PSU women snag No. 3 seed
STATE COLLEGE -- Penn State is headed back to familiar territory for the NCAA tournament.
A No. 3 seed might have left the Lady Lions a little blue, though, despite a return trip to Baton Rouge, La., for the opening round of this year's women's tourney.
Penn State will face 14th-seeded Cal Poly on Sunday, and could face LSU in the second round on the Tigers' home floor for a second straight season. This time, LSU is a No. 6 seed.
There was no cheering among the players when the seeding was announced after they gathered in a Jordan Center banquet room in front of two big-screen televisions.
Others in the room seemed indifferent.
Coach Coquese Washington focused on the positives. The Nittany Lions advanced to the regional semifinals last season, after all, and played their first two games in Louisiana along the way.
"A No. 3 seed, a No. 2 seed -- to me it doesn't really make much of a difference ... both teams advance and play each other anyway," Washington said. "We'll take it. We're happy to be playing. We're happy we get an opportunity to compete in the NCAA tournament."
Point guard Alex Bentley was diplomatic.
"Seeding does matter," she said. "But we're happy with where we're at. ... We got the No. 3 (seed). That's how the bracket works and we're just going to prepare."
Washington has the Penn State program back on solid footing following a second straight Big Ten regular-season title. It was placed in the Spokane, Wash., bracket, which also includes top-seeded Stanford, second-seeded California and fourth-seeded Georgia.
But the Lady Lions lost in the Big Ten tournament semifinals to Michigan State, and Washington said her team had to work on patience and poise following that defeat.
Counting the tournament, they've lost two of their last four since clinching at least a share of the regular-season crown.
So, perhaps that weighed on the tournament selection committee.
Washington also noted that there were many schools in the tourney who were hosting first-round games, which may have limited Penn State's landing spots and sent them back to Louisiana.
So the Lady Lions didn't seem overjoyed by their draw this year. But they weren't complaining either.
"I was a little surprised," Bentley said. "But like I said, we've been joking all year that we want to (go) back (to Baton Rouge) and we're going back. So, we got what we wanted."
Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Stanford all earned No. 1 seeds.
Those four schools are in the top slots for the second straight year -- the first time that's ever happened in NCAA tournament history.
The similarity to 2012 doesn't stop there. Three of the No. 2 seeds are repeaters from last year also.
"We probably all knew who the No. 1 seeds were," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.
Unlike the men's side, where it was a topsy-turvy season with major upsets seemingly every week, women's basketball hasn't had the same parity. The top six teams in the final Associated Press poll only had two losses outside of each other, the fewest by far since writers began voting for the AP's No. 1 in the 1994-95 season.
"To think that the rest of the field is going to catch up to Baylor or Notre Dame or the top four or five teams in the country this year is probably unrealistic," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "But I think all those teams between five and 12 are way better than they've ever been."
The women's basketball madness gets started Saturday -- the first step en route to the Final Four, which begins April 7 in New Orleans.
Last season, Baylor was trying to become the first team to win 40 games in a season. Now the Lady Bears are just focused on becoming the fourth team to win consecutive national titles, joining Tennessee, UConn and USC.
Standing in the way could be Tennessee. The Lady Vols, who have made every NCAA tournament since it began in 1982, are the No. 2 seed in Baylor's region. This will be the first time that coach Pat Summitt won't be on the sidelines. Summitt stepped down after last season because she had been afflicted with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.
"The whole season has been different, and at times, it's hard," said longtime assistant Holly Warlick, who took over this season and guided the Lady Vols to an SEC regular season title. one of the most dominant teams lately.
The Big East, which is set to be reconfigured next season, led all conferences with eight bids.