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posted: 3/16/2010 12:01 AM

Unbeaten UConn in unfamiliar NCAA tourney bracket

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  • Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, right, talks to his players during a timeout against Syracuse in a recnet game in Syracuse, N.Y. Connecticut faces Southern University on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

      Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, right, talks to his players during a timeout against Syracuse in a recnet game in Syracuse, N.Y. Connecticut faces Southern University on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
    Associated Press

 

STORRS, Conn. -- Connecticut's quest for a second straight NCAA tournament title will begin in a bracket filled with unfamiliar opponents.

The top-ranked Huskies (33-0), seeking their seventh national championship and an unprecedented second consecutive undefeated season, will play Southern University (23-8) in the first round Sunday in Norfolk, Va.

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A victory over the Southwestern Athletic Conference champions would extend the Huskies' record streak to 73 consecutive wins.

UConn's bracket includes just one other Big East team, No. 15 St. John's, and only one other top 10 team, No. 8 Ohio State. It also includes No. 11 Florida State and No. 16 Iowa State.

"I'm certainly surprised," senior center Tina Charles said. "Usually, we have a harder road. But I'm definitely happy with whatever situation we have."

This will be the first time in UConn's 21 years as an NCAA tournament team that none of its tournament games will be played in Connecticut.

The Huskies haven't opened the tournament outside the state since 2006. That year, they played the regional semifinals and finals in Bridgeport. This season the regional will be in Dayton, Ohio.

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said he likes the idea of being away from home for all six games and thinks it might actually help the Huskies get some calls from the officials.

"When you're perceived to be playing at home, trust me, you don't get those 50-50 calls," he said. "I don't care what anybody tells you, you don't get those calls.

"If you're good, you can win anywhere," he added. "It doesn't really matter."

Connecticut has made it to the Final Four 10 times, including seven appearances in the past 10 years.

UConn forward Maya Moore said she knows that if the team does it again, it would likely face old rival Tennessee, a team she has never played, in the national semifinals.

"I'm sure everybody would want to see that," she said. "Anytime you can get two competitive teams on the court on the national stage, that's great. That's what I think any great program wants."

Connecticut isn't the only team from the state in the tournament. Hartford, ranked No. 25 in the nation, will play LSU in a first-round game in Durham, N.C.

The Hawks (27-4) earned an at-large bid and a 10th seed in the Memphis region after losing in the America East Conference final to Vermont on Saturday.

It will be the Hawks' fifth appearance in the tournament, where they are 2-4.

"I'd rather play a powerhouse conference than another mid-major," coach Jen Rizzotti said. "I feel like we get more respect when we beat Michigan State or Louisville than when we beat Marist or Temple. It's just a matter of making sure our mindset is right going into the game."

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