wait to see UConn and Tennessee (a rare treat since the two no longer play each other during the regular season). I think Stanford and Baylor should also be a good game, but Stanford will manage to overcome Brittney Griner's inside advantage. As for the champion, this was my toughest call. Can Stanford beat UConn yet again, or will UConn exact revenge on the Cardinal? I was tempted to go with Stanford, but I'm going with UConn and Maya Moore for its third straight championship.
Sarah Spain's bracket
Never bet against UConn. I wanted to go out on a limb and give Stanford the nod over the Huskies, or maybe put my faith in Griner to lead the Baylor Bears to the title, but I just couldn't bet against UConn. When it comes down to it, I think the Huskies will win their third straight NCAA title, not just because of Moore and her talented teammates but also because they've got that undeniable intimidation factor. As for the rest of my bracket, I've got DePaul making a run, in part because they're a solid team but also because I'd like to see the local hoops fans in Chicago have something to get excited about. The DePaul men's team is the doormat of the Big East every single year; let's hope the women can show the school what winning feels like.
Melissa Jacobs' bracket
Here's a little confession: I'm a rookie when it comes to filling out a women's bracket. But because of my duties with espnW, I've been lucky to be exposed to women's college hoops this season in a major way. I'm no Mechelle Voepel or Graham Hays, but I did get to provide a little instant reaction to UConn's demolition of Duke (87-51) on Jan. 31. It doesn't take a veteran fan to quickly realize the powerhouses in the women's game are far and above the middle of the pack, perhaps more than any other sport. Selecting all No. 1 seeds is clearly the safe and smart way to go. But because I suspect most entrants will be doing just that, I'm going out on a limb and choose Tennessee to get knocked off before reaching the promised land of Indianapolis. My national champs are the Stanford Cardinal, who after being shunned by the national media high on UConn Kool-Aid, will prove that their first victory was no fluke and that Tara VanDerveer's bunch truly is the best in the women's game.
Adena Andrews' bracket
All that white stuff on my hands? Yeah, you guessed it; it's chalk from picking all No.1 seeds to advance to the Final Four in my bracket. A little birdie told me that choosing all No.1 seeds is much safer in the women's bracket than in the men's.
These four teams aren't No.1 by mistake, either. Connecticut, Stanford, Baylor and Tennessee have a combined record of 123-7 this season. Throughout the season, they were the only formidable competition for each other, and the same will ring true in the tournament. For the championship game, I chose an intriguing matchup with extreme significance during the regular season. UConn versus Stanford should drudge up memories and great footage of Stanford ending UConn's winning streak at 90 in late December.
While Stanford was the first team to conquer the Huskies in over two seasons, I don't think they will be successful in the tournament. Stanford beating UConn this season was a matter of science. What goes up (UConn's record) has to come down at some point, and Stanford was the catalyst for that change. Moore and the Huskies have the stamina to go undefeated for long periods of time, and that's what the tournament is about. The Huskies will prove their prowess as they lift the trophy in Indiana on April 5.
Whitney Holtzman's bracket
I have the top overall seed, UConn, winning it all because the Huskies having nothing going against them. They've already won the past two years, so they know how to get the job done, plus they have arguably the best player in the country in Moore. And if that isn't enough, Auriemma has already won seven NCAA titles. Basically, he's got this winning thing down. I also have UConn meeting Tennessee in the national semifinals because of the Volunteers incredible leader, Summitt. She's won eight national titles. So if Auriemma wants to win his eighth, he needs to go through her first. I think that's just too good of a story not to happen.
I also have the other two No. 1 seeds in my Final Four. While that's cliche, it's with good reason. Stanford was the team that ended Connecticut's record 90-game winning streak this season, and Baylor is equipped with the explosive Griner. I also think playing with a lot of heart in any sport can will a team to victory. That's partly why I have Middle Tennessee, a No. 11 seed, upsetting No. 6 Georgia in the first round. I think the Blue Raiders will play with a passion to honor their fallen teammate, Stewart, who was fatally stabbed earlier this season. On that same token, I have Maryland making it to the Sweet 16 because the Terps' coach, Brenda Frese, has a young son, Tyler, who's been battling leukemia. Maryland has played each game in honor of Tyler, and I think his strength will drive them to overcome any adversity they face on the court during the tournament.
Julie Foudy's bracket
The only thing to say is yes, UConn may be damn good, and yes, they may have broken a long-standing winning streak this year, but let's not forget who ended that run. Yes, the mighty Cardinal. Go Card.