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ESPN has your region breakdown:

Mechelle has 10 first-round storylines to follow

The women’s version of March Madness tips off at 11 a.m. ET Saturday at 16 sites around the country, with early rounds concluding Monday and Tuesday. Here are 10 things to look for/ponder/debate during the opening steps of the Big Dance:

1. Leagues of legends?

 Who said this: “I think we have the toughest conference in the country. We beat each other up. On any given night, anybody can win. You have to bring your A-game.”

Answer: Almost every coach, although some do add the qualifier “one of the toughest conferences” because they know that saying the toughest is over the top.

UConn’s Geno Auriemma of the new American (“We have no real geographic link, but we’re all in the United States!”) Athletic Conference isn’t going to say this about that amalgamation of orphans, castoffs, left-behinds and biding-their-times. But he doesn’t need to. He can just say, We got Breanna, and you don’t. (Hmmm … rings a bell, doesn’t it?)

So which league really was the toughest to play in this season? Hah, as if there could be a consensus on that. But the conferences that received the most NCAA bids were the SEC and ACC, with eight each. We’ll see how many live on to the Sweet 16.

She’s also thinking the Vols have jelled at the right time.

The NCAA selection committee has gone away from making the previous 10 games of a team’s season such a huge priority in regard to tournament selection/placement. That used to be something that was consistently brought up as being very important. Now, supposedly, it’s just another factor to consider, but the whole “body of work” thing is bigger.

Still, this season, it seems clear that Tennessee’s No. 1 seed was secured by the Lady Vols winning the SEC tournament. And if you are going to focus on the “last 10,” that stretch looks quite good for the Lady Vols.

Yes, I’m sure the Lady Vols are eager to end their Final Four drought (even without Massengale for the first two games), but did you know that they’re putting a 52-game streak on line vs Northwestern State?

It’s a daydream savored by anyone who ever spent so much as an afternoon with a basketball in the driveway. The imaginary clock ticks down and the phantom crowd is on its feet. The game is on the line, the ball is in your hands.

It is your chance to be the hero. You survey the options — and pass the ball to an open teammate for the game-winning assist.

Wait, what?

Interesting: Duke’s depleted lineup, turnover problems give Winthrop hope

And in the “Who would?” department: Duke coach unhappy team in same region with UConn

DePaul women’s head coach Doug Bruno wasn’t nearly as excited as his players after winning the Big East tournament.  Bruno, who is in his 28th year as DePaul’s head coach, said he coaches solely for the NCAA tournament.

The LSU Reveille sounds the call:

LSU does not have another chance to get back on track.

The Lady Tigers have no more media sessions to talk about what they can do to get out of their slump. The only thing left to do is act on their words.

“It’s a time for my team to actually make history or make something happen,” said freshman guard Raigyne Moncrief. “Hopefully we can just pull together and get wins.”

The Bulldog Blitz unpicks Fresno State’s strategy: 

Within minutes of learning who they would play in the Women’s NCAA Tournament, a few Fresno State players anxiously searched their cellphones for statistics and video clips of the Nebraska basketball team.

The Bulldogs received a more detailed breakdown of the Cornhuskers the following day after the coaching staff assembled a video scouting report — with two agendas in mind:

For each clip that coach Raegan Pebley showed of Nebraska excelling, she also showed one of the 13th-ranked Cornhuskers getting exposed. 

No worries: Husker Laudermill is ready to spark Nebraska. Oh, and have you Met the Nebraska women’s basketball starting five

While the Cal women begin tournament in shadow of last season’s team, they are feeling confident as they enter NCAA Tournament play against the Fordham Rams, when we’ll see if the Boyd-Rooney Matchup deserved to be The Talk of Friday’s Media Day

As Akron women’s basketball rides dynamic duo into Mackey Arena to face Purdue, the Boilermakers defense might be the key in NCAA tourney

If the UTC women want better tourney results, they’re going to have to prepare for Syracuse’s zone defense. And 10 other things.

Florida State will look to stop ISU’s Christofferson from extending career at Hilton

Sure, Taylor Greenfield might be the only Stanford player happy about traveling 1,800 miles to the middle of Iowa to open the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, but the Coyotes have no issue with trying to make her and her teammates cranky.

Oh, yeah, USC, Northridge women are living the dream – but Trojans will face St. John’s

As the long wait is finished and Baylor prepares to play the NCAA opener without suspended Mulkey, the Hilltoppers are up to the challenge.

“We’re excited,” WKU sophomore guard Micah Jones said. “They’ve had a lot of success over the past few years, and that’s what we’re trying to get back to with our program. It’s a great opportunity for us to come here and play Baylor.”

Brandon Gurney from the Deseret news says the Cougars feel good about their matchup with the Wolfpack

We match up well and their team is very similar to ours,” observed BYU coach Jeff Judkins. “The way they play and how they do it (is similar).”

