Then There Was 32

By Jeff Lippman - March 23, 2008

The first round of the NCAA Tournament is written. One step closer are we on the road to crowning a new - or perhaps a familiar - champion.

Is there any question in anyone's mind which is the best conference in women's basketball this season? It's the Big 12 hands down, and they are proving it in a big way.

Eight NCAA Tournament teams, the most of any conference. Eight NCAA Tournament victories later, and the Big 12 makes up a quarter of the field.

And the eighth Big 12 victory was a microcosm of the difference between the two conferences of which the opponents belong.

Appropriately, 8th-seeded Texas met the 9-seed Minnesota out of the Big Ten. The two teams had very similar records, Texas one more win and one more loss.

But Texas steamrolled the Lady Gophers. Coach Gail Goestenkors picked up her first NCAA Tournament win with the Longhorns as they proved the Big 12's superiority, 72-55, in Bridgeport, Ct.

What's that? Do you hear that faint beating, sort of like a murmur? That's the pulse of the Big Ten in this tournament. It's still beating, though.

Purdue, the 9-seed in the Oklahoma City bracket, grabbed a lead against the 8-seed Utah and held on for dear life all night. The Utes scratched and clawed, but the Boilermakers were too much.

And I said there'd be no Big Ten teams left by the end of the night. So there's one. Hooray.

The Lady Boilers got 17 points apiece from all-name team members Kalika France and FahKara Malone and shot 50 percent from long range to advance.

The Big Ten's road will definitely end in the second round, though. I can say that with certainty. Purdue meets top-seed Tennessee, who made short work of their opening round opponent Oral Roberts.

Well, at least the Big Ten can say they won one game. That's better than I thought they'd do.

Here are some notes from the rest of Sunday's first round action:

-- Shahida Williams dropped 20 points on 10-for-11 shooting as the 5-seed in the Greensboro regional, Old Dominion, defeated 12-seed Liberty, 82-62, on their own home court in Norfolk, Va.

Although the higher seed, the Monarchs have to breathe a sigh of relief as they advance to the second round for the first time in the last six seasons.

Megan Frazee scored 19 points to lead the Lady Flames. Liberty simply shot poorly and was murdered on the rebounding edge.

The second round battle should be interesting for Old Dominion. Although they get to remain at home in Norfolk, their opponent will be 4-seeded Virginia, who beat UC Santa Barbara tonight, and will bring a large contingent of Wahoo faithful with them in the battle for state supremacy.

Here's a bit of trivia for you. I don't suppose anyone out there knows the nickname for the state of Virginia? You know, New Jersey is the Garden State, Maryland is the Old Line State. So what is Virginia?

The Old Dominion. Think about that...

-- Ashley Morris scored 21 points for Temple but it wasn't enough as the 6-seed Arizona State topped the 11-seeded Owls, 61-54, in College Park, Md.

The Owls hit just 1-for-7 from long range, with the sole bomb coming on a Morris three with the game already out of reach.

I was wrong in this one. I predicted a Temple upset, but Briann January and company was too strong down the stretch. Give Arizona State credit. The Pac-10 only had three teams in the NCAA Tournament, but they all won their first round games.

The Sun Devils move on to face the 3-seed in the Oklahoma City regional Duke in the second round.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 10:20 PM on March 23, 2008

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