In addition, there are some interesting subplots. In the Tennessee-Texas Tech matchup, the coaches are two of the towering figures in the women's game. Pat Summitt, of course, needs little introduction after the spate of publicity about her breaking Dean Smith's record, but Marsha Sharp has a lower profile, but plenty of credentials.
Rutgers-Ohio State is a classic guard-oriented team (Rutgers) against the team with major post presence (Ohio State). If Rutgers keeps the tempo up, then 6-5 Jessica Davenport won't be able to have her way with the Scarlet Knights in the paint. But if the Buckeyes can handle the pressure, and are patient, Davenport will tip the scales their way.
No. 1 Tennessee vs. No. 4 Texas TechGuard: Tennessee has to be given the advantage here because of its depth. Junior Shanna Zolman has been fantastic in the Volunteers' wins over Western Carolina and Purdue in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Zolman scored 28 points against the Catamounts and could have had more if the game was closer. She's playing with great confidence, and the same goes for Alexis Hornbuckle (8.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg), who doesn't play like a freshman. With freshman Sa'De Wiley-Gatewood and senior Loree Moore, Tennessee has four legitimate guards. Meanwhile, Texas Tech's two starting guards are solid, with juniors Chesley Dabbs (12.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and Erin Grant (8.1 ppg). If the Lady Raiders have to go to their bench, freshman Judith Smith and sophomore Brooke Baughman are not nearly as good as Tennessee's bench players.Advantage: Tennessee.
Forward: Tennessee senior Shyra Ely led the team in scoring 16 times this season and is currently averaging 14.4 points and seven rebounds per game. Senior Brittany Jackson has been steady (8.7 ppg) all season and has connected on 52 of 144 shots from 3-point territory. Senior leadership is crucial in the NCAA tournament and that's exactly what the Volunteers have. For Texas Tech, its two starting forwards are playing extremely well. Junior LaToya Davis is averaging 12.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 62 percent from the field. Sophomore Alesha Robertson (12.7 ppg) has put up some numbers but is struggling from the field (40 percent). This is a tough decision, but experience means a lot in postseason play. Advantage: Tennessee.
Center: Tennessee junior Ty'esha Fluker played her best game of the season against Purdue in the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Nicky Anosike has been quite a surprise (6.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg) for the Volunteers. Texas Tech senior Cisti Greenwalt (13.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg) continues to play well while freshman Erin Myrick plays limited minutes off the bench. Advantage: Even.
Coach: Tennessee's Pat Summitt broke former North Carolina men's coach Dean Smith's record with her 880th career win against Purdue. With a career record of 880-171 and six national championships, that says everything. Texas Tech's Marsha Sharp is also an outstanding coach, with a career record of 557-174 in 23 years. Sharp understands how to prepare her team for big games, and she led the Lady Raiders to the 1993 national championship (with a little help from Sheryl Swoopes). In the end, Summitt's record and string of national championships has to mean a little something more. Advantage: Tennessee.
Prediction: Texas Tech will play smart and provide a tough challenge for the Volunteers. But Tennessee will prevail. Final score: Tennessee 77, Texas Tech 68.
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 RutgersGuard: Ohio State relies heavily on two seniors -- Caity Matter (13.4 ppg) and Ashley Allen (4.5 ppg, 110 assists) -- but sophomore Brandie Hoskins (13.2 ppg) has been the catalyst lately. Hoskins scored 22 points against Maryland in the second round of the NCAA tournament, one shy of a career-high. She has also scored at least 14 points in her last seven games. With juniors Kim Wilburn and Candace Dark, along with senior Beth Howe, the Buckeyes can count on deep reserves. Rutgers also has an abundance of terrific guards, led by senior Cappie Pondexter and freshman Matee Ajavon. Pondexter (13.9 ppg) has really elevated her overall game in tournament victories over Hartford and Temple. Ajavon (12.4 ppg) can put up numbers in bunches, but she has to improve her assist-to-turnover ratio. She has 114 assists and 114 turnovers. Additionally, Rutgers can count on seniors Chelsea Newton (9.5 ppg) and Nikki Jett (5.4 ppg) as well as freshman Essence Carson (6.9 ppg). Guard play in the NCAA tournament is essential and Rutgers has a little bit more. Advantage: Rutgers.
Forward: Ohio State sophomore Stephanie Blanton tied her career-high in minutes played (29) and points (12) in the victory over Maryland. Junior Michelle Munoz (4.3 ppg) and freshman Tamarah Riley (4.3 ppg) have contributed off the bench. Rutgers is led by junior Michelle Campbell (11.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg), who has scored in double figures 19 times this season. Junior Mariota Theodoris (2.0 ppg) and junior Aquisha Cahoe play sparingly. Advantage: Even.
Center: Ohio State has a distinct advantage at this position thanks to sophomore Jessica Davenport, who was recently named an Associated Press first team all-American. Davenport leads the Buckeyes in scoring (19.3 ppg) and rebounding (9.1 rpg). She registered her 13th double-double of the season with a 23-point, 11-rebound performance against Holy Cross in the first round. Davenport has an array of moves in the low post and she has a knack for scoring. She'll present a lot of matchup problems for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers senior Rebecca Richman (2.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg) probably won't see a lot of playing time. Look for Rutgers to try and push the ball with a smaller lineup. Advantage: Ohio State.
Coach: Ohio State's Jim Foster has a lifetime record of 557-249 at Ohio State, Vanderbilt and Saint Joseph's. This season, Foster has led the Buckeyes to a 30-4 record, the first time in school history they have won 30 games. Foster has guided his teams to 19 postseason appearances. Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer has done one of the best coaching jobs in the country. Stringer is 27-6 this season and 722-245 in 33 seasons. Stringer has also taken her team to six regional finals. Both coaches are tremendous, but we'll go with a touch more experience again. Advantage: Rutgers.
Prediction: Ohio State is the higher seed, though the difference between two and three is negligible. This game will be tight throughout with the lower seed squeaking it out. Final score: Rutgers 73, Ohio State 72.