The starkest similarity involves the starting centers. BYU features 6-foot-7 senior Jen Hamson while North Carolina presents 6-foot-5 senior Markeisha Gatling. Both players lead their teams from the post, and Judkins believes whoever wins that specific matchup will go a long way in determining the outcome.

News from the WNIT:

Ducks dominate Pacific Tigers 90-63 in WNIT opener

Rutgers women’s basketball defeats Delaware in WNIT

If the Rutgers women’s basketball team is trying to use the WNIT as a platform to show it was worthy of receiving a NCAA Tournament berth, it will have to wait until at least the second round to begin proving its case.

Women’s Basketball Pulls Out Last-Second WNIT Victory

With seven seconds left on the clock and Harvard up by two, Iona guard Aleesha Powell drove to the basket for a hard layup, drawing the foul on captain Christine Clark and making the basket for the three-point play. Powell, an 84.9 percent free-throw shooter, completed the and-one.

One-point Gaels lead, 6.7 seconds on the clock.

But Clark was not about to let her season—and Harvard career—end with that.

Other games:

Colorado 78, TCU 71
Montana 90, Washington State 78
Minnesota 62, Green Bay 60
Villanova 74, Quinnipiac 55
George Washington 86, East Carolina 68

Michigan 86, Stony Brook 48
Duquesne 62, Mount St. Mary’s 52
St. Bonaventure 81, Charlotte 62
South Florida 56, North Carolina A&T 50
Saint Mary’s 75, CSU Bakersfield 68
UTEP 74, Arkansas State 64
Washington 67, Hawaii 50

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A last look at the biggest questions – NCAA tournament bracket will be unveiled on ESPN/WatchESPN at 7 ET Monday

Not a lot of “questions” coming out of yesterday’s fun final day for the 2014 regulars season.

OPA! Young (international) players brought it from both teams, but  senior Spanou really “filled it uuup”  against St. Francis (PA) to help lead Robert Morris to the NEC championship.

“It’s the perfect ending for our senior year,” Spanou said after being chosen the tournament MVP. “We wanted this since we came here as freshmen … I’m just really happy and really proud of the team. We overcome some tough stuff. We got the ring.”

Saddled with three fouls in the first half, Wright State’s Kim Demmings came out in the second half like a fearless house-afire. Teamed with Tay’ler Mingo, and a defense that forced steal after steal after steal (the Raiders forced 24) and did what they’d never done before: Win on Green Bay’s home court. Which also meant the go to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.

“It feels good, it’s obviously a feeling we’ve never had, so I don’t know how the ride back’s going to after a win,” said Wright State coach Mike Bradbury. “Probably better than the loss.”

James Madison made quick work of the Blue Hens on their way to the CAA championship. Lady Swish called this coach Kenny Brooks’ best JMU team – even better than the Dawn Evans era. Looking forward to seeing what they can do in the tournament.

“Their rebounding and our turnovers killed us,” Delaware head coach Martin said. “We rushed a lot on offense, and that’s because we were anxious and in a hurry. But even more important than that were their second-chance opportunities. They rebound the ball so well. They always have. They’ve got a tremendously athletic team and they get to the boards quicker than anybody in the CAA, and we didn’t put a body on them like we were going to have to.”

Fierce defense (they held the Lumberjacks to 32% shooting) and an unusual partnership produced great results for the Demons:

Two years ago, Northwestern State was 6-23 and brought in co-head coaches Brooke and Scott Stoehr to try to turn around the program.

The husband and wife team needed just two years to see results.

Chelsea Rogers scored 16 points Sunday and Northwestern State pulled away in the second half for a 62-44 victory over Stephen F. Austin in the Southland Conference championship, earning the Demons’ first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2004.

 Their dominant win over Drake means Wichita State is goin’ dancin’ – and so is their coach, Jody Adams:

Her slick disco-like gyrations brought a scream of delight from the players. “I only do it after championships,” Adams said. “It’s got to be for something special.”

“It was better the way she did it last year,” Alex Harden said. “But at least we made her do it again this time.”

I called it, if I do say so myself. Great game between two fierce rivals and, as it should be, it took overtime to separate the two: FGCU edged Stetson by two to with the Atlantic Sun title and an automatic bid to the tourney:

We’re there,” Smesko said. “And we’re going to prepare to win. We’re not going there being happy with the fact that we got there. We plan on representing the A-Sun and FGCU really well.”

Both have the same record, and it would be nice if the Committee could find a way to honor the Hatters’ season instead of offering a token tip o’ the hat to some “Big” conference team.

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If they want a chance to go dancing, they have to win:

CAA: No surprise James Madison is in the Finals, but their opponent is (somewhat surprising): the Blue Hens.

Discussing UD’s youth, Martin said, “This team has come so far this season. We’re so young and I’m so proud of these kids as they’ve grown so much in the past few months. Nobody thought Delaware would be sitting in this position right now. We’ve climbed the mountain all year long of people not believing in us and now we have a job to finish.”

