The favorite: Top seed Stanford is the team to beat, and the Cardinal's win against Baylor on Nov. 16 makes them the best challenger to the overall top seed for a national title. Forward Chiney Ogwumike, a 6-4 junior, has to step up if Stanford wants to return to another Final Four.
Other contenders: Stanford can't be happy that a Pac-12 conference rival, California, is its No. 2 seed, especially since Cal handed the Cardinal one of its two losses. Stanford saw an 81-game conference win streak end in that game — that gives Cal as good a shot as any in the region at dethroning the top seed.
Best players: After the top two seeds, the player to watch is Maggie Lucas, a 5-10 guard for No. 3 seed Penn State who averages 20.5 points per game and hits 47 percent of her 3-pointers and 89 percent of her free throws.
Dream matchup: As unfair as it seems to Stanford to face a Pac-12 rival in the regional final, the Cardinal and California squared off twice in a span of six days in early January and haven't seen each other since. This is the ultimate rubber match, with a trip to New Orleans waiting for the winner.
Greg Auman, Times staff writer