What's the most the teams in Kansas City can hope for, and what's the way they don't want the season to end?
Best case: The Texas A&M loss proves to be an aberration. Nebraska is never really threatened all the way to the Final Four. Kelsey Griffin is declared a human triumph by the AMA and records five straight double-doubles. That streak and the Cornhuskers' season is only trumped by that of Connecticut in the title game.
Worst case: Familiarity breeds too much knowledge. Oklahoma, with another crack at Nebraska in the regional final, takes advantage. Griffin gets in early foul trouble. Yvonne Turner struggles to make a jump shot. The defense can't quite save the day. The Huskers lose, and the magical season ends short of the Final Four.
(16) NORTHERN IOWA
Best case: The game is never really close after the first 10 minutes, but the Panthers get some prime shopping done at the Mall of America.
Worst case: The game is never really close after the first five minutes and the weather is so lousy the trip to the mall is canceled.
Best case: Playing for the rebirth of UCLA basketball and the pride of the Pac-10, the Bruins steamroll NC State and become the first No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 since BC upset Ohio State in 2006 as Nebraska falls. As the Bruins celebrate in Minneapolis, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott can be seen jumping up and down with them.
Worst case: Bruins coach Nikki Caldwell has changed lineups so many times this year she has lost track. So much so that at one point she only sends four players on to the court and no one notices, at least not until NC State has gone on a decisive 10-0 run. UCLA's first tournament appearance since 2006 ends after one game.
(9) NC STATE
Best case: With coach Kellie Harper and her staff devising nearly flawless game plans and a guardian angel watching over them, the Wolfpack pick off three higher-seeded teams to reach the Elite Eight. Bonae Holston, Nikitta Gartrell and Marissa Kastanek each take a turn as a leading scorer. Kay Yow wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
Worst case: All the mental toughness and will in the world can't overcome poor shooting. NC State struggles to score. UCLA struggles just a little less, and the Wolfpack are gone in the first round.
(5) MICHIGAN STATE
Best case: For the first time in her career, Allyssa DeHaan plays with a sense of urgency, with any game potentially her last. She runs the floor. She blocks shots. She finishes plays near the rim. But mostly, she finally gets mad. Playing Kentucky in Louisville means nothing to the Spartans and they charge into Kansas City, where they come up just short against Nebraska.
Worst case: Michigan State is happy about a No. 5 seed, but not about playing Bowling Green and Kentucky in Louisville. It makes every Spartan angry except DeHaan. The much smaller Falcons get too many looks around the basket. The well-balanced offense has no one willing to take an important shot. The crowd support for the underdog is overwhelming. Michigan State is bounced. The other three Big Ten teams advance, adding to the mystery that was the Spartans' season.
(12) BOWLING GREEN
Best case: Falcons fans show up in Louisville in droves, imploring the team to remember 2007 when it reached the Sweet 16 (playing, coincidentally, out of East Lansing, but not against Michigan State). Lauren Prochaska becomes one of the big names of the tournament's opening few days and BGSU emerges from Louisville. The 2007 run is repeated, but
the Falcons are eliminated six days later by Nebraska. Coach Curt Miller has to add more minutes to his cell phone plan.
Worst case: This isn't 2007, and this Bowling Green team isn't nearly as good as that one. Michigan State is too big and too strong and, while the Falcons fight for 40 minutes, they just don't have enough. Miller still gets a lot of phone calls, though.
Best case: Victoria Dunlap plays like she's trying to validate her SEC Player of the Year award. The Wildcats run their way into the Sweet 16 and then straight past Nebraska into the Elite Eight. Meanwhile, Tennessee gets bounced early, so Kentucky is carrying the flag for the SEC. When the UK men are upset in the second round, Ashley Judd has some time on her hands and checks out the women in Kansas City.
Worst case: Despite playing in Louisville, the young Wildcats are a little overwhelmed by the whole NCAA tournament thing. A far more experienced Michigan State team wears down Kentucky. There is no flag to carry. Tennessee goes to the Final Four. At least it's a short trip home for the Wildcats.
Best case: A new group of Liberty players get their taste of the tournament and plays loose. Kentucky has expectations and plays tight. That keeps the game close until midway through the second half, when talent takes over. Nonetheless, these Flames fare better than a more veteran version did a year ago against Louisville.
