Can No. 1 seed Baylor advance to be the "home" team at the Women's Final Four in Dallas? The path for the Lady Bears is geographically friendly. They'll be at home in Waco, Texas, for the early rounds. The regional is just four hours' drive north in Oklahoma's capital city. Then if they advance to Dallas, that's just about an hour and a half from the Baylor campus.
But the Lady Bears are coming into the NCAA tournament off a loss for the first time since 2010 after falling to West Virginia in the Big 12 tourney final on the same Chesapeake Energy Arena floor where this regional will be played. Baylor has some unpleasant NCAA memories in this building: losing in an epic upset as the defending national champions to Louisville in the 2013 Sweet 16, and falling to Notre Dame in the 2015 Elite Eight. And, yes, if the seeds hold, we'll see Baylor vs. Louisville in a regional semifinal again.
Of course, No. 3 seed Washington and scoring whiz Kelsey Plum hope for a repeat trip to the Final Four, and No. 2 Mississippi State is looking for its first trip to the national semifinals.
Three storylines to watch
Former champs on collision course? Two schools in this quarter of the draw have won NCAA titles: No. 1 seed Baylor (two) and No. 5 Tennessee (eight). And they could meet in the Sweet 16. That would require Baylor taking care of business at home in the first two rounds, and Tennessee potentially beating No. 4 seed Louisville on the Cardinals' home court. First, though, the Lady Vols -- whose results this season have been all over the place -- have to get past No. 12 Dayton, the Atlantic 10 tourney champion. The Flyers beat an SEC team, Texas A&M, by 17 points this season. Tennessee has tended to play better when perceived to be an underdog this season, and not as well against teams the Lady Vols are expected to beat. Then again, with this team, who knows what we'll see?
Tigers and Bears ... oh my: No. 8 seed LSU and No. 9 Cal did not finish down the stretch the way either team wanted to -- yet they still made the tournament. Now they have a chance to possibly make some waves. The Tigers were right in the middle of the SEC at 8-8, and have to lament losses at Vanderbilt, Georgia and Auburn in February. The Bears were in the bottom half of the Pac-12 at 6-12, losing six of their last eight. LSU, led by SEC defensive player of the year Raigyne Moncrief, will try to shut down Cal and All-Pac-12 forward Kristine Anigwe. The winner gets Baylor, barring a monumental upset.
Home awaits if Sooners survive Seattle: No. 6 seed Oklahoma would love a chance to be the "home" team in the Oklahoma City Regional, not far from the Sooners' campus in Norman. In the last decade, OKC has been a regional site four previous times, and the Sooners have advanced to play in it twice. In 2009, they won the regional and went to the program's second Final Four. In 2013, they lost in the Sweet 16 to Tennessee. But to get to OKC this time, they'll have to beat No. 11 Gonzaga and probably No. 3 Washington in Seattle. The Sooners hope to have cleared their minds from losing three of their past four games, including a crushing 82-58 loss to West Virginia in the Big 12 quarterfinals in OKC.
Three players to watch
Kelsey Plum, Washington: She's the marquee star in this regional, averaging a national-best 31.7 points. In her regular-season finale, she had 57 points to become the NCAA's career scoring leader in women's hoops (3,431). Now Plum could get the single-season scoring record, too; with 1,013, she's 50 points from breaking Jackie Stiles' mark of 1,062 set in 2001. Plum and fellow senior Chantel Osahor led the Huskies to the Final Four as a No. 7 seed last year. Now, they're trying to bounce back from a Pac-12 quarterfinal loss to Oregon.
Brooke Schulte, DePaul: She was the Big East player of the year and shared the league's most-improved award with another senior, Creighton's Brianna Rollerson. That's making the most of your final season. Schulte averaged 16.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists for the No. 7 seed Blue Demons, who tied Creighton atop the Big East's regular-season standings.
Morgan William, Mississippi State: Her bio lists her at 5 feet, 5 inches, which is generous by at least a few inches. She's tiny, but mighty: William is the second-seeded Bulldogs' second-leading scorer (10.6 PPG), plus leads them in assists (151) and steals (54). And she's a pesky-as-heck defender who is utterly fearless about taking charges -- no matter how large the opposing player is.
Games to watch
Best first-round game: No. 7 DePaul vs. No. 10 Northern Iowa: Admittedly, the Panthers, who lost three times to Missouri Valley champion Drake, are fortunate to be in the field. But their battles with the Bulldogs might help them in trying to defend DePaul. UNI is a defense-first team, and in facing Drake went against a squad that averaged 8.4 3-point field goals per game, making 270 overall. DePaul averages 9.3 treys per game, and has made 306.
Best potential second-round game: No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 5 Tennessee: This might even be the best game of the early rounds -- if it happens. As mentioned, Tennessee has been anything but predictable. When "on," though, the Lady Vols -- led by junior Diamond DeShields (17.2 PPG) -- are very hard to beat. When off, they could lose to almost any team in the field. Louisville, which tied for fourth in the ACC, lost only three times in February: in overtime to NC State, the No. 6 seed in the Lexington Regional, and twice to Notre Dame, the top seed in Lexington.