Women's basketball March preview

It's two teams from Texas and seven squads east of the Mississippi who figure to give the Stanford women their toughest challenge come March. Here's an early preview of who may be looming on the horizon over the next month.

The top seeds

Baylor (30-0)
Best wins: RPI No. 3 Connecticut (66-61), No. 4 Notre Dame (94-81), at No. 5 Tennessee (76-67), No. 6 Texas A&M (X2), plus six other top-15 wins.
Analysis: It's Britney Griner's world and we're living in it. On paper, Baylor is far and away the best team in the field, and so Stanford and all the other top seeds should be rooting against them hard come tourney time. The Bears win by an average score of 79-51 and have beat everyone in the RPI top six save for Stanford. Griner averages a near double-double (23 points, 9.7 boards), has an incredible 154 blocks on the season, and is shooting .611 overall, better than either of the Ogwumike sisters.
If Stanford were to face Baylor in the NCAA finals (and it would be a slap in the face if Stanford isn't put atop a bracket opposite the Fighting Women of Waco), don't overthink things. The nicely- named duo of guard Odyssey Sims (14 points per game) and swing Destiny Williams (10 ppg) are solid complementary pieces, but it'll be the Ogwumikes versus Griner for the hardware.

Connecticut (26-4)
Best wins: No. 2 Stanford (68-58), No. 6 Texas A&M (81-51), at No. 9 Duke (61-45)
Losses: at No. 1 Baylor (61-66), No. 4 Notre Dame (X2), No. 14 St. John's (56-57)
Analysis: Two reasons to think Stanford could do better in Round 2 versus the Huskies. First, Connecticut has fared far worse outside of Hartford, where they caught the Card. Second, outside of Nneka, Stanford's four other starters were a collective 5-of-27 for all of 14 points against the Huskies this year. There's no way that could happen again… right?

Notre Dame (28-2)
Best wins: No. 3 Connecticut (X2) No. 5 Tennessee (72-44), No. 9 Duke (56-54), No. 10 Kentucky (92-83), four road wins against top-20 teams.
Losses: at No. 1 Baylor (94-81), No. 40 West Virginia (65-63)
The Irish are off to a good start, to put it mildly, but they still haven't beaten an elite team out of South Bend. They could prove a lot at Connecticut Monday night, and then prove a whole lot more should they make the Final Four. Until now though, I'm Missouri ("show me") on this school from Indiana.

The X Factor

Tennessee (21-8)
Best wins: No. 10 Kentucky (91-54), No. 11 Miami (92-76), at No. 13 Rutgers (67-61)
Losses: No. 1 Baylor, at No. 2 Stanford, at No. 4 Notre Dame, at No. 10 Kentucky, at No. 25 Vanderbilt, No. 28 Arkansas, No. 31 South Carolina, at No. 49 Virginia,
The Vols have eight losses overall and, despite the name brand, were ninth in last week's poll. Yet they're fifth in the RPI – what gives? The Vols have played 20 top-50 opponents, to Stanford's nine, though Tennessee is just 12-8 against that slate.
The headline from the December tilt in Palo Alto is that Nneka got 42. But Toni Kokenis (26 points, 5-of-10 deep) and Tennessee's Shekinna Stricklen (27 points, 10-of-17) each put up big numbers too, and you can bet Pat Summit and Coach Tara will be scheming accordingly should there be a rematch.

Also on the radar:
Duke (24-4) - Lost only to top-10 squads: Notre Dame, Kentucky, Connecticut and Maryland. So they should make the Elite Eight. But can they get over the hump?
Maryland (25-4) - More narrow wins than you'd like to see from a top team, including five by under 10 points in ACC play alone. Plus there's that home loss to 7-22 Virginia Tech. Color me unimpressed.
Texas A&M (20-8) - 6-6 on the road and averaging only 68 points per game. But ask 2011 Stanford about getting caught in a defensive dogfight.
Delaware (26-1) - Sole loss was at Maryland, 85-76. Surprisingly, has faced 15 RPI top-100 teams. A potential dark horse.
Miami (24-4) - Has lost only once since Jan. 2, but just 7-4 on the road.

Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!

The Bootleg Top Stories