The battle for the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament was fought at the conference level this week.
On Saturday, two of the favorites, Stanford and South Carolina, suffered losses in the semifinals, events that could impact UConn and Louisville, in different ways, next week when the brackets are announced.
Stanford was defeated by unranked USC in the Pac 12 semifinals. The Trojans won the title Sunday. The Gamecocks lost to Kentucky in the SEC semifinals. The Wildcats lost to Tennessee on Sunday.
Things seem open now for Louisville (30-4) to grab a possible No. 1 seed at its home, KFC Yum! Center, and insure UConn’s assignment to the Lincoln, NE, regional.
However, ESPN’s bracketologist, Charlie Creme, has been sticking by his guns, continuing to place UConn as the No. 1 to Louisville’s No. 2 in Kentucky.
For that to happen, however, the committee would essentially need to rank the Cardinals last among the No. 2 seeds, setting up a 1-8 scenario with UConn.
“How do I answer that question [about seeding] without being reprimanded,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “I’d lose my shirt, my per diem, everything.”
The NCAA would be well within its rights to send UConn to Louisville since the coaches agreed to a provision requiring the top-seeded team in the tournament be sent to the regional closest and most “compatible” to its home.
For UConn, that’s Louisville, which is 893 miles away. Lincoln is approximately 1,420 miles from Gampel.
“But the minute we signed that, most of us immediately regretted it,” Geno Aureimma said Sunday.
Despite beating Louisville twice this season, Auriemma remains convinced the Cardinals should be No. 1 seed at their home.
“I think they’re a number one seed. They’ve done everything they were supposed to do; they don’t have any bad losses,” Auriemma said. “Usually, that’s what hurts you in the NCAA tournament; if you have a bad loss or two or three, then you’re in trouble. They don’t have any bad losses. It’s not like they just got good this year and they don’t have the respect that someone else would have, for the last four or five years they’ve been in two final fours and played in two national championship games so anybody that’s by any measure, there’s a reason you gave them the bid.”
Walz obviously wants UConn as far away from Louisville as possible. If he must play the Huskies a fourth time, he’d rather it be at the Final Four as opposed to a game that might block his path.
“As coaches, years ago, we were the ones who voted on the geography over the true seeding in the NCAA tournament. When you look at it, and I know my geography is ok, but I don’t think people are going to drive from Storrs (Connecticut) to Louisville, instead of going to Storrs to Lincoln,” Walz said. “If you are trying to make it a true NCAA tournament feel and a true bracket, which is what I’m hoping our game can get to, because that’s what it should be.
On the way with USA
Walz, who has led the Cardinals to two Final Fours in his first seven seasons, will get his first chance to coach for USA Basketball this summer when he assists South Carolina’s Dawn Staley along with Michigan’s Kim Barnes-Arico with the U-18 team.
“I had let USA Basketball know that I was very interested in the possibility of having the chance to coach for them,” Walz said. “I’m curious to find out what the organization is all about and how things are work within it. And I am honored to get my chance … If it leads to something more someday, I’m excited for that challenge. But for now, I’m just thrilled to know I will be an assistant.”
Monday’s title game was seen by 8,034 fans at Mohegan Sun Arena, capping off a tremendous weekend for the AAC’s coaches and administrators. The consensus is that the conference will pick up its option to hold the 2015 tournament back at the casino.
“We’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” Auriemma said. “I’ve always thought it would be a great experience for the fans and players. It’s a beautiful venue, the crowds were great, the people who run [the arena] understand how to run theses events. If was everything hoped it would be.”
While the AAC Tournament was going on in her home building, Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan was in Seattle scouting the Pac 12. That’s where Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike was, the Sun’s likely No. 1 overall pick in the April draft. … Stefanie Dolson started her 146th game Monday. Renee Montgomery holds the program record with 148. She is also grabbed 16 rebounds leaving her 11 from tying Elliott (1054) for fourth place in program history … Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (13 points) surpassed 1,500 points (1,511).