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Tournament Watch: Notre Dame Women March Toward the Madness

Feb 15, 2013, 12:56 PM EDT

photo by Matt Cashore photo by Matt Cashore

The Fighting Irish’s decisive victory over tenth-ranked BIG EAST rival Louisville Monday night was a further testament to the dominance of this year’s elite women’s college basketball teams.

Notre Dame (23-1, 11-0 BIG EAST) remains ranked second in the NCAA behind Baylor, the only team to beat the Irish, and first in the BIG EAST. Connecticut and Stanford are third and fourth overall, but the way these four teams have matched up against each other this season, it’s difficult to say any one team is much better than the others.

Notre Dame’s only games left against (currently) ranked opponents are #23 Syracuse (Feb. 26) and #3 Connecticut (Mar. 4). Connecticut has #2 Notre Dame and #1 Baylor. Baylor has #3 Connecticut and #22 Oklahoma. And Stanford has #15 UCLA. Barring anything wild, the top four will hold (though not necessarily in the current order), and each of these teams will receive a first seed in the NCAA tournament that begins on March 23rd.

Last year’s tournament was exciting, but some might say a little bit too predictable. The Elite Eight was comprised of the first and second seeds from each region, the Final Four was the four top seeds (which, unsurprisingly, were Baylor, Stanford, Connecticut, and Notre Dame), the championship was between two #1 seeds, and the champion was the undefeated Baylor team, led by Brittney Griner.

That consistency with the pre-tournament rankings is a stark contrast to the volatility that usually characterizes the men’s tournament and shows how the elite women’s teams are pretty much a level beyond.

Will there be a rematch of last year’s championship? Will any team be able to topple Baylor now that Stanford has drawn blood? Between the remaining regular season match-ups and the inevitable tournament match-ups, we have numerous exciting clashes of women’s college basketball’s top teams ahead of us.

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