Commentary

What to watch for as bracket unveiled

Will UConn be in Lincoln? Are Stanford and Tennessee awarded No. 1 seeds?

Originally Published: March 17, 2014
By Mechelle Voepel | espnW.com

With two perfect teams leading the field, the women's NCAA tournament has a couple of heavy-hitting anchors.

But when the bracket is revealed on ESPN/WatchESPN starting at 7 p.m. ET -- with extended coverage on ESPNU/WatchESPN at 8 p.m. ET -- one of the big issues to be settled is where defending champion Connecticut (34-0) is placed regionally.

This year, the NCAA opted to return to regional sites on schools' home courts, which used to be commonplace. But the NCAA went to neutral sites for regionals over the past decade, which is what coaches prefer.

Even the coach of the other undefeated team, 32-0 ACC champion Notre Dame, prefers that -- despite the fact that her school will be one of regional hosts.

[+] EnlargeMuffet McGraw and Geno Auriemma
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsGeno Auriemma's Huskies are 34-0, while Muffet McGraw's Irish are 32-0.

"I think hosting a regional is in complete opposition to preserving the integrity of the game," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said earlier this season. "At this stage in our sport's growth, by the time we're in regionals, we need to be at neutral sites."

The NCAA will indeed return to that next year, but it makes for some additional drama and speculation for this season's tournament.

So what are some of the main things to look for as we watch the bracket's unveiling?

Regional placement: The regionals will be held on the home courts of Notre Dame, Louisville, Nebraska and Stanford. Those schools, of course, are automatically in their respective regions. Notre Dame is one of the locks at No. 1, and Stanford is projected as a No. 1 seed -- despite the Cardinal's loss in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals to eventual champion Southern California.

This means UConn would appear to have two placement possibilities: Louisville, Ky., or Lincoln, Neb.

The geographical S curve -- if followed to the letter -- would put the Huskies in Louisville, as it's closer to Storrs. But considering that neither city is in any reasonable sense of the word "close" to UConn, there has been speculation that the committee might opt to send the Huskies to Nebraska because they've already played Louisville three times this season.

Tennessee is likely to be the other No. 1 seed. The Lady Vols had some ups and downs this season, but they finished very strong. They beat SEC regular-season champion South Carolina, and then won the SEC tournament with victories over LSU, Texas A&M and Kentucky.

With the Final Four in Nashville, the Lady Vols would love a chance to play in that event in their home state. The only other time the Final Four was in Tennessee -- 1990, in Knoxville -- the Lady Vols were upset in the regional final by Virginia.

Are the 2 seeds locked? Charlie Creme, espnW's bracketologist, has the No. 2 seeds set as Baylor (Big 12 regular-season co-champ and tourney champ), Duke (runner-up in ACC regular season and tourney), South Carolina (SEC regular-season champ) and Louisville (American regular-season and tourney runner-up).

Is there any chance one of the projected No. 3 seeds -- Nebraska, West Virginia, Texas A&M and Kentucky -- climbs? Probably not, but perhaps the Mountaineers -- as Big 12 regular-season co-champs who went down to the wire in the league tournament final versus Baylor -- will get a look.

Are there any problematic early-round placements for top seeds? Notre Dame is hosting the regional, but the Irish will have to go on the road for the early rounds. Creme projects them going to Baton Rouge, La., where they might face LSU on its home court in the second round. Last year, LSU was also an early-round host and upset Penn State to make the Sweet 16.

Notre Dame has not shown much vulnerability anywhere as it has transitioned to the ACC this season, but this placement -- if it happens -- still might worry Irish fans just a bit. Hey, they're fans.

UConn and Tennessee are both early-round hosts. Stanford is projected to be in Los Angeles.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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