Worst case: The Flames are just happy to be here after crashing the Gardner-Webb party in the Big South final, and they play like it. In fact, they keep smiling even after Kentucky takes a 30-point lead.
(6) GEORGIA TECH
Best case: Brigitte Ardossi is just too tough and Deja Foster is just too quick for UALR, giving the Yellow Jackets another shot at Oklahoma in a second-round game. The result is very different this time around. Georgia Tech reverses last year's 19-point loss and gets to its first Sweet 16.
Worst case: The offense that averaged 51 points per game in the final three contests of the season remains. MaChelle Joseph encourages, cajoles, rants and pleads, but can't make the ball go in the basket. It's one-and-done for the Jackets, who never get that revenge date with Oklahoma.
(11) ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK
Best case: The defense that held Middle Tennessee to 43 points earlier this season comes to play. Chastity Reed preps the nation for what might come next year by hanging 32 on a good defensive Georgia Tech team. The Trojans can't quite pull two upsets, but with MTSU also winning, the Sun Belt is validated.
Worst case: The offense that scored 49 points against South Alabama shows up. Reed gets no help. The Trojans don't even stay competitive for a half. On the same day, MTSU gets bounced. Mid-major backers everywhere begin to tumble off the bandwagon.
Best case: Amanda Thompson keeps going after the basketball like she's rebounding for her next meal. Danielle Robinson leads in every conceivable way. The Sooners take full advantage of the opening rounds in Norman and waltz into the Sweet 16. Then it's Abi Olajuwon's turn. Her confidence soars in Kansas City, where Notre Dame and the all-too-familiar Nebraska fall. Sherri Coale is celebrated for a coaching job for the ages and Olajuwon reaches a destination her father visited three times.
Worst case: The Sooners are good enough to get to Kansas City, but the outside shooting and turnover warts are too much to overcome against Notre Dame. Skylar Diggins is one of the few defenders to slow down Robinson, and once that happens, Oklahoma has nowhere to turn.
(14) SOUTH DAKOTA STATE
Best case: Just before the Jackrabbits board the plane for Norman, someone discovers that all-time SDSU great and last season's star, Jennifer Warkenthien, has additional eligibility. She joins the team and restores the starting lineup from last season's 32-3 squad and helps the Jackrabbits give the Sooners the scare of the tournament.
Worst case: Warkenthien stays home. The other four starters from last season, who weren't the same without her in 2009-10, still aren't the same without her -- and Oklahoma steamrolls the Jackrabbits on its home turf.
Best case: Alyssa Karel is all over the court. The offensive wealth is being sufficiently spread. The defense is its usually stingy self to the point that Notre Dame shows some visible frustration in Round 2. Wisconsin's stay is over after two games but considered an overwhelming success after missing out on the last seven NCAA tournaments.
Worst case: Having played nothing but Big Ten games for the past two months, the Badgers are unable to remember what good offense looks like. That is, until Vermont reminds them. Wisconsin's failure to finish plays consistently becomes too much to overcome. In the team meeting after the game, coach Lisa Stone says a prayer that it won't be another seven years before the Badgers are back in the tournament.
Best case: Courtnay Pilypaitis goes for a triple-double. May Kotsopoulos also scores in double figures. Vermont beats Wisconsin, and that night's "SportsCenter" poll question asks whether the Vermont dynamic duo was more difficult on the Badgers or the tongue of the PA announcer at the Joyce Center.
Worst case: Wisconsin's defense is too good, and Vermont doesn't have enough answers. Not ones to give up, though, Pilypaitis and Kotsopoulos challenge the Badgers to a game of Scrabble with proper names allowed.
(2) NOTRE DAME
Best case: Notre Dame's versatility and depth are too much for any other team to handle and the Irish make it to San Antonio for a fourth crack at Connecticut in the national title game.
Worst case: Notre Dame's versatility and depth are too much for any other team to handle and the Irish make it to San Antonio for a fourth crack at Connecticut in the national title game.
(15) CLEVELAND ST.
Best case: The Vikings spend their media day lauding the fact that their Horizon League got two teams into the NCAA tournament.
Worst case: The Vikings are brought back to earth when a reporter reminds them that their city's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just inducted ABBA.
Charlie Creme can be reached at email@example.com.