The favorite: Notre Dame. You hate to just follow the party line with seeding, but in this case there's no option. The Irish won both the Big East regular-season and tournament championships, and their only loss this season came against defending national champion Baylor. They are tournament battle-tested.
Other contenders: Texas A&M, Duke. The Aggies became the first expansion program to win an SEC tournament championship this season. TAMU is two years removed from a national championship and has veterans leading the way. Duke also has three juniors in its starting lineup but will be hampered without junior guard Chelsea Gray, the ACC co-player of the year who is out with a knee injury after having surgery last week.
Best player: Skylar Diggins. The Notre Dame senior guard is a two-time Big East player of the year and a Wooden Award finalist, having started in all 32 games this season and scoring 17 ppg. She led the Irish to the national title game the past two seasons but came up short. She has performed this season like a player on a mission. If she and the Irish play like they did in the Big East title game, they'll have a legitimate shot at making it to the title game again.
Dream matchup: Duke vs. Texas A&M. The ACC and SEC tournament champions squaring off, led by two of the top coaches in the game, the Blue Devils' Joanne P. McCallie and Aggies' Gary Blair.
Antonya English, Times staff writer