NCAA Women's Tournament Begins Saturday
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
The women's NCAA tournament gets started on Saturday. For a quick look at the brackets, we're joined by NPR's Tom Goldman.
TOM GOLDMAN: Hi.
MONTAGNE: Let's start with how the field looks this year.
GOLDMAN: A handful of teams could stir things up a bit. Ohio State has won nine straight games coming into the tournament. Texas A&M looks strong. Xavier has a big, tough front line. And Gonzaga is the top offensive team in the country. Now that said, Renee, it's been seven years since a team seeded lower than number four got to the Final Four. There's just not the same depth and parity you see in the men's game, so fewer big upsets and more predictability near the end of the tournament. But the payoff is you get the best basketball at the end, and that's expected this time with four dominant teams favored to make it to the Final Four.
MONTAGNE: And Tom, you're going to be in Indianapolis for the women's Final Four. Which teams are expected to be there with you?
GOLDMAN: UConn, Tennessee, Baylor, Stanford. Those are all the number one seeds in their regions, the usual suspects from recent years. But there could be some fun storylines in Indy. UConn could play Tennessee in one semi-final. They are the two dominant programs in the women's game. It's become a nasty rivalry ever since Tennessee announced in 2007 that it wouldn't play UConn during the regular season anymore. Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt has implied UConn coach Geno Auriemma has fudged on player recruiting rules. Auriemma has shot back that Tennessee is the evil empire. So good theater there.
The other two teams, Baylor has a towering force in 6'8" Brittney Griner. And Stanford has been to three straight Final Four's and beat UConn this season to snap the Huskies all-time consecutive win streak at 90 games.
MONTAGNE: We just have a few seconds. Any other teams we should mention?
GOLDMAN: Yes. The University of Wisconsin, Green Bay - proof that Green Bay has more to offer athletically than the Super Bowl champion Packers. The Green Bay women's basketball team is red-hot. They're the only team other than UConn and Tennessee to come into the tournament with 32 wins. And then finally, Renee, just because they've got the coolest name in the tournament, the Stetson Hatters from Stetson University in Florida. Unfortunately, they play Tennessee in the first round. It could be an early exit, promoting really bad headlines like - wait for it - Stetson gets handed its hatters.
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MONTAGNE: Thanks, Tom. NPR's Tom Goldman.
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GOLDMAN: You bet.
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MONTAGNE: You're listening MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.
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