Expected Eight, Upsets Coming

By Jeff Lippman - March 31, 2008

On Sunday, as the Sweet 16 drew to a close, it became brutally obvious that if the little number indicated your seed was lower than your opponents, you were probably going to advance to the Elite Eight.

One seeds Connecticut and Tennessee cruised past 5-seeded Old Dominion and Notre Dame, respectively. Each team's star led the way. Freshman Maya Moore finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds and, not to be outdone, Candace Parker dropped 34 and 13 for the Lady Vols.

As for the two seeds, they both advanced with Texas A&M topping Duke handily, 77-63, and Rutgers holding off an upset bid from George Washington for an 11-point victory.

The Lady Vols, Huskies, Scarlet Knights and Aggies join two seeds LSU and Stanford and ones Maryland and North Carolina as the eight teams remaining in the Big Dance.

Yup, so much for parity. All eight top seeds remain.

But who needs parity? We've got great regional final matchups and it all gets started on Monday at 7:30 p.m. as the New Orleans and Spokane Regionals crown their champions and the first two Final Four teams take their place in Tampa.

For those waiting for UConn-Rutgers III, that match isn't until Tuesday. Monday you'll catch LSU tangle with North Carolina for the battle of somethings gotta give.

The Tar Heels have been to the last two Final Fours and hope very badly to complete the turkey. But LSU is working on another level entirely. The Tigers are looking to make it five national semifinals in a row, an unprecedented feat. Of course, the Tigers have yet to win a national semi game.

North Carolina hasn't impressed me as much as the Tigers in this tournament. But you always have to watch out for a Sylvia Hatchell coached team, especially one that is a number one seed.

But this late in the tournament, I have to go with experience. And lthough the Tar Heels have senior Erlana Larkins on their side - she's been to those last two Final Fours - they are still a young team. Whereas the Tigers are experience personified. They start an all senior five.

Once again, Erica White will be the difference maker. Not usually known as a scorer, she's leading the Tigers in the postseason and is coming off a team-high 18 point effort. As long as teams key on Sylvia Fowles and then Q Chaney, White will have open shots. If she hits them LSU is as good as any team in the country.

Prediction: LSU

Spokane Regional Final: Stanford (2) vs. Maryland (1) - 9:30 p.m. ET

It's about damn time a West Coast team made the Final Four, no?

No team from west of the Mississippi - Lara Boyko's way - has made the Final Four since Stanford did it back in 1997. No west team has won a title since the Cardinal in 1992.

Candice Wiggins is the type of player who can restore order to the women's basketball world. She's that good. She is for Stanford whatever they need her to be. If Jayne Appel is feeling it down low, Wiggins will feed her all night. They need Wiggins to score? Well, she scored 44 points against UTEP. Does that count?

Wiggins' resume is missing a Final Four and national championship and Maryland's has that bullet point. For that reason, and that reason alone, I would pick Stanford to upset the Terps and reach the Final Four.

But here's another reason for you.

Jayne Appel and Crystal Langhorne are going to have one gargantuan battle inside. Appel is averaging 25 points per game this tournament and Langhorne 24. The two will be beating each other up all night. And with Laura Harper getting all she can handle from freshman Kayla Pedersen, someone else for the Terps will have to step up.

That person could be Marissa Coleman, or it could be Kristi Toliver. But Toliver and Wiggins will be locked in their own epic battle. Both have larger-than-life personalities. Both are strong willed. But only Wiggins has a sense of urgency.

And she's pretty damn good, too.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 03:51 AM on March 31, 2008

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