Brittney Griner and Baylor’s path to a second straight national championship will have a familiar feel.
Then again, so will the whole women’s NCAA Tournament. For the first time ever, the top four seeds are the same for consecutive seasons. Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Stanford all earned No. 1 spots when the field was announced Monday night.
Unlike the men’s side, a topsy-turvy season with major upsets seemingly every week, women’s basketball hasn’t seen 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.
The women’s basketball madness gets started Saturday — the first step en route to the Final Four, which begins April 7 in New Orleans.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey hopes to make it there with her Lady Bears (32-1), who will try to become the fourth school to win consecutive national championships, joining Southern California, UConn, and Tennessee.
Last season, Baylor was trying to becoming the first team to win 40 games in a season. Now they are just focused on the title.
“Nothing’s different this year,” Griner said. “Our goal is to win the six games and win the national championship.”
Standing in the way could be Tennessee. The Lady Vols (24-7), 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 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.
Longtime assistant Holly Warlick took over this season and guided the Lady Vols to an SEC regular-season title.
Stanford (31-2) will try to reach the Final Four for a sixth straight season and end Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer’s 21-year drought without a national championship.
Notre Dame (31-1) will be trying to make it back to a third straight national championship game. The Irish, led by senior guard Skylar Diggins, have already had an incredible season, losing only to Baylor.
Connecticut (29-4) has had a somewhat disappointing season, failing to win either the Big East conference regular-season or tournament title for the first time in 19 years. UConn lost four of its five games against the other No. 1 seeds, including three to rival Notre Dame.