On Monday night, the Lady Vols learned the path they must take to get back to the final four.
When it comes to getting to Tampa, the Lady Vols got about as good of a path as they could have asked for. They dodged Notre Dame who they had been projected to face since losing in the SEC championship game last week. Tennessee will be in the Spokane, Washington region as the No. 2 seed.
Tennessee will be in the No. 4 overall seed in Maryland’s region. This side of the bracket features several big names but might be the easiest road to the Final Four of any region. Let’s break down the top half of the bracket first.
In College Park, the Maryland section features the No. 1 seed Maryland vs. No. 16 New Mexico St. and No. 8 Princeton – the only undefeated team in women’s basketball – vs. No. 9 Green Bay in the first round match ups. In the Durham, North Carolina section the SEC should be able to make its presence felt as No.5 Mississippi State will face No. 12 Tulane in the first round, while No. 4 Duke will play No. 13 Albany.
Moving to the bottom of the bracket, No. 6 George Washington will face No. 11 Gonzaga in the Corvallis, Oregon, region. George Washington should be a fun and interesting team to watch as most people had them rated higher than a six seed, and they could be playing with a chip on their shoulder. No. 3 Oregon State will take on No. 14 South Dakota State. If Tennessee can make it out of the Knoxville region, they will face the winner of the Corvallis region in the Sweet 16.
Now let’s break down the Knoxville region for the Lady Vols. The first game features No. 7 Chattanooga taking on No. 10 Pittsburgh, and the No. 2 Lady Vols will take on No. 15 Boise State. The first round for the Knoxville region will be on Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena and will feature the first ever meeting between Tennessee and Boise State in basketball.
Tennessee stands a good chance of playing the No. 7 seed Chattanooga in the second round in a rematch of their earlier meeting when the Mocs beat the Lady Vols 67-63. A rematch now would be a favorable match up for Tennessee, but as recent years have shown, the Mocs give the Lady Vols a hard time. It will be a close game and a good game if this is indeed the second round match up.
If Tennessee can make it out of Knoxville, they could meet No. 3 Oregon State in the Sweet 16 on March 28. There is no guarantee this will happen as Oregon State will have George Washington to deal with.
The Lady Vols could meet the No. 1 seeded Maryland Terrapins if they make it through the Sweet 16. However, there is no guarantee Maryland makes it that far. They have to deal with the undefeated Princeton Tigers in the second round more than likely. As well as potential opponents, No.5 Mississippi State and No. 4 Duke assuming there are no first round upsets.
Overall, the Lady Vols got about as good of a seeding and bracket as they could have. This could be the year that Tennessee makes a return to the Final Four, but only time will tell if this team has enough left in the tank for a deep run. The first round of the Knoxville regional starts Saturday when No.7 Chattanooga and No. 10 Pittsburgh face off at 11:05 a.m. followed by No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 15 Boise State at 1:30 p.m. Both games will be on ESPN2, and the Tennessee game can be heard on the Lady Vol Network.
Edited by Cody McClure
Sam Forman is the lead sports staff writer for the Tennessee Journalist and is a senior studying Journalism and Electronic Media with a focus on sports broadcasting and reporting. He has been with TNJN since the fall of 2014. He is also a DJ for WUTK 90.3 fm. and a member of the Rock Solid Sports team. Sam has spent six years marching in the Pride of The Southland Marching Band. When he is not covering or talking sports, you can find him outdoors, playing music or hanging out with friends. You can find him on twitter: @samWforman