The undefeated UConn Huskies (34-0) enter the Sweet 16 as heavy favorites to win the Albany region of the Women�s NCAA Tournament and continue their quest to claim the school�s 12th�national championship.
The Duke Blue Devils (24-8) are the next team looking to end the Huskies� perfect season. Duke is coming off a dominating 66-40 win over Georgia in the second round, but they know they�re facing an entirely different type of test against the pre-eminent program in women�s college basketball.
�[I] love the fact we have the opportunity to play the best team in the country,� Duke coach Joanne McCallie told reporters after her team beat Georgia. �This is a great opportunity, to really compete and get after it. That is pretty special and this team has earned it.�
Entire Field Underdog to Huskies
According to fivethirtyeight.com, UConn has a 98 percent chance of advancing past Duke. The Huskies are also given a 74 percent chance of winning the entire tournament, a number that shows just how far ahead the field they appear to be.
But there are still a few teams out there that believe they have a realistic chance of defying those odds. The No. 1 seeds are still alive in all four regions, and each has enough firepower to potentially pull off an upset if they run into the Huskies.
In the Spokane region, No. 1 seed Notre Dame (31-3) is looking to make the school�s second straight Elite Eight appearance. They�ll need to get past fourth-ranked Texas A&M (26-9) to do so. The Fighting Irish have been struggling with injuries, leaving them with a short rotation of just seven healthy scholarship players. Still, the team says they�re not worried about their lack of depth.
�We don�t have time to be tired,� guard Jackie Young told the South Bend Tribune. �This is the best part of the season. We�re just living in the moment.�
Bulldogs Eyeing Return to Final Four
In the Kansas City region, No. 1 seed Mississippi State (34-1) will take on No. 4 North Carolina State (26-8) in the Sweet 16. Mississippi State is looking to make a second consecutive run to the title game, and they would particularly relish another battle with UConn, whom they beat last year.
Being one of the teams to beat is a new position for the Bulldogs, but coach Vic Schaefer says his team has embraced that role.
�We knew coming into the season we had a target on our back, and our team has responded so well,� Schaefer told the Kansas City Star. �It was amazing watching how they went out every night, with teams coming out ready to play against us.�
The most vulnerable No. 1 seed may be Louisville (34-2), which has a matchup against a dangerous Stanford (24-10) team in the Lexington region. FiveThirtyEight gives Stanford a 13 percent chance of pulling an upset. The site also projects No. 2 seed Baylor (33-1) as the regional favorite, giving the Lady Bears a 58 percent chance to get to the Final Four, as well as a 10 percent chance of winning the national championship.
While favorites tend to dominate in the Women�s NCAA Tournament, two longshots have managed to make it to the Sweet 16. Both Central Michigan (30-4) and Buffalo (29-5) are alive at No. 11 seeds, though they will face their toughest tests yet this round. The Chippweas are up against the second-seeded Oregon Ducks (32-4), while the Bulls face No. 2 seed South Carolina (28-6).