Category archive: Duke Blue Devils

First impressions on the bracket

March, 13, 2012
03/13/12
3:28
PM ET

Rebecca Lobo gives a behind-the-scenes look at preparations for the set of the Selection Show.

Hardest regional: Des Moines. For Tennessee to be the 2-seed there (with No. 1 Baylor) after playing really well in the past week or so, that was the one that stuck out to me.

Easiest regional: Kingston. Connecticut's path to a potential Final Four might be the least difficult. Kentucky is probably seen as the fourth No. 2 seed, and Connecticut -- which opens in Bridgeport -- doesn't have to get on an airplane.

Best first-round game: No. 7 seed Green Bay versus 10th-seeded Iowa State in Ames, Iowa. Both teams have players who can shoot the 3 and it's a lower seed playing on its home floor.

Best potential second-round matchup: Top-seeded Baylor against No. 8 seed Ohio State. The consensus on the Buckeyes is that they deserved a better seed.

Team better than its seed: Sticking with 8-seed Ohio State on this one.

Team worse than its seed: No. 6 Nebraska. That is not meant as any disrespect to Nebraska. But in relation to Ohio State and both teams being from the Big Ten, it's just an interesting thing to look at those two seeds side by side.

Biggest snub: No. 2 seed Duke in Nashville. The Blue Devils were probably expecting to be in Chapel Hill. Instead, they have to potentially play a second-round meeting with Vanderbilt in the Commodores' town.

Biggest surprise: That No. 2 seed Kentucky and third-seeded Miami are in the same region in Kingston. That could be a pretty amazing matchup if it happens in the regional semifinal.

Possible Cinderella: Green Bay. The Phoenix play an interesting system, and most teams don't play against a team like Green Bay in the regular season. The Phoenix could get to the Elite Eight. A team that could get to the Final Four is Maryland. The Terps have depth at the post, a star in Alyssa Thomas, an experienced backcourt, and Maryland has bodies to match up with most teams. The Terps are the team that best matches up with Baylor. Of course, they have to reach the national championship to even get a shot.

Most talent in one region: Des Moines. Just looking at Baylor's and Tennessee's rosters, they're loaded with talent. Ohio State has Samantha Prahalis. Delaware's Elena Delle Donne has real star power.

Under-the-radar player: Point guard Jasmine Lister from Vanderbilt. I really like her game. I just watched (video of) her playing in a win against Tennessee at Vanderbilt, and Lister was absolutely outstanding.

Final Four: I'm going with the chalk and sticking with all the No. 1 seeds: Baylor, Stanford, Notre Dame and Connecticut.

Who wins? Baylor is still the team to beat. If it goes chalk, the Lady Bears will have beaten two of the three other No. 1 seeds that could be there. I'm picking Baylor as my champ over Notre Dame.

Check back later Tuesday night for our full bracket. But for now, here are the main changes after Tuesday's Sun Belt championship game:

NOTABLE

• Middle Tennessee lost in the Sun Belt final to Arkansas-Little Rock but stays in the field.

• As a result, North Carolina falls out of the field.

• Middle Tennessee slips to the No. 10 seed line, Princeton rises to the No. 9 line and UALR enters as a No. 14 seed.

LAST FOUR IN

Temple
Iowa State
Michigan State
Texas

FIRST FOUR OUT

North Carolina
Southern California
Michigan
James Madison

NEXT FOUR OUT

Oklahoma State
Kansas
Wake Forest
Arizona State

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN

Big East (8)
SEC (8)
Big Ten (6)
Big 12 (6)
ACC (5)
Atlantic 10 (3)
Pac-12 (2)
WCC (2)
Sun Belt (2)

AUTOMATIC QUALIFIERS

Arkansas-Little Rock (Sun Belt)
BYU (WCC)
Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun)
Dayton (Atlantic 10)
Marist (MAAC)
Maryland (ACC)
Princeton (Ivy)
Purdue (Big Ten)
Tennessee-Martin (OVC)
Tennessee (SEC)
Samford (Southern)
South Dakota State (Summit)

Wake Forest celebratesMark Dolejs/US PresswireWake Forest knocked off No. 2 seed Miami in Friday's ACC quarterfinals.

Quarterfinal Friday at the ACC tournament was the perfect example of why conference tournaments are terrific. And it was also the perfect example of why they aren't. It all depends on your point of view, of course.

If you were wearing NC State red or Wake Forest black on Friday, then you're singing the praises of that extra chance to do something special in a second season that the league tourney provides.

