Tennessee. After several years of subpar performances in the NCAA Tournament, the Vols are back on top as a No. 1 seed and armed with a team capable of making a serious run for the title. Tennessee went undefeated in the SEC this season and won the regular-season title and conference tournament title. Its only two losses this season are to Georgetown and at Baylor, and the Vols are on a 21-game winning streak and playing as if they don't plan to lose.
Nine of Tennessee's players were on the squad that became the first Vols team to lose in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, two years ago against Ball State. They've matured — and improved their skills. More important, this is a hungry team.
"We've been through the highs and the lows," senior G Angie Bjorklund said. "We're not going to give up, and we want another championship."
To do that, Tennessee has the possibility of facing No. 4 seed Ohio State in the region final, which might neutralize the generally large following Tennessee carries.
Ohio State, Notre Dame, Miami, Oklahoma. Miami's No. 3 seed is second only to the No. 2 seed earned by the 1991-92 Hurricanes, who reached the Sweet 16 that season. Ohio State, the No. 4 seed, has experience. Oklahoma is one of the best in the always tough Big 12.
Tennessee's Bjorklund and Shekinna Stricklen are top-notch, but Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins, left, is an unheralded star. She can create on the dribble, hit 3-pointers and run the offense overall for the Fighting Irish. She averages 14.2 points and 4.5 assists a game, and as Diggins goes, so goes Notre Dame.
Tennessee-Oklahoma. The Vols have experience, hot shooting guards and a strong inside game. The Sooners counter with hot-shooting guards led by freshman Aaryn Ellenberg, a top 3-point shooter. And it would be interesting to see coaches Sherri Coale and Pat Summitt match wits.
Antonya English, Times staff writer