The favorite: After avenging two losses to Notre Dame for the Big East tournament title, it has to be Connecticut, right? The poor Huskies are racking up dozens of miles, playing the conference tournament in Hartford, the opening weekend in Bridgeport and the region a full 57 miles away in Kingston, R.I. Winter Haven's Tiffany Hayes is their top scorer, averaging 15.1 points and shooting 43 percent on 3-pointers.
Other contenders: No. 2 seed Kentucky dropped four of its past eight, but guard A'dia Mathies is still dangerous on a team that hits twice as many 3-pointers as it allows. Watch for No. 3 seed Miami, which beat Maryland twice and has emerged nationally under coach Katie Meier.
Best player: With apologies to Hayes, we'll go with Miami's Shenise Johnson, who won ACC Player of the Year honors, averaging 16.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. They'll have to get past Connecticut in the Huskies' backyard, but Geno Auriemma's team has looked more vulnerable this season.
Dream matchup: Miami stumbled late with a loss to Wake Forest, and has taken bad losses — by 25 at Georgetown, by 16 to Tennessee. But we think the Hurricanes get past Kentucky, and that leaves one big obstacle between them and the national acceptance that comes with a Final Four appearance.
Greg Auman, Times staff writer