Kansas City region
The Favorite: Nebraska. Yes, the school most known for its love of football has a phenomenal women's basketball team. The Cornhuskers have their first No. 1 seed after winning their first Big 12 regular-season title. They are the first team since North Carolina in 1997 to earn a No. 1 seed one year after not making the tournament. They won 30 straight games before losing to Texas A&M in the Big 12 tournament semifinals.
Other contenders: Notre Dame, Kentucky, UCLA, Oklahoma. Notre Dame has balance (four players average double figures) and averages nearly 80 points per game, and coach Muffet McGraw brings tournament experience. Kentucky (25-7) was the most surprising success story out of the storied SEC, tying for the most wins in school history. The Wildcats are led by SEC player of the year Victoria Dunlap. UCLA, led by Pat Summitt protege Nikki Caldwell, is in its first tournament since 2006; it could be a much better team than its No. 8 seed suggests. Oklahoma lost star Whitney Hand to an ACL injury in November but rallied enough to earn the No. 3 seed.
Best Player: After missing the entire 2008-09 season with a foot injury, Nebraska Sr. F Kelsey Griffin is a national player of the year candidate. She leads the team with 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
Dream matchup: Nebraska vs. Kentucky. Watching Dunlap and Griffin lead their teams against each other would be well worth the price of admission.
Antonya English, Times staff writer