But if you were clad in Duke blue or Miami green/orange, guess what? You overpacked for the trip to Greensboro, N.C., because your team's stay is finished. Then again, you can stick around to grumpily watch the 9-seed Wolfpack meet 4-seed Georgia Tech, followed by No. 3 Maryland -- the Terps avoided the upset bug in their quarterfinal nightcap victory over Virginia -- versus No. 7 Wake Forest.

Now who out there would have picked those matchups for semifinal Saturday? Probably nobody. Duke and Miami were the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the ACC tournament and projected as No. 2 seeds in the NCAA field, along with Maryland. Now we'll see how that holds up with both the Blue Devils and Hurricanes forced into spectator status so early.

How odd was all this? The top seed at the ACC tournament previously had never been eliminated before the semifinals. And how unlikely was it that NC State would be the one to bounce Duke? The Wolfpack were just 5-11 in conference play this season, losing 83-59 to the Blue Devils back in early January.

Furthermore, there was nothing results-wise in the last month to suggest the Wolfpack would make any noise in Greensboro: They had lost six of their eight games in February. Yet they are in the ACC semifinals thanks to a 74-71 win over Florida State, a mild upset, and a 75-73 win over Duke, a major surprise.

Meanwhile, Wake Forest's 81-74 win over Miami was actually a bit less of a surprise. The Demon Deacons had a pretty good February, winning five of eight. That came after a rough January when Wake went 2-7, but seemed to figure out some things. So have the Deacs now done enough to nudge themselves into NCAA tournament discussion? Also, did No. 5 seed North Carolina, which fell to No. 4 seed Georgia Tech 54-53 in Friday's first quarterfinal, move to the wrong side of the bubble?

One thing is for sure: The big winner seems to be Maryland, which now might well end up getting the best seeding/placement of all the ACC squads. That is, if the Terps can avoid the fate that befell Duke and Miami.

Chelsea Gray, Lynetta Kizer and Stefanie YderstromGetty ImagesTeams from the ACC -- Duke, Maryland and Miami -- have a hold on three of the No. 2 seeds.

Championship Week has arrived. For some, it is the best 11 days of the college basketball season. For others, conference tournaments are a way to kill time until the magic of March known as the NCAA tournament gets started.

But this year, even in the big conferences in which so many teams have already secured bids, the games still have huge meaning. The ACC, Big Ten and SEC tournaments, among others, open Thursday, and for some teams the ramifications are obvious. For others, the value isn't as evident, but these outcomes are no less important.

ACC

Virginia and North Carolina both must win their opening-round games to feel secure, but the Tar Heels could also really use a quarterfinal upset of Georgia Tech. UNC's résumé is OK, but there are bad parts: a lower RPI and some alarming margins of defeat. The Heels' status in the field is largely built on the limited competition for the final few spots, so beating a Top 25 team like the Yellow Jackets could go a long way.

But the ACC tournament will do more than decide the fate of teams on the bubble; it could actually have a lasting effect on how the NCAA tournament plays out. Here's why: Duke and Miami both figure to be at least No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, and if chalk holds this week, they would meet in the ACC final. If when the time comes the Blue Devils and Hurricanes are both 2-seeds, whichever one (and remember, Maryland is in the mix to win the ACC, too) wins the ACC tournament is also likely to be higher on the selection board (right now, Duke is five, and Miami is six).

With so many host schools (Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, DePaul, LSU and Iowa State) as potential No. 7 or No. 10 seeds, and Maryland (another host) also being projected as a No. 2, there might be only one spot for another No. 2 seed not to be playing a potential second-round game on the road (Nos. 7, 10, 2 and 15 seeds are in the same subregional). So whichever team fairs better in the ACC will be given higher consideration to avoid that road situation. For example, in the most recent Bracketology posted Monday, Duke was higher-ranked on the selection board and therefore -- with only one subregional in that 7, 10, 2, 15 segment unoccupied by a host -- was given that one slot of two truly neutral opening games. Miami, because the Canes came in behind Duke in the ACC standings and on the selection board, got saddled with a potential second-round game against Vanderbilt in Nashville. If the Hurricanes win the ACC tournament, they would leapfrog Duke and get that higher consideration.

So you see, even though both are obviously in the field, and both are No. 2 seeds, triumphing this weekend could make a huge difference in how difficult a team's path is in the NCAA tournament. Not all same seeds are necessarily created equal.

