NCAA Women's Bracket 2012: Predictions for Every First-Round Matchup
While most of the national attention is on the NCAA men's tournament, the women always put on a great show as well, and that should be no different this year. There are plenty of intriguing storylines to follow and a lot of interesting first-round matchups as well.
There is always the element of the unknown in the men's tourney when a small-conference team is playing a better-known school, and that is ratcheted up to another level in the women's tournament as such teams are never seen in nationally televised games.
Even if you don't know a lot about women's basketball, fill out a bracket and take an interest. Here is what you can expect to see in the first round.
Des Moines Regional
No. 1 Baylor def. No. 16 UC Santa Barbara
No. 8 Ohio State def. No. 9 Florida
No. 12 Fresno State def. No. 5 Georgetown
No. 4 Georgia Tech def. No. 13 Sacred Heart
No. 6 Nebraska def. No. 11 Kansas
No. 3 Delaware def. No. 14 Arkansas Little-Rock
No. 10 BYU def. No. 7 DePaul
No. 2 Tennessee def. No. 15 Tennessee-Martin
Top Seeds to Watch
The tournament's top team in the undefeated Baylor Bears resides here, so suffice it to say that it won't be easy for the other 15 schools. Center Brittney Griner continues to be the most dominant player in women's or men's college basketball and she should tear apart overmatched UC Santa Barbara.
Head coach Pat Summit and the Tennessee Lady Vols will look to make yet another run at a national championship, while the upstart Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens and star center Elena Delle Donne look to represent the small conferences as a No. 3 seed.
Which team has the best chance of upsetting Baylor in this tournament?
While I expect this region to go mostly chalk, there are a couple potential upsets. The biggest would be No. 12 Fresno State unseating No. 5 Georgetown. The Hoyas had a nice season in the Big East, but the Bulldogs dominated the WAC with a 13-1 mark and beat some power-conference teams in Oregon and Oklahoma this season.
Another minor upset would be No. 10 BYU taking down No. 7 DePaul. Like Georgetown, DePaul is battle-tested in the Big East, but the Blue Demons were wiped out by the top teams. BYU went 26-6 overall and won the Mountain West tournament, so the Cougars have momentum heading into the big dance.
No. 1 Stanford def. No. 16 Hampton
No. 8 West Virginia def. No. 9 Texas
No. 12 Eastern Michigan def. No. 5 South Carolina
No. 4 Purdue def. No. 13 South Dakota State
No. 6 Oklahoma def. No. 11 Michigan
No. 3 St. John's def. No. 14 Creighton
No. 10 Middle Tennessee def. No. 7 Vanderbilt
No. 2 Duke def. No. 15 Samford
Top Seeds to Watch
The top seed in this region is the No. 2 team in the nation in the Stanford Cardinal. The Cardinal may have a better chance than any team in this tournament of knocking off Baylor as they went 31-1 during the regular season. Nneka Ogwumike is the player to watch for Stanford as she averages a double-double.
Duke, which always seems to be in the mix, is No. 2 and should pose a stiff challenge to the Cardinal. The unheralded St. John's Red Storm, who finished second in the tough Big East, are the No. 3 seed and they certainly shouldn't be taken lightly.
The main potential upset to watch in this region is No. 12 Eastern Michigan over No. 5 South Carolina. The EMU Eagles won the MAC with a 13-3 mark and finished 23-8 on the season. That may not seem overly impressive but three of the Eagles' losses came in overtime, and they beat a tournament team in Michigan, so the Gamecocks will have a fight on their hands.
Another team of note in the No. 10 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. This will be the Blue Raiders' fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, and while they haven't pulled out a win during that time, they continue to come close. No. 7 Vanderbilt was just 9-7 in the SEC this season and can most definitely be beaten.
No. 1 Notre Dame def. No. 16 Liberty
No. 8 California def. No. 9 Iowa
No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast def. No. 5 St. Bonaventure
No. 13 Marist def. No. 4 Georgia
No. 11 Dayton def. No. 6 Arkansas
No. 3 Texas A&M def. No. 14 Albany
No. 7 Louisville def. No. 10 Michigan State
No. 2 Maryland def. No. 15 Navy
Top Seeds to Watch
This is an interesting region to say the least as the two combatants in last season's national championship game are both going to be in Raleigh.
The No. 1 seed is Notre Dame, which was the runner-up last season, while the defending national champion Texas A&M Aggies are seeded third. Neither team should have any trouble advancing past the first round and both are likely Sweet 16 teams.
While they aren't talked about much, the Maryland Terrapins are the No. 2 seed in this region and stand a decent chance of knocking off both Texas A&M and Notre Dame. The Lady Terps went 28-4 this season and won the competitive ACC, so they'll certainly be in the running.
Which team is most likely to score an upset win in the first round?
Aside from the top three seeds there is a lot of uncertainty in this region, and it should lead to chaos.
I expect three double-digit seeds to advance to the second round in the form of Florida Gulf Coast, Marist and Dayton. FGCU against St. Bonaventure is an interesting first-round battle as the teams combined for five losses all season. The pressure of a No. 5 seed is likely to get to the Bonnies, though.
Also, while No. 4 Georgia had a nice season in the SEC, No. 13 Marist makes the tournament every season and knows how to win. The Red Foxes upset Iowa State in the first round last year and should advance again this season.
Finally, No. 11 Dayton has a lot of momentum heading into its game against No. 6 Arkansas. The Razorbacks are a flawed team and the Atlantic 10 champions should be able to knock them off.
No. 1 Connecticut def. No. 16 Prairie View A&M
No. 9 Princeton def. No. 8 Kansas State
No. 5 LSU def. No. 12 San Diego State
No. 4 Penn State def. No. 13 UTEP
No. 11 Gonzaga def. No. 6 Rutgers
No. 3 Miami (Fla.) def. No. 14 Idaho State
No. 7 Green Bay def. No. 10 Iowa State
No. 2 Kentucky def. No. 15 McNeese State
Top Seeds to Watch
Even with the loss of Maya Moore to the WNBA, the Connecticut Huskies continue to field a top team. While UConn wasn't as dominant this season as it usually is under head coach Geno Auriemma, it earned a top seed as it won the Big East with a 29-4 overall record. The Huskies beat top teams in Stanford, Notre Dame and Duke, and stayed within five points against Baylor.
This region looks like a cakewalk for UConn as the other high seeds have some flaws. No. 2 Kentucky had a good year, but was prone to some slip-ups, and No. 3 Miami isn't used to such a lofty position. All three should advance, but Connecticut has a major upper hand.
There doesn't appear to be a ton of upset potential in this region, but one you can take to the bank is No. 11 Gonzaga over No. 6 Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights have had tournament success in the past and performed well in the Big East this season, but Gonzaga was ranked for most of this season and went all the way to the Elite Eight as a No. 11 seed last season.
Another team of note is No. 7 Green Bay.
A win in the first round wouldn't be an upset, but the Phoenix may ultimately be UConn's biggest test. Despite Green Bay's 30-1 record and No. 10 overall ranking this season, it was criminally given a No. 7 seed. The Phoenix can play with anyone, though, and figure to pull off a couple upsets as far as seeding goes.
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