Head-to-Head: Kara Lawson and Swin Cash
Two former collegiate rivals break down the 2004 Women's NCAA Tournament

By Kara Lawson, Sacramento Monarchs

The NCAA Tournament is upon us. It is the fastest, most exciting three weeks of the year. I was a big-time college basketball fan growing up. I'm from the Washington, D.C. area so I was a big ACC fan. I used to watch both the men's and women's tournaments and root for the ACC. I always fill out a bracket for both the men and the women every year

The intensity and finality of the Tournament are what makes it special. In no other sporting event do you have to play six (count 'em, six) single elimination games in order to be called champion. No mulligans, no do-overs. You better bring it every night because other teams will definitely bring it to you.

Tennessee will win it all this year because of their mental toughness and experience. They have played the toughest schedule, dealt with injuries, and will flourish in the month of March (and April). In order to win it all, Tennessee must focus on a few key aspects of the game. They must rebound, defend, and not turn the ball over in order to win. Scoring more points than the other team always helps, too. Because of their lack of a true point guard, this particular team must focus on offensive efficiency.

The three teams that have the best chance to beat Tennessee are Texas, Connecticut, and Duke. Two of those three have already accomplished that feat this season. These three programs possess the firepower and grittiness necessary to win a championship this year. Okay, now comes the fun part, my predictions and random comments.

My Final Four Picks:
Connecticut (Why? Diana Taurasi. Enough said.), Duke (Why? Alana Beard. Enough said.), Tennessee (Why? Experience and toughness), and Texas (Why? These guys are fighters).
My national champion: Tennessee.

You can't have a Final Four without Tennessee and Connecticut. Some people might not want to see the same teams playing for the big prize, but I'll let you in on a little secret on why things will stay the same for awhile. Tennessee and Connecticut have been the two most successful programs over the years because they flat out work harder than everybody else. When you are immersed in an environment that demands excellence on a daily basis and you choose to buy into that system, you will be successful Coach Summitt and Coach Auriemma are competitors and winners and that filters down to the players. That is not to say that other teams cannot win a championship, but these two schools have shown the ability to sustain excellence.

Kara Lawson, University of Tennessee '03

By Swin Cash, Detroit Shock

Well, it's that time of year again. NCAA Tournament time. Or, should I say the time of the year when all the Husky haters come out the closet and begin their annual tirade. But I have said it before and I will say it again: my Lady Huskies are fine.

Even after some difficulties down the stretch and losing in the Big East Tournament, I have no doubt that the Lady Huskies will be ready to put the recent past behind them and excel in the NCAA Tournament. This is the time of the year when Coach Auriemma demands excellence, the players demand perfection, and the whole state of Connecticut looks forward to yet another national championship.

When it's all said and done, if UConn's Tournament run does not culminate in New Orleans with a championship coronation, they will, no doubt, have gone down fighting like the true champions they are.

So of course I am pulling for UConn to win it all, but I am also excited to see the great players like Diana Taurasi or Alana Beard on the biggest stage. But I am also excited to see who will emerge as the next Diana Taurasi or Alana Beard. This is the time when names that people may not have heard before become more popular.

For example, look out for a lady from Penn State named Tanisha Wright. Right now, she is stuck in the shadow of the Kelly Mazzante hoopla, but she is that holds together Penn State's hopes of going to the Final Four.

Also, please don't sleep on a girl that hales from the state of Texas. She is not a Longhorn, but she is long on talent. Her name Chandi Jones. Last year, while working a game for ESPN, I had opportunity to see her up close and personal. She is the real deal and will only get better. Chandi, you haven't been given your fair share of props, so here goes, girl:
You bad! And I love to watch you play. I'm just hoping that come Draft time, some teams don't pick up on you and that you will be taken with by Detroit. I am a fan of this kind, no doubt about it.

Alright, so without any further interruption, here are my picks for the finals: UConn (no surprise), Duke, Georgia, and Tennessee.

Well, that's my two cents, not that its much, but its mine! And how awesome would it be if UConn swept both the men's and women's National Championships? It can happen! FEAR THE DOGS!

I will be with the U.S. Women's National Team in Europe over the next couple of weeks, but we'll all be watching…

Swin Cash, University of Connecticut '02

Coming soon:
• Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings Head-to-Head
• WNBA Player Tournament Memories
• Renee Brown's Scouting Report

Plus: full NCAA coverage on ESPN.com
Photo Credits:
Swin Cash: Andrew D. Bernstein/WNBAE/Getty Images
Kara Lawson: Rocky Widner/WNBAE/Getty Images

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