Big Ten

The weekend in Indianapolis is big for a few teams, but for different reasons. Michigan needs to right the ship. Beating Illinois is a must. Beating Ohio State would really help create some safety for the Wolverines if there are some upsets in some smaller leagues (CAA, Horizon, Sun Belt).

The Buckeyes, meanwhile, also need a little bit of a run, probably to the Big Ten final, just to show the committee that what once made them a 23-3 team isn't gone. The blowout losses at Penn State and Nebraska last week have likely left some doubt, and Ohio State's seed will hinge on erasing it.

Penn State is the conference champ but might need to win the tournament title as well to be a No. 3 seed. With anything short of reaching the final, the Lady Lions are probably staring at a No. 4 and the potential burden of playing a No. 1 seed in the Sweet 16.

SEC

Tennessee and Kentucky are the two best candidates for the final No. 2 seed at this point. Given how evenly the résumés stack up, the better team in Nashville will win out. A meeting in the final would be the rubber match and would be the easiest way to solve any question as to which should be seeded higher. Of course, Georgia, South Carolina, LSU and Arkansas will have plenty to say about preventing that matchup, while improving their seed position for the NCAA tournament at the same time.

Arkansas and South Carolina might have the most to gain. Florida also can't afford a stumble against Auburn, and while a quarterfinal loss to Kentucky wouldn't hurt the Gators' chances to make the field, a win would seal the deal.

Duke/MiamiMark Dolejs/US PresswireDuke clinched the No. 1 seed in the ACC tourney and at least a share of the league title.

Friday morning, I listed some of the candidates for the coach of the year … but, of course, there are always others who deserve mentioning. One, in fact, got a big victory Friday night.

Duke maintained its mastery over Miami, and in the process earned the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament and at least a share of the league's regular-season championship.

The No. 7 Blue Devils' 74-64 victory over the No. 5 Hurricanes moved Duke's all-time record over Miami to 9-0. And Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie did it with a team that doesn't really look like what she was hoping/expecting it to when the school year began.

The two biggest puzzle pieces -- sophomore guard Chelsea Gray and freshman center Elizabeth Williams -- have stayed in place all season for Duke. And they were excellent Friday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Williams had 19 points, nine rebounds and four steals. Gray had 12 points and nine assists.

Even more weight has been on them because Duke has taken such a large personnel hit. The Blue Devils have lost two forwards to injury -- freshman Amber Henson is redshirting the season with a knee injury and sophomore Richa Jackson suffered a torn ACL on Feb. 15 -- and guard Chloe Wells was suspended for this semester because of a violation of university policy.

Add in the fact that Duke lost three senior starters from last season: Jasmine Thomas, Krystal Thomas and Karima Christmas. There also are two assistant coaches in their first year in that role with the Blue Devils, both of whom previously played for McCallie: Candace Jackson at Michigan State and Joy Cheek at Duke.

As a result of all of this, McCallie has needed to do as much nurturing of young talent as any coach of a top program this season. Duke is 23-4 overall and 14-1 in the ACC. Friday, the Blue Devils showed both the defensive prowess that McCallie's teams are know for … but also more of a needed consistency on offense. Duke shot 48.5 percent from the field.

All things considered -- including the fact that Miami was riding a 13-game winning streak -- Duke appeared vulnerable coming into this game. But that didn't manifest itself the way the Hurricane would have hoped.

One of Duke's primary storylines this season is how a young squad is playing older than its years. Yet Friday showed that some credit does go to Duke's two seniors, Kathleen Scheer and Shay Selby, too. Both had a memorable senior night Friday, starting and combining for 12 points and nine rebounds.

It's been a decade since Duke's "Eight is Enough" team made it to the Women's Final Four in 2002. This squad is also down to eight scholarship players, and Friday's win gives the Blue Devils just a little more cushion come NCAA tournament time in regard to seeding.

That said, Duke still has to face North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Sunday (ESPN2, 3 p.m. ET). The Tar Heels -- who lost by 20 points Friday at Maryland -- definitely have something to play for in terms of adding more security to their postseason position. UNC is 19-9 overall and 9-6 in the ACC.

Duke absolutely shellacked the Tar Heels 96-56 in Durham on Feb. 6, so there is a bit of a pride factor for UNC, too.

Duke has displayed a lot of pride this season. This past Sunday -- just four days after the disappointment and sadness of seeing Jackson get hurt -- the Blue Devils played a gutsy game at Maryland. Though Duke lost 63-61 for its first ACC defeat this year, it showed the Blue Devils' resiliency.

