Connecticut received the No. 1 overall seed in the women's NCAA Tournament field, which was announced Monday, and won't need to leave its home state until the Final Four in Dallas. File Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo
Connecticut received the No. 1 overall seed in the women's NCAA Tournament field, which was announced Monday, as the Huskies bid for an unprecedented fifth straight national title.
The other top seeds in the 64-team tournament that begins Friday are South Carolina (Stockton, Calif., regional), Baylor (Oklahoma City) and Notre Dame (Lexington, Ky.).
But the focus is on UConn, which has won 107 consecutive games, has beaten all three of the other top seeds and won't need to leave its home state until the Final Four in Dallas.
The Huskies (32-0) open at home against Albany on Saturday, and with a win, they would face either Syracuse or Iowa State in the second round, also at home.
UConn would then play the regional semifinals and final in Bridgeport, Conn., before a possible trip to the Final Four.
The Huskies are an overwhelming favorite to capture their 12th national championship.
"It's been an amazing (season), a year that no one could have predicted," UConn coach Geno Auriemma told the Hartford Courant. "And yet, we have three weekends to prove that we're as good as everyone says we are. That's why this is the most exciting time of the year."
The Huskies' biggest challenge in its region figures to be second-seeded Duke, which is 27-5 and finished second in the ACC behind Notre Dame.
If South Carolina (27-4) wins its first two games at home, it will be headed to California, leaving the Eastern time zone in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four seasons. South Carolina's only trip to the Final Four came when the Gamecocks played a regional in Greensboro, N.C., in 2015.
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley was not pleased at the prospect of being sent across the country.
"I don't know what more we can do," Staley said. "We won our conference tournament to play closer. Two years ago, we got sent to Greensboro. Last year, we had to take the time-zone flight, over two time zones. I thought it was our turn to get flipped back to the Greensboro kind of ideology. ... I'm very disappointed, I am. ... I'm not going to say it's not fair. But they got to figure out a different way. "
The Gamecocks open against North Carolina-Asheville, and their toughest opponent in the region is expected to be second-seeded Oregon State, which is 29-4 and won the Pac-12 regular-season title.
Baylor (30-3) plays a home game against Texas Southern in its opener, and the Lady Bears may have to face No. 2 seed Mississippi State (29-4) to get to the Final Four.
Notre Dame (30-3) opens against Robert Morris in South Bend, Ind., with Stanford (28-5) the No. 2 seed in its regional.
Tennessee continues its appearance streak of being included in all 36 NCAA Division I women's tournaments since it was held for the first time in 1982. Elon and Texas Southern are participating in the event for the first time.
The championship game is scheduled for April 2.