NCAA WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT Tar Heels No. 1; Vols are upset
North Carolina and Tennessee are in the same regional.
By DONNA TOMMELLEO
North Carolina was rewarded for its near-perfect season with a No. 1 seed -- in an unthinkably tough bracket. Connecticut's bumpy ride earned the Huskies a No. 2 seed that essentially puts the five-time champions in front of a home crowd.
The six-time champ Tennessee Lady Vols, who played the hardest schedule in the land?
They're just plain mad.
Tennessee drew a No. 2 seed Monday in the tough Cleveland Regional that includes the Tar Heels, the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament; third-seeded Rutgers, who finished the Big East regular season unbeaten; and Big 10 power Purdue, the fourth seeded team.
"It's like the Final Four!" Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "I don't know how any bracket can get tougher than our bracket. ... But hey, that's just the way it is. We have to go play those games."
The other top seeds were Ohio State, LSU and Duke.
While North Carolina was lamenting its tough road to the Final Four, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was simply disgusted at not getting a top seed. The Lady Vols beat LSU to win the Southeastern Conference tournament, played the toughest schedule in the nation and was ranked second in the RPI.
Vols get no respect
"That's a slap in your face," Summitt told her players after they watched the selection show. "It's a slap in our program's face. I guess it's my fault for putting together the toughest schedule in the country year in and year out. But as far as I'm concerned we got no respect and I don't understand it."
The Lady Vols get No. 15 seeded Army, a NCAA tournament newcomer and Patriot League champion on Sunday in Norfolk, Va.
By way of explanation, Joni Comstock, chairwoman of the NCAA selection committee, suggested that the traditional powers aren't the only good teams in women's basketball these days.
"I don't know that there's been a year where there's been greater parity," Comstock said. "Strength of schedule is something we do look for and it's important to the committee. The schedule Tennessee played this year and plays most years, however, as close as it was, we felt that Tennessee this year was a No. 2 seed."
Duke, LSU and Ohio State were ranked as second, third and fourth No. 1 seeds, respectively, Comstock said. A No. 1 seed has won 17 of the 24 titles.
No. 1 in final AP poll
North Carolina, ranked atop the final AP Poll, and No. 2 Ohio State each won their regular season and conference championships in their respective Atlantic Coast and Big Ten conferences.
All four No. 1 seeds have started atop the NCAA brackets before, but the overall top seed Tar Heels the only ones already with a national title. It's the third No. 1 for North Carolina, which is seeking its second championship since 1994.
Duke has been a No. 1 seed five times and LSU has been selected atop the bracket three times. Ohio State received its second top seeding and the first for the Buckeyes since 1993.