Meanwhile, Miami could still share the ACC title if the Hurricanes (24-4, 13-2) beat Boston College at home Sunday and UNC defeats Duke. But the top seed in next week's ACC tournament is set, as Duke secured it for the third consecutive season.

McCallie's Blue Devils have won the league tournament title the last two years, and were expected to challenge for it again this season, of course. But to still be in such strong position to do that despite the setbacks Duke has faced is one of the national success stories that perhaps has been underappreciated this season.

There's no surprise among the No. 1 seeds, which would be Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Stanford. But which teams join Maryland as a No. 2? ESPN.com's Charlie Creme gives us a brief Bracketology update, with a full field of 64 coming Jan. 9.

Sixteen teams are perfect in the women's NCAA tournament so far. But in the Women's Tournament Challenge, there are no perfect brackets.

Only one bracket correctly picked the Sweet 16, and that was after going 31-for-32 (the only incorrect game was Marquette over Texas) in the first round.

Two users got each first-round pick correct and then missed just one game in the second round.

The most popular result for the Sweet 16 was a bracket that had 10 of the 16 teams in the regional semifinals correct. Brackets with 26 of 32 teams correct were the most popular result after the first round.

A look at each region:

Spokane

• Just 0.65 percent of entries had Xavier to win the national championship.

• Meanwhile, 66.4 percent of brackets had Louisville meeting Xavier in the second round, but only 13 percent believed Louisville would win the matchup, while 3.3 percent of users have Louisville in the Elite Eight and 0.3 percent have it in the Final Four.

• UCLA, the No. 3 seed in the Spokane Regional, was predicted by 76 percent of brackets to make the Sweet 16, 34.5 percent to make the Elite Eight and 4.5 percent to win its region. Only 9.3 percent of users had Gonzaga making it this far, and only 1.8 percent have the team in the Final Four. While 31.3 percent overall predicted the matchup between Gonzaga and UCLA, 26.7 percent had Gonzaga winning.

• One percent of entries had Louisville and Gonzaga playing against each other in the third round, and 63.1 percent of those predictors had Louisville winning.

• Just 0.5 percent of entries predicted that Stanford, UNC, Louisville and Gonzaga would make the Sweet 16.

Potential Elite Eight matchups:
• Stanford vs. Gonzaga: 2.4 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 83.7 percent of those entries predicting Stanford wins
• Stanford vs. Louisville: 2.6 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 93.1 percent of those entries predicting Stanford wins
• UNC vs. Gonzaga: 0.2 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 66.6 percent of those entries predicting UNC wins
• UNC vs. Louisville: 0.3 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 75.5 percent of those entries predicting UNC wins

Philadelphia

• 19.1 percent of entries predicted that UConn, Georgetown, Duke and DePaul would make the Sweet 16 out of this region.

• 98.6 percent of brackets had UConn in the Sweet 16, 96.3 percent in the Elite Eight and 89.6 percent in the Final Four. 51.5 percent of brackets have UConn winning it all.

What does that mean? Not good things for Georgetown: 29 percent had Georgetown advancing to the Sweet 16, but only 0.6 percent have the Hoyas making it any further. 28.7 percent of entries predicted this matchup against UConn, but only 1.5 percent have Georgetown ousting the No. 1 seed. Only 73 brackets predicted Georgetown as national champion.

• 68.6 percent of entries predicted Duke facing off against DePaul in the Sweet 16, and fans stuck with the No. 2 seed at a clip of 76.1 percent. Only 6.5 percent have Duke making the Final Four. DePaul was predicted by 72.2 percent of brackets to make the Sweet 16, 18.6 percent to make the Elite Eight and 1.2 percent to make the Final Four. It is the lowest No. 3 seed in that regard (all the other No. 3 seeds received at least 3.3 percent). But DePaul was the only No. 3 seed to survive.

Potential Elite Eight matchups:
• UConn vs. Duke: 72.8 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 92.6 percent of those entries predicting UConn wins
• UConn vs. DePaul: 18 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 94.9 percent of those entries predicting UConn wins
• Georgetown vs. Duke: 0.3 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 73 percent of those entries predicting Duke wins
• Georgetown vs. DePaul: 0.2 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 65.2 percent of those entries predicting DePaul wins

Dayton

• 23.9 percent of entries had Tennessee, OSU, ND and OU in the Sweet 16.

Oklahoma was the biggest surprise, selected by only 35.8 percent of entries to make the Sweet 16. 87.9 percent of entries had the second-round Oklahoma versus Miami matchup, but only 39.2 percent had Oklahoma with the upset. And 3.7 percent of users predicted Miami to make the Final Four; the upset disrupted 17.5 percent of brackets who had the Hurricanes in the Elite Eight.

