March Madness & The Road To Boston
But, before we get to draft day, there’s the road to Boston. Since our very own AT&T Center is the host site for a Regional, we thought we’d take a moment to break down the bracket with a few teams and players to watch over the next few weeks.
We’ll start with top national seed North Carolina in the Cleveland Regional with perhaps the toughest road to Boston. Cleveland is stacked with the Tar Heels, Big Ten power Purdue, Rutgers and Tennessee. The Tar Heels lost just one contest this year, an overtime heartbreaker to Maryland. They’ll need steady play from star Ivory Latta and a few surprises out of Erlana Larkins to make it through to Boston.
With the top-ranked defense in the nation and the scoring threat of Cappie Pondexter, Rutgers is a serious threat in the tournament. However, the Scarlet Knights still need big play from freshman center Kia Vaughn and sophomore guard Matee Ajavon.
Tennessee heads into the sub-regional with a collective chip on their shoulders, after feeling snubbed in seeding. Despite ranking second in RPI and defeating LSU in the SEC Championship game, the Lady Vols earned a two seed and were sent to perhaps the toughest region in the country. With five starters seeing the bulk of their playing time, the Tennessee squad is a pretty cohesive unit, but they’ll have to avoid injuries and hope for big plays from Candace Parker and Shanna Zolman.
Pick to win in Cleveland: North Carolina
Player to watch: UCLA’s Noelle Quinn
Possible Cinderella: Bowling Green
Top-seeded Duke will be tough to beat in the Bridgeport Regional, however, to take the short trip up to Boston, Monique Currie and the Blue Devils will have to face second-seeded Connecticut in their home state. The Huskies have veteran Ann Strother, and if Charde Houston plays up to her potential and the Huskies get solid outings out of Mel Thomas and Barbara Turner, the Huskies could be playing for another national title come April.
Pick to win in Bridgeport: Duke
Player to watch: Temple’s Candice Dupree
Ohio State tops the field in the Albuquerque Regional with the Maryland Terrapins hanging on to the second seed. Maryland must take care of the basketball, if the Terrapins are going to advance beyond the Sweet 16. If the Terrapins make it to Albuquerque, they’ll likely have to face defending champion Baylor and Sophia Young. Meanwhile Ohio State could match up against Utah and Kim Smith. The Buckeyes bring Big Ten Player of the Year Jessica Davenport to the court, along with Big Ten tournament MVP Brandie Hoskins.
Pick to win in Albuquerque: Maryland
Player to watch: Baylor’s Sophia Young
Finally, in San Antonio, LSU looks for a second chance at a national title with arguably the nation’s best player in Seimone Augustus. Augustus picked up SEC Player of the Year honors this year, but the early favorite for next season has to be LSU sophomore Sylvia Fowles. Fowles is averaging 16.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game with a .623 success rate from the field. However, if Oklahoma makes it through to the Elite Eight, the Tigers could have trouble on their hands in the form of the Courtney Paris. OU has been hot down the stretch and has a legitimate shot at the title, especially if somebody gets a hot hand from beyond the arc.
Pick to win in San Antonio: Oklahoma
Player to watch: Sylvia Fowles