Tennessee, Connecticut virtually set as top seeds

On Women's Basketball

January 30, 1998|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

After one turn through conference schedules and with six weeks left before invitations are handed out to the NCAA tournament, the picture at the top of the draw is getting clearer and clearer.

Top-ranked Tennessee and No. 2 Connecticut already have nailed down top seeds and established themselves as clearly the teams to beat for a national title. Both teams are playing basically to determine who gets to terrorize the East Regional in Dayton, Ohio, while the other runs roughshod over the Mideast Regional in Nashville, Tenn., on the way to the Final Four in Kansas City, Mo.

The Lady Vols, who ran their record to 22-0 with a 102-43 drubbing of No. 17 Georgia on Wednesday night, are looking unstoppable in their quest to win a third straight title, with double-digit wins over all of their ranked opponents except for an early season match against Louisiana Tech.

Realistically, only a Feb. 7 home meeting with third-ranked Old Dominion and a Presidents Day game at No. 6 Vanderbilt stands between Tennessee and an unbeaten regular season.

Meanwhile, the Huskies have ripped off eight straight wins after losing to Tennessee earlier this month and should have no trouble bulldozing their way through the Big East regular season and the conference tournament.

The other two top seeds appear to be in play, though Old Dominion is a solid bet for one of them. The Lady Monarchs collapsed in the final five minutes against Connecticut last week, but quickly got back on track, destroying Virginia earlier this week. They ought to grab a No. 1, though the loss to the Huskies may banish Old Dominion to the West, where it probably would see Stanford or Arizona.

The final top seed will probably go to either No. 4 Louisiana Tech or fifth-ranked Texas Tech.

The Lady Raiders have a few things working in their favor, including the fact that their conference, the Big 12, is second in the Ratings Percentage Index behind the Southeastern, and they will be playing host to the Midwest Regional on their floor.

Louisiana Tech, meanwhile, has been ranked in the Top 5 all season and should be able to get through the Sun Belt unscathed.

The parity that has gripped the Atlantic Coast Conference this year probably will keep any of the teams from contending for a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

Duke, however, is hot at the moment, and North Carolina, N.C. State or Clemson could run off several wins to secure such a spot.

Message game

Neither Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry nor her players would say it publicly, but you had to believe that they really enjoyed Tuesday's 80-51 pasting of No. 16 Virginia in Richmond, Va.

Though the Lady Monarchs lead the Cavaliers in national championship banners, 2-0, Virginia has carried itself as the women's power in the state of Virginia the past 10 years, thanks to three Final Four appearances in the early 1990's.

Virginia did knock off Old Dominion two years ago in an NCAA tournament game, but the Lady Monarchs may have served notice that the tide has turned.

By the numbers

There's not much change in the Top 10 of this week's RPI rankings, though Duke, on the strength of three victories over VTC Top 20 opponents, bolted up to 12th.

Here's this week's Top 10, with the team's respective Associated Press rankings in parenthesis:

1. Tennessee (1)

2. Old Dominion (3)

3. Texas Tech (5)

4. Connecticut (2)

5. Arkansas (unranked)

6, Hawaii (23)

7. Utah (11)

8. Illinois (8)

9. N.C. State (12)

10. Louisiana Tech (4)

Pub Date: 1/30/98

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