AP Basketball Writer
Baylor is six wins from a second straight national championship. But, it's hardly a foregone conclusion this year that the Lady Bears will repeat.
Here's one look at the 63 games and how they might pan out. It's guaranteed to remain unblemished until at least Saturday's opening-round games (seedings in parentheses, winners in uppercase):
CONNECTICUT (1) vs. Idaho (16) -- The Huskies will make the Vandals' first trip to the NCAAs in 28 years a short one. UConn isn't about to see its 20-plus year streak of losing back-to-back games end.
VANDERBILT (8) Saint Joseph's (9) -- Saint Joseph's plays tenacious defense, as was evident with their run to the Atlantic 10 tournament title. Unfortunately, Vanderbilt, which is just one of eight schools to make the NCAA field every year since 2000, can shoot the ball well.
MARIST (12) vs Michigan State (5) -- There may not be that one star player on Brian Giorgis' team this season, but the Red Foxes play great defense and anyone can step up on a given day. The Spartans had a great run through the Big Ten tournament before falling just short. This will be a low-scoring affair with the underdog coming away with the win.
MARYLAND (4) vs. Quinnipiac (13) -- The Bobcats are making their first trip to the NCAAs and riding a 22-game winning streak. Coach Tricia Fabbri loves to play a hockey-style game subbing five in at a time, hoping to wear down an opponent. It won't be enough to upset Alyssa Thomas and the Terps.
DELAWARE (6) vs. West Virginia (11) -- Getting to play on their home court will be enough to help Elena Delle Donne and the Blue Hens overcome the physical Mountaineers. Akeema Richards transferred from West Virginia and will definitely have added incentive to send the Mountaineers home early.
NORTH CAROLINA (3) vs. Albany, NY (14) -- The Tar Heels are back in the tournament after a rare one-year absence, and with ACC rookie of the year Xylina McDaniel -- the daughter of former NBA star Xavier McDaniel will get through the first round. The Great Danes are making their second straight NCAA appearance after running through the America East. Unfortunately, they don't have enough offense to stay with the Tar Heels.
ST. JOHN'S (10) vs. Dayton (7) -- The Red Storm are hosting for the first time and don't plan on losing in the opening round. The balanced Flyers have only lost twice this season, but lack of tournament experience will do them in.
KENTUCKY (2) vs. Navy (15) -- The Wildcats have too much on offense and have a strong pressure defense to not sink the young Midshipmen. Navy is making its third straight trip to the NCAAS.
CONNECTICUT (1) vs. Vanderbilt (9) -- The Commodores won't be able to keep up with UConn and the Huskies will advance to the regional semifinals for the 20th straight season.
MARYLAND (4) vs. Marist (12) -- The Terrapins are tough to beat at home and the Red Foxes will challenge them, but Thomas and Tianna Hawkins will prove to be too much.
DELAWARE (6) vs. North Carolina (3) -- There's just no way that Elena Delle Donne will lose her final game at home. She'll have a huge game to lift the Blue Hens to the regional semifinals and a trip to Connecticut.
KENTUCKY (2) vs. St. John's (10) -- Nadirah McKenith will be able to handle the Wildcats' 40 minutes of dread. Unfortunately, the Red Storm don't have an answer for Samarie Walker.
CONNECTICUT (1) vs. Maryland (4) -- The Terrapins gave UConn a tough game in the Jimmy V Classic back in December. Maryland is still short-handed and the Huskies are too strong.
KENTUCKY (2) vs. Delaware (6) -- Delle Donne and Samarie Walker could have been teammates at UConn. Instead, they will be facing each other in the regional semifinals. Delle Donne's career will end one step short of the matchup that everyone would have loved to see.
CONNECTICUT (1) vs. Kentucky (2) -- Tiffany Hayes was the difference last year when these two met in the regional final and UConn came away with a 15-point win. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will be the one this time to get the Huskies back to their sixth straight Final Four.
NOTRE DAME (1) vs. Tennessee-Martin (16) -- The Irish aren't thrilled they are playing in Iowa. They'll take it out on the Skyhawks. Tennessee-Martin has won eight straight and already played three Top 10 teams this season back in November. They lost those on average by 23 points.
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