Committee draws smiles and keeps frowns to minimum

Connecticut, Tennessee awarded top two seeds, could collide in title game

March 13, 2000|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

If the objective of a good cook is for the diners to leave the table without complaint, then Bernadette McGlade is on her way to meeting the goal.

McGlade, the chairwoman of the NCAA women's basketball committee, unveiled a 64-team draw yesterday that seemed to make most everyone happy, while keeping complaints to a minimum.

The committee made its two most visible coaches, Geno Auriemma of Connecticut and Pat Summitt of Tennessee, happy by awarding them the top two seeds.

The panel then placated most fans by making sure that the earliest those two teams, who have dominated this season and split two regular-season meetings, could meet again would be in the national championship game April 2 in Philadelphia.

The committee kept the mid-major conferences satisfied by offering at-large bids to schools like Pepperdine (West Coast) and Maine (America East), rather than taking Florida, a 17-12 team from the Southeastern Conference, which is usually the most powerful women's conference.

The committee seemed to go out of its way to make the Big East happy, giving the league's four representatives (Connecticut, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Boston College) a top seed, two No. 2 seeds and a No. 5 seed, respectively.

"It wasn't that long ago that it used to be only UConn," said McGlade, an associate commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference "Four strong teams is a nod to the fact that the league is doing something right."

The SEC and Big 12 each received six bids. The ACC placed five teams in the field, with Duke receiving the No. 2 seed in the East and Virginia getting a fourth seed in the Mideast. North Carolina and N.C. State each got No. 5 seeds in the West and Midwest, respectively, while Clemson got a No. 9 in the East.

Unlike the men's tournament, the top four seeds in each region of the women's tournament are allowed to host first- and second-round games.

Here again, the committee kept things on a happy keel, largely awarding home sites along the lines of the media and coaches poll voting, except in the case of Mississippi State, the third seed in the West.

The Lady Bulldogs were unable to be a subregional host because of a lack of hotel rooms in Starkville, so the committee gave them the higher seed, but sent them to Oregon, the Pac-10 champion and sixth seed in the region.

The only unhappy teams were Penn State, which lost a No. 1 seed in the Midwest to Louisiana Tech, and Georgia, which won the SEC regular season and got a top seed, but will head west for the fifth time in the past nine years.

"I think somebody's confused," said Georgia coach Andy Landers on ESPN. "I think they think we're UG at Santa Athens or something."


(At Richmond, Va.)

Player to watch: Purdue guard Katie Douglas, the most significant returnee from last year's national championship team, was ninth in the nation in scoring (21.3 ppg) and has the height and versatility to give just about any backcourt fits in the region.

Surprise team: Ten years ago, Oklahoma was nearly eliminated by the school's administration. But Sherri Coale, a local high school coach, has turned the Sooners into a Big 12 power. Forward Phylesha Whaley, the Big 12 Player of the Year, is capable of taking Oklahoma into the Sweet 16 and beyond.

Second-round game to watch: LSU-Xavier. The Musketeers outplayed Connecticut in Storrs last year in the second round, and if not for a phantom foul call in the closing seconds, would have advanced. They should give the Lady Tigers fits in Baton Rouge.

Outlook: The region has last year's national finalists, Purdue and Duke, and both are resourceful teams that play smart games. But it's hard to see anyone having enough depth and talent to keep Connecticut out of the Final Four.


(At Memphis, Tenn.)

Player to watch: Notre Dame center Ruth Riley is the early favorite to be the first player chosen in next year's WNBA draft. The 6-5 junior has quickness and size, and she hits more than 60 percent of her shots. Her strength on the low block may give Tennessee center Michelle Snow fits in a regional final.

Surprise team: Tulane coach Lisa Stockton, a former All-ACC guard at Wake Forest, has quietly built a dynamic program in New Orleans, and guard Grace Daley may be the most explosive player in the country. If the Green Wave gets by Texas Tech in the second round, it could go to the Elite Eight.

Second-round game to watch: Boston College-Virginia. The Eagles probably should have gotten this home site instead of the Cavaliers, and they could come into Charlottesville angry enough to prove it. Virginia's go-to-player, Schuye LaRue, the ACC Rookie of the Year, tends to get into foul trouble in big games.

Outlook: The tournament committee could have made things easier for Tennessee to get to the Final Four, but it's hard to see how. Not only do the Lady Vols have relatively token opposition in this region, but they don't even have to leave the state before they get to Philadelphia.


(At Kansas City, Mo.)

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