The favorite: You wouldn't have to go far to pick top seed Connecticut, which gets to open in Storrs and move on to Bridgeport, with a substantial home-state advantage. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, a versatile 6-foot sophomore, is the Huskies' leading scorer, but the leader is senior guard Kelly Faris, who scores in double digits, rebounds well and leads the team in assists and steals. Geno Auriemma's team has already faced all the other No. 1 seeds, so there's plenty of motivation.
Other contenders: Second-seeded Kentucky is showing there's more to the SEC than Tennessee, having beaten the Vols by 13 and five other ranked opponents. It's a deep region, with North Carolina and Maryland eager to show the ACC still belongs in the national picture.
Best players: UConn's KML is tough to beat, but you can make a case for Maryland's two big forwards — 6-2 Alyssa Thomas averages a double double at 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds, and 6-3 Tianna Hawkins is right there, too, with 18.3 and 9.5. Another name worth mentioning brings us to …
Dream matchup: If sixth-seeded Delaware could advance to the region final, then standout Elena Delle Donne could face the UConn team where she began her college career before abruptly withdrawing in August 2008 before her first season even started. The consensus national player of the year played volleyball for a year at Delaware, then returned to hoops — she has led the Blue Hens to a 30-3 mark as a senior.
Greg Auman, Times staff writer