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Top NCAA tournament seeds likely already set -- and now, we wait

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Stewart, UConn stop South Florida, win American (1:09)

Breanna Stewart scores 22 points and blocks seven shots as the Huskies beat South Florida 77-51 to win the American Athletic Conference for the third straight year. (1:09)

There are seasons when conference tournaments add some intrigue -- if not downright doubt -- about the projected No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. But this was not one of those years.

For all practical purposes, UConn, South Carolina, Notre Dame and Baylor had their top seeds wrapped up for the Big Dance even before any of them tipped off in their respective league tournaments.

But there might have been just a little uncertainty raised about how they would play in the NCAA tournament if one of them had looked a little shaky these past few days. That didn't happen.

Monday night, UConn won the American Athletic Conference tournament and Baylor won the Big 12 tournament, both in convincing fashion against the second-best team in their leagues.

UConn spotted South Florida a one-point lead after the first quarter, then went into clobber mode and finished it out 77-51. Baylor didn't allow for any real suspense against Texas, winning 79-63. The Bulls and the Longhorns each tried three times to beat their league's giant this season, but couldn't do it. On the bright side, that prepares them for their own NCAA tournament journeys. On the not-so-bright side, it's frustrating as heck.

But that's the nature of what it has been like this season for teams to face any of the No. 1s, who are a combined 127-3. The Huskies and Lady Bears now join ACC tournament champion Notre Dame and SEC tournament champ South Carolina in waiting to see who their respective regional victims, er, challengers will be on the Road to Indianapolis. The NCAA tournament bracket will be unveiled Monday (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

There is no "easy" regional with these four No. 1 seeds. Undefeated UConn, obviously, is the most formidable, having won the past three NCAA titles and their past 69 games in a row. Being the No. 2 seed in the Bridgeport regional is like finding out you've been entered into a spelling bee in a foreign language. We're not saying you have zero chance to win, but practically.

Then you have two teams whose only loss this season was to UConn: Notre Dame fell to the Huskies in early December on the road in Storrs, and South Carolina lost in early February at home in Columbia.

The Irish have lost one game -- last regular season at Miami -- since joining the ACC three years ago, and they also won the Big East tournament the last season they were in that conference. So with five consecutive Final Four appearances and four straight league tournament titles, the Irish are very much in their element in March.

South Carolina has lost one SEC game in the past two years, that coming at the end of the 2015 regular season to Kentucky. The Gamecocks looked a bit flat in their SEC tournament opener against Auburn this past Friday, but then blasted Kentucky by 30 in the semifinals and comfortably defeated Mississippi State by 14 points in the final.

As for Baylor, it has the longest current streak of the four No. 1s in regard to conference tournament titles, now at six in a row. The Big 12 tournament has turned into the Baylor Invitational. (The last non-Baylor winner is not even in the league anymore; Texas A&M in 2010 and '08. The last non-Baylor winner still in the Big 12 is Oklahoma, in 2007.)

The Lady Bears are the only one of the four No. 1s that lost a conference game -- in their Big 12 opener at Oklahoma State -- but the absence of point guard Niya Johnson that night and perhaps a bit of post-Christmas break hangover (the game was Dec. 30) contributed. They haven't stumbled since.

Baylor has not played UConn, so there isn't that comparison the way there is with Notre Dame and South Carolina. But in regard to whomever they might face before a potential trip to Indianapolis, the Lady Bears are going to measure up quite well.

Now, the winners of two other major conference tournament titles -- the Big Ten's Maryland and the Pac-12's Oregon State -- also upheld their top seeds in their leagues and won their championship games by double digits.

They are strong NCAA tournament No. 2 seeds that almost certainly won't draw the Bridgeport short straw. The Terps are attempting to reach the Final Four for the third year in a row, and the Beavers -- hooray for some truly new blood among the sport's elite -- are trying to make it that far for the first time in program history.

Do legitimate challenges for this Final Four go any deeper than the No. 3 seed line? Historically, not that often, and this year it doesn't seem likely. Never say never, of course.

But this season, the best of the best have made their cases very firmly heading into Selection Monday, and it will take some pretty crazy March madness to give us a surprise visitor to Indy.