NCAA WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT ANALYSIS : Seedings Frustrate West Teams

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As women's basketball teams around the country anxiously awaited word Sunday from the NCAA as to whether or not--and where--they would fit into the NCAA tournament picture, one thing was certain: the South would figure prominently, even though southern teams weren't quite as dominant this season.

Louisiana Tech is 29-0 and ranked first in the nation, and defending champion Tennessee, ranked third, is still a force. And, both were seeded No. 1 for their respective regionals--Louisiana Tech in the Midwest and Tennessee in the East.

However, parity has come to the women's game, as the emergence of several strong teams from the Pacific 10 and Big West conferences have served to balance things out.

Stanford, ranked second, is an explosive team that many believe will win the national championship April 1 at Knoxville, Tenn. The Cardinal (27-1) is seeded No. 1 in the West Regional, which will be held at Stanford, and will open against the winner of Wednesday's Montana-Hawaii game.

Washington (26-2), which defeated Stanford in one of two meetings this season, finished the regular season ranked No. 4 and is also given a strong chance of reaching the Final Four. The Huskies are seeded No. 1 in the Mideast Regional.

The West may be well-represented in the tournament, but not all are happy about the pairings.

UCLA is an exception, having received an at-large bid to a tournament it has not appeared in since the 1984-85 season. The Bruins, one of four teams from the Pac-10 to make the tournament, wound up the regular season 17-11 after losing two of their last three games.

Still, says UCLA Coach Billie Moore: "It's hard in my mind, to see a conference as strong as the Pac-10, that we couldn't get four teams (in)."

The Bruins open Wednesday night at Arkansas (22-4).

Then there is No. 5 Nevada Las Vegas (28-2), which was ranked second until losing its last regular-season game to Fresno State. The Rebels were seeded No. 4 in the West, which means they will probably have to play Stanford in the West Regional semifinals.

UNLV Coach Jim Bolla thought his team deserved to be seeded No. 1, perhaps in the Mideast Regional.

"I'm very disappointed," he said Sunday after his team beat Cal State Long Beach for the Big West tournament title. "I don't know what the kids have to do to prove they're good. In my opinion, it's a slap in the face of the Big West."

The Rebels will play the winner of the first-round game between Mississippi and Utah.

Another disappointed team is Long Beach, ranked No. 14 nationally after a poor finish, which joins Louisiana Tech in making the tournament for the ninth consecutive season. The 49ers (24-8) will play California (17-11) in their first-round game Wednesday at Long Beach.

Coach Joan Bonvicini said she "was shocked" when she learned of her team being placed in the West, seeded sixth.

"To me, it's very obvious they're (the NCAA committee) trying to keep people in their own region," she said.

Asked if she thought the pairings were a slap in the face of the Big West, Bonvicini replied: "Big time. . . A punch!"

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