• Users predicted that it would be a no-brainer that Tennessee would advance to this point: 96.6 percent of users had Tennessee going at least two rounds. Now, Tennessee faces Ohio State in the Sweet 16, a common matchup selected by 72.4 percent of users. 88.1 percent have Tennessee advancing from that matchup and a total of 86.6 percent of brackets have the Lady Vols in the Elite Eight. 65.7 percent have Tennessee in the Final Four. Ohio State makes the Elite Eight in only 9.7 percent of brackets and the Final Four in 4.3 percent.

• Despite the early-round confidence in Tennessee, it is the least-selected No. 1 seed to make the Final Four (Stanford: 79.5 percent; UConn: 89.6 percent; Baylor: 78.3 percent).

• Only 33.1 percent of entries predicted a Notre Dame-Oklahoma matchup; 76.3 percent of those users have Notre Dame advancing and 70 percent out of all brackets have the Irish in the Elite Eight. 21.9 percent have Notre Dame in the Final Four, the most of any of the No. 2 seeds by a large margin. Oklahoma was predicted to make it to the Elite Eight in only 9.7 percent of brackets, while 2.1 percent believed it could make the Final Four.

Potential Elite Eight matchups:
• Tennessee vs. Notre Dame: 61.9 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 73.1 percent of those entries predicting Tennessee wins
• Tennessee vs. Oklahoma: 8.1 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 81.8 percent of those entries predicting Tennessee wins
• OSU vs. Notre Dame: 6.5 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 63.8 percent of those entries predicting Notre Dame wins
• OSU vs. Oklahoma: 1.1 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 65.3 percent of those entries predicting Ohio State wins

Dallas

• Just 6 percent of entries predicted that Baylor, Green Bay, Georgia and Texas A&M would all make the Sweet 16.

• Michigan State was heavily favored to advance over Green Bay, according to our users, who had MSU in 61.9 percent of brackets and Green Bay in only 34.3 percent of brackets. 4.3 percent of brackets had MSU making the Elite Eight and 2.1 percent had it in the Final Four.

• 33.8 percent of entries had Baylor versus Green Bay in the Sweet 16. Almost all of them, 92 percent, have Baylor advancing to the Elite Eight. Overall, 91.1 percent of the brackets have Baylor in the Elite Eight and 78.3 percent have the Lady Bears in the Final Four. Green Bay is predicted by only 1.8 percent of brackets to make the Final Four.

• 21.6 percent of brackets had No. 6 seed Georgia in the Sweet 16, and 17.3 percent of all brackets had it facing Texas A&M in the next round. 82.7 percent of those predicting the matchup have Texas A&M advancing, but that is no surprise, as 63 percent of all users have A&M in the Elite Eight and 11.6 percent have it in the Final Four. Just 0.5 percent have Georgia in the Final Four.

Potential Elite Eight matchups:
• Baylor vs. Georgia: 4.3 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 91.7 percent of those entries predicting Baylor wins
• Baylor vs. Texas A&M: 58.7 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 83.9 percent of those entries predicting Baylor wins
• Green Bay vs. Texas A&M: 1.8 percent of entries predicted the matchup, with 56.1 percent of those entries predicting Green Bay wins
• Green Bay vs. Georgia: 0.2 percent of entries predicted the matchup with 64.4 percent of those entries predicting Green Bay wins

Most popular championship game matchups

• 31.1 percent have UConn versus Stanford in the final, with 70 percent of those entries with UConn winning
• 35.3 percent have UConn versus Baylor in the finals, with 66.9 percent of those entries with UConn winning

Least popular

• Two entries had Georgetown facing off against Gonzaga in the final
• Five entries had Oklahoma facing off against Gonzaga in the final

The day of "almost" upsets started in Greensboro, N.C., where one of the participants used to be on the other side. Kellie Harper won three SEC tournament titles as a player for powerhouse Tennessee.

Now in her first season as head coach at NC State, Harper was on the underdog side. Her Wolfpack, the No. 6 seed in the ACC tournament, were trying to knock off top-seeded Duke. NC State was attempting to win the program's fifth ACC tourney title, but first since 1991.

Iowa, meanwhile, was in the Big Ten tournament final for the first time since 2001. And in the SEC final, Kentucky was making its first appearance since 1982. So …

It could have been a huge day for long shots getting automatic NCAA tournament bids. But none of them quite came through. Instead, the top seeds came away with hard-fought and well-earned victories in the ACC, Big Ten and SEC -- but their opponents proved something, too.