Southland: Northwestern State (Lady) Demons v. the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks. (Sounds like a CW show) The teams split the regular season, each winning at home by double digits.

Horizon: #1 Green Bay will face off against #2 Wright State.

NEC: Upstart Robert Morris and their star from Greece, Artemis Spanou, will try and overcome St. Francis (PA), who’ve had a less than .500 season, but made the finals after an epic triple-overtime win over Sacred Heart and a tight win over Mount St. Mary’s. Thank goodness there are a couple of days between games.

MVC: The Shockers have righted their ship —  if they sail by 5th seed Drake their season will continue. But don’t take the Bulldogs lightly – they rallied to take down top-seed Indiana State.

A-SUN: This seems to be the game of the day. 26-6, 16-2) Stetson faces off against (25-7, 17-1) FGCU.  Will the Eagles fans show?

As for those Dancers:

Ball State couldn’t sustain the magic, nor stop 5th years senior Rachel Tecca (30-12). So, after 40 years, it’s the Zips who earns their first MAC trip to the NCAAs.

“This group of seniors is very, very special,” said Kest, in her eighth season at the school. “They believed in us when we recruited them. It’s not easy to come into a program that has had some losing seasons and to take a chance on us. It’s easy to go to a school that already has been successful and already has fans.”

The Zips tied the program record for single-season victories, which was set in 2012-2013.

Prairie View A&M DID sustain the magic, upsetting SWAC #2 seed, Texas Southern, earning their fourth consecutive championship title and sending a 14-17 team onto the dance floor. 

Washington added 20 points in the winning effort, which capped a season-long turnaround after the Lady Panthers lost their first 11 games under first-year coach Dawn Brown.

“I just let them know that you can’t let Texas Southern take this moment from you,” Brown said she told her team. “Since 2011, this is what Prairie View A&M University does. You see our best basketball in March.”

The third time was almost the charm for Coppin State, but Hampton prevailed in the MEAC championship game — by three points.

“When I woke up this morning,” Hamilton said, “I said to myself, I had to be a point guard today. We needed everybody in order to win. I actually wanted to play a part in the championship.”

Hamilton’s fingerprints were all over the title game, with a game-high 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a couple of blocks.

“She was overdue,” HU coach David Six said. “Nikki’s a big-time player — first-team all-conference. She’s been in these situations before. I’m glad she’s on my team and she was able to make some clutch shots for us.”

Sun Belt: A lot has happened to the Hilltopper program since they sent Shea Mahoney to the New York Liberty – and some of it not good. Different story yesterday as Western Kentucky came back from 14 down against Arkansas State to earn a berth to the NCAA tournament. And the video of the coaches celebrating is worth a thousand words.

Middle Tennessee State left no doubt as to who rules the C-USA, rolling over Southern Mississippi. 84-55.

“I feel like Middle Tennessee is one of the top 20 programs in the country,” Blue Raiders coach Rick Insell said. “We’re not the best program in the country, but we’re in the top 20, and we’re there every year.

“We’re real proud of what our program stands for. The basketball gurus know about Middle Tennessee, and they know that Middle Tennessee is a tough, tough team.”

Patriot: Army entered the NCAA tournament on the shoulders of Kelsey Minato, who scored 31 points to lead the Black Knights over a resilient Holy Cross, 68-58.

 “We had the great equalizer,” Magarity said of his sophomore guard. “She’s an incredible player and as special a player as I’ve ever coached in my 32 years as a head coach.

Mountain West: Fresno State knocked off top seed Colorado State, 77-68, and earned its fourth consecutive conference championship.

“I think (tournament experience) does help a lot, especially when teams go on runs,” Farley said. “If you’re not experienced, you can get really frazzled in that type of situation. Us being more experienced, we learned to accept the runs and not freak out, if that makes sense. It definitely did help us today.”

Big West: It’s been 23 years, and this is only the second time the Cal State Northridge team has gone dancing, this time by virtue of their 15-point win over Cal Poly.

“Every day is a championship day for us,” Matadors coach Jason Flowers said. “The intensity never drops off, whether it’s a shootaround or weights or conditioning. These young women have prepared for this moment for the past two or three years. I was interested to see how they would respond to being on the big stage. They woke up this morning in great spirits, they were really relaxed and I just stayed out of their way and they worked their tails off.”

North Dakota left no doubt as to who was going to earn the Big Sky bid to the NCAA, handily beating Robin Selvig’s Montana, 72-55.

The win was historic for UND (22-9). The Green and White will play in the Big Dance for the first time in program history.

“Credit Montana, a very well-coached team that battled,” North Dakota coach Travis Brewster said. “But it’s an exciting experience for these players to get a chance to play in the NCAA tournament and to do it in front of our fans was awesome. It’s a pretty unique honor and takes a special group.”

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