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Keys to the women's NCAA bracket

Women's bracket advice

Trust the high seeds

We'll start with a question: Out of 32 first-round games, on average, how many do you think had lower-seeded seeds advance the past five years? Keep in mind the women's tournament isn't as upset-crazy as the men's. You've lowered your guess, but it's still probably not low enough. The answer? Five first-round upsets is the norm since 2003 — that year, there were only two upsets out of 32 games. It has been exactly five the past two tournaments. The men, for comparison, averaged 6.8 first-round upsets from 2003-07.

Play the 9s and 11s

The most common opening-round upsets are 9s over 8s (a 50-50 coin flip since 2002) and 11s over 6s (four in the past two years). Bracketeers love the 12-5 upset on the men's side; there were none for the women last year and have been just three since 2003. As with the men, don't bother picking anyone seeded 14th or lower: That hasn't happened since 16th-seeded Harvard knocked off top-seeded Stanford in 1998.

Beware Ohio State and Oklahoma

Oklahoma has fallen to a lower-seeded team in the first three rounds in the past four tournaments, losing in the Sweet 16 as a No. 3 last year and as a No. 2 in 2006. Ohio State is almost as bad, with four losses to lower-seeded teams since 2003 and only one Sweet 16 appearance despite being a top-four seed four times.

Get risky

The first round may go as planned, but high seeds can fall in the second. Three No. 2 seeds — Maryland, Stanford and Vanderbilt — lost in the second round last season, and No. 1 seed Ohio State lost in 2006. The second-round average since 2003 is 4.4 upsets, and you can anticipate one way-out-there team in the Sweet 16, like 13th seeds Marist (2007) and Liberty (2005).

Watch the Big 12, too

Since 2004, no conference has fallen to more opening-weekend upsets than the Big 12, with 10 losses to lower-seeded teams. Texas A&M, a questionable No. 2 seed this year, lost the first weekend as a No. 4 and No. 6 seed in the last two tournaments. Texas lost as a No. 3 in the second round in 2005 and as a No. 1 seed in the Sweet 16 in 2004.

Hard to crash

the Final Four

The past 10 Final Fours have had only three teams seeded lower than fourth (none since 2004) — that's half the men's total of six in the same span. The most common Final Four lineup — three times in the past five years — is three No. 1 seeds and a No. 2. Having said that, the championship game hasn't had two No. 1 seeds since 2003.

Greg Auman, Times staff writer

Keys to the women's NCAA bracket 03/21/08 [Last modified: Sunday, March 23, 2008 10:57pm]
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