We'll start with the ACC, which except for Maryland's title last year has been the province of Duke or North Carolina for the past decade -- although the Blue Devils hadn't won a championship since 2004.

Duke lost its regular-season finale to the Tar Heels, and then just squeaked past Maryland by a basket in the ACC quarterfinals. Duke beat Georgia Tech in the semis.

Meanwhile, the Wolfpack upset third-seeded Virginia in the quarterfinals and then defeated another tourney upstart, Boston College, in the semis.

NC State had hit a low point in losing 70-39 to Duke on Feb. 11; after that loss, the Wolfpack were 13-11 (3-6 ACC). But soon the "magic" of the Pink Zone came through again. On Valentine's Day, during a stretch when teams across the country wore pink to honor the late Kay Yow and raise funds for cancer research, NC State beat Miami to start a run in which the Wolfpack won seven of their next eight games entering the ACC final.

Duke won the championship 70-60 Sunday afternoon, and the Blue Devils have finished their 27-5 résumé to submit to the NCAA committee for a likely a No. 2 seed. Meanwhile, NC State (20-13) hopes its strong finish is enough to earn an at-large bid, which is expected.

"I'm extremely proud of our team for so many reasons," said Harper, who had the difficult job of replacing the legendary Yow in Raleigh. "For improving, for believing, for working hard in practice, for playing together. In that locker room, I was proud of them for wanting more. They are hurt they didn't win this game, and I am so proud of that.

"I think our kids have proven over the last few weeks that we're an NCAA tournament team."

In Indianapolis, Iowa came oh-so-close to finishing off an amazing turnaround from being in last place in the Big Ten in mid-January. The Hawkeyes lost to Ohio State 66-64 in the league tournament final, but this is one time when quite honestly Iowa had to be pretty happy just to be there.

Starting last November, it seemed this season would be nothing but awful news for the Hawkeyes. They lost their only senior, JoAnn Hamlin, to a serious blood clot that forced her to end her career. Freshman Theairra Taylor (ACL) and sophomore Hannah Draxten (herniated disk) were also lost for the season.

The Hawkeyes were 8-10 and had lost four in a row going into their Jan. 21 game at Illinois.

But then, everything changed. A switch was flipped, and Iowa has since won 11 of its last 14. That was almost 12 of 14, as Iowa built a lead as large as 16 points against Ohio State in the Big Ten final.

But the Buckeyes had a little too much Jantel Lavender, who had 35 points and 10 rebounds. Her layup with 1 minute, 20 seconds left tied the score, and her two free throws with 1.9 seconds left won it.

Ohio State (30-4) now just waits for a great seed while the Hawkeyes (19-13) wait for an invitation. But two months ago, nobody was expecting Iowa would be doing anything at this point except getting ready for next season.

Lastly, Tennessee now has won 14 SEC tournament titles, but this one -- thanks to a 70-62 victory over No. 2 seed Kentucky in Sunday night's final -- means a lot because of the trials of last season.

Tennessee, of course, lost in the first round of the 2009 NCAA tournament -- the program's first loss ever in the first round (the Lady Vols had never failed to reach the Sweet 16 until last season). That ended an extremely frustrating 2008-09 for coach Pat Summitt and her young team.

This season, Summitt still hasn't solved all of Tennessee's concerns, but it's a significantly more accomplished team. Don't look now, but Tennessee is 30-2 -- yet almost absurdly under the radar.

Most of the attention has been going to that one team from the Northeast that Tennessee doesn't play in the regular season anymore, plus the surprising and undefeated Nebraska Cornhuskers, a new kid on the NCAA title-contending block.

But anyone who overlooks Tennessee as a potential national championship threat should think twice. The Orange Crush will be a No. 1 seed again and surely in the Memphis Regional.

Tennessee advanced to San Antonio the last time the Women's Final Four was there (2002) and could be making a return trip this year.

But Kentucky has been a great story this season, too. Victoria Dunlap was named the SEC Player of the Year, while A'dia Mathies won the rookie honor and Matthew Mitchell the coaching award. And the Wildcats, despite being picked to finish second-to-last in the league, instead finished runner-up to Tennessee -- both in the regular season and the tournament.

Kentucky (25-7) lost by 16 points at Tennessee on Feb. 25. Cutting that gap in half on a neutral court Sunday is not a bad way for the Wildcats to head into the NCAA tournament.