There will be plenty of interesting possibilities, however, leading up to the regional final at Pauley Pavilion and, ultimately, the Final Four in Austin, Tex., at the end of the month.
Thanks for that go to the seeding committee, which moved in two teams from the South (Mississippi and Western Kentucky), a team from the East Coast (Penn State) and the Midwest (Ohio State) in pairings announced Sunday.
And you thought the NCAA was just looking for balance.
Consider the possibilities:
--USC (21-7) vs. Western Kentucky (24-8), March 15 at the Sports Arena. The Trojans have been to the Final Four three times in the last four years, the Hilltoppers from Bowling Green, Ky., twice in a row. Both lost to Texas last season, Western Kentucky in the semifinals and USC in the championship game.
The Hilltoppers feature Clemette Haskins, an all-tournament selection at the Final Four and East Regional last season and at the Mideast Regional in '85. The daughter of former Western Kentucky star and current Minnesota Coach Clem Haskins, she is averaging 16.2 points a game.
--Long Beach (30-2) vs. USC. The teams are in opposite brackets, so any meeting would have to be March 21, with the winner going to Austin. But isn't a meeting between teams representing the two best programs in the West usually worth the wait?
--USC vs. No. 2 Ohio State (24-4). The Trojans would welcome the chance to play again, what with the Buckeyes' 20-point win in Miami in December.
--Long Beach vs. anybody. The 49ers have been close to the Final Four before, but have yet to make it. In Cindy Brown's senior year and with Penny Toler playing so well, this should be their year. They have been the best in the West all along, and now they can be the best of the rest, too.
Long Beach, coming off a win in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. tournament, has a bye until Saturday night at 7:30, when it will play host to a second-round game at the University Gym. Either Washington (22-6) or New Mexico State (23-6), who meet Wednesday at Seattle, will provide the opposition.
"We've played so many games, two or three per week for a long time," 49er Coach Joan Bonvincini said Sunday. "But this will finally give us a chance to prepare for a single opponent.
"I think it's a tough regional, but everybody has that. We're playing at home, but we are also playing someone who has already won a game."
Said USC Coach Linda Sharp, looking at the pairings: "I don't see where any of it is easy. Penn State and Mississippi, that will be some kind of game. . . . Penn State is very competitive and the kind of team that pulls upsets. I'd have to say they might be the sleeper of the region."
UCLA felt its chances were good to make the 40-team field with a win Saturday at home against Washington. The NCAA selection committee obviously did, too, and made frequent calls to Pauley Pavilion for progress reports. The Huskies' eventual win served as a double loss for the Bruins.