The regional finals of the NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament will be played this weekend in Lincoln, Neb., South Bend, Ind., Palo Alto, Calif., and Louisville, Ky. Here's a look at how the brackets break down.
UConn: The Huskies will play in their 21st straight Sweet 16, a streak that dates to 1993 and a first-round loss to Louisville. There is another reason that loss remains significant. At the time, it was UConn's second straight defeat; it followed a Big East tournament loss to Providence 10 days earlier. Since then, UConn has not lost consecutive games. Never. Not once. And no one is playing better right now than the Huskies, on a 42-game winning streak.
BYU: No team has blocked shots with more cumulative impact this season than UConn, which has already set a new program record (293). But no single player has been more than a deterrent than Cougars' 6-7 senior center, Jennifer Hamson, the defensive player of the year in her conference. Hamson (137 blocks), playing with a dislocated middle finger on her left hand, had 15 points and 14 rebounds in BYU's upset of No. 4 Nebraska in the second round.
DePaul: Wearing his button-down dress shirt with the school logo monogrammed on it, Doug Bruno brings the Blue Demons to the Sweet 16 after an upset win over No. 2 Duke in Durham last week. DePaul does what DePaul does; shoots three-pointers with abandon and skill. They drained a season-high 14 of them in the win over the Blue Devils, seven immediately after Duke scores. Brittany Hrynko and Megan Rogowski can shoot the rock.
Texas A&M: Gary Blair, with Danielle Adams in his hip pocket, led the Aggies to the national championship in 2011. Now he's hoping Karla Gilbert, his 6-5 post, will take him to another. The third-seeded Aggies beat James Madison on Tuesday and are in the Sweet 16 for the sixth time, their first since 2012.
Louisville: This entire season was designed to lead into what has happened: The Cardinals, national runner-up to UConn last season, will play on its home floor, the KFC Yum! Center, with an eye on another Final Four. Shoni Schimmel scored 26 points with seven assists against Iowa on Tuesday to help make it happen. The Cardinals, who have won their two NCAA games by a combined 76 points, have lost only four times, three to the Huskies.
Maryland: Alyssa Thomas, perhaps the greatest player in Maryland's history, did not score a point in the first half of Tuesday's second-round win over Texas, a game that featured 15 lead changes and seven ties. But she scored 16 in the second and that is what pushed the Terps into the Sweet 16. Thomas,a three-time ACC player of the year, has 26 double-doubles this season.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols, top seed in the Louisville regional, are back in business, two wins from contesting for a national championship in their home state. They pestered St. John's into 13 second-half turnovers on the way to a second-round win. Tennessee has won 15 of its last six games and Cierra Burdick and Meighan Simmons are playing very well.
LSU: The No. 7 Tigers engineered one of the tournament's big upsets Tuesday by taking down No. 2 West Virginia. Danielle Ballard scored 22 points with 15 rebounds to help overcome a late seven-point deficit and get to a second straight Sweet 16. The Lady Tigers played most of the game without senior guard Jeanne Kenney, who left with a concussion in the first half. They don't know if she'll be able to play Saturday against Louisville. Freshman Raigyne Moncrief suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday's first round.
Notre Dame: Yes, you may have heard, there is another seemingly unstoppable force in women's basketball. The Irish, who have won 15 straight by double-digits, have cruised into the Sweet 16, polishing their perfection (34-0) with little resistance. Its second-round 84-67 win over Arizona State in Toledo propelled it to a regional final on their home floor. They are now two wins from their fourth straight Final Four.
Oklahoma State: Lost its coach, Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna in plane crash 2 ½ years ago, is back. The Cowgirls had some problems in the second half of its second-round game before beating Purdue to reach its first Sweet 16 in six seasons, just the third of its history. Now it must deal with Notre Dame with point guard Tiffany Bias dealing with a sprained ankle. But they have won a school-record 69 games in the last three seasons.
Kentucky: The Wildcats held off Syracuse in the second round to get back to the Sweet 16, thanks primarily to the clutch free throw shooting of Bria Goss, who was 11-for-12 in the 64-59 win over the Orange. Kentucky's defense was good enough to force 23 turnovers in the win and hold Syracuse to 33 percent from the field. And in the first round Saturday, a 106-60 win over Wright State, it grabbed 67 rebounds – tying an NCAA tournament mark.
Baylor: Now it's up to senior guard Odyssey Sims, soon to be an All-American and WNBA first-round pick, to bring the Lady Bears back to the Final Four. This will be Baylor's sixth straight regional semifinal. Baylor, the No. 2 seed plays Kentucky in a rematch of the highest-scoring Division I women's game ever. The Wildcats won 133-130 in four overtimes in December at the Dallas Cowboys' NFL stadium that will host the men's Final Four. Sims scored 47 points before being one of seven Lady Bears to foul out.
North Carolina: Who is the best freshman in the nation this season? Many believe its North Carolina's Diamond DeShields, the mini-Maya (Moore). She scored 24 points with 12 rebounds to get the Tar Heels over Michigan State in Tuesday's second round. The ACC's freshman of the year now has scored more points than any rookie in women's conference history. The Tar Heels, who have played this season without ailing coach Sylvia Hatchell, lost in the second round last year and missed the tournament in 2012.
South Carolina: Coach Dawn Staley has something going on in Columbia and its impressive enough to hold the interest of A'ja Wilson, the 6-3 forward from South Carolina, who is still deciding whether to stay home or go to UConn. The Gamecocks have held serve to its No. 1 seed to this point. Oregon State went down on Tuesday. Aleighsa Welch scored 21 points and Tiffany Mitchell added 20, all in the second half. Both also had double-digit rebounds to beat the Beavers.
Penn State: Senior guard Maggie Lucas, the two-time Big Ten player of the year, with more than 2,500 career points, kissed the Penn State logo on the floor of Bryce Jordan Arena after scoring 22 points to help the Lady Lions beat Florida on Tuesday in the second round. Now it's off to Stanford to play the Cardinal in the Sweet 16.
Stanford: Like Notre Dame and Lousiville, the Cardinal will be home this weekend trying to get back to the Final Four. It would be its the fourth time in seven years after crushing Florida State in the second round in Ames, Iowa. They will play in their seventh straight Sweet 16. Senior Chiney Ogwumike, seemingly destined to be the first overall pick in the WNBA Draft on April 14 by the Connecticut Sun, wraps up her All-American career.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun