NEW YORK (AP) — UConn is the No.1 overall seed in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
The Huskies’ road to a fifth straight national championship will begin at home against 16th seed Albany on Saturday. A rematch from last season’s title game with Syracuse looms in the second round.
UConn potentially wouldn’t have to leave the state of Connecticut until the Final Four in Dallas. The NCAA switched the national semifinals back to a Friday-Sunday format this season for the first time since 2002.
The Oregon State Beavers (29-4) got a No. 2 seed in the Stockton Region. They will host the first 2 rounds in Corvallis and begin with Long Beach State on Friday. If they win, they’ll move on to face either Creighton or Toledo.
While the Huskies won’t have to leave the state until the national semifinals, the other No. 1 seeds aren’t as lucky.
South Carolina is the top seed in Stockton, California. The Gamecocks are headed out of the Eastern time zone for the third time in four seasons. The Gamecocks’ lone trip to the Final Four came when they played a regional in Greensboro in 2015.
UConn, which has won a record 11 national championships, is the prohibitive favorite to win again. Unlike the past few years where it almost seemed a foregone conclusion that UConn would win the title, the Huskies weren’t the favorite coming into the season with big losses to graduation.
Geno Auriemma challenged his young team with a difficult schedule that saw the Huskies play most of the other top teams in the country, including potential No. 1 seeds Notre Dame, South Carolina and Baylor. Still, they did show some vulnerability with a single digit win over Maryland — the No. 3 seed in their region. UConn also only beat Tulane by three points in February, giving other teams hope that the Huskies are beatable.
Maryland coach Brenda Frese wasn’t thrilled at the low seed. The Terrapins were fourth in the final AP poll on Monday.
“We understand its tournament time. I’m most surprised that being a team ranked top four in the country, (we) earn a three seed,” Frese said. “Thirty wins, win your conference regular season and conference tournament at this point it doesn’t matter. Put your head down and given the bracket you have, it’s the next opportunity.”
Duke is the No. 2 seed in the region after missing the NCAAs last year for the first time since 1994.
For the second consecutive season the NCAA is having the top four teams in each region host the opening two rounds.