It's the holiday season in college basketball. There's even snow on the ground to make the warm arenas hosting the women's tournament feel especially cozy this year. But it's also serious business for the field of 64. Here is a look at some more of the story lines involving teams in UConn's bracket — the Bridgeport Regional — as well as some involving other brackets.
Win one for Mother Russia: If you are enthralled with collegiate geography, you likely knew the University of Idaho — UConn's first-round opponent on Saturday — is in Moscow. As far as we know, there is no Boise in Russia. What you might find more interesting is the Vandals (17-15) scored exactly one more point (2,102) than their opponents this season.
Quinnipiac [KWIN-uh-pee-ack]: To those not from here, say it slowly. It's not as hard as it looks. The first 30-win season in program history has led to its first NCAA Tournament berth, quite a compliment for an athletic program also possessing the nation's No. 1 hockey team. The 13th-seeded Bobcats, the Northeast Conference champions, have won 22 straight games but now face Maryland, seeded fourth. Quinnipiac is just one of six teams in the nation with 30 wins, something not even UConn can say yet. The Bobcats have not lost since Dec. 29 against Georgia Tech. Beating Maryland will require toughness. The Terrapins like the physical stuff. If only the Bobcats could use freshman Travis St. Denis, who leads the hockey team with 68 penalty minutes.
Big East alumni team: UConn fans always liked watching West Virginia play. Coach Mike Carey's teams never scored much, but they played a fundamentally sound game accented by tenacious defense. The Mountaineers (17-13) left the Big East before this season to join the Big 12 and finished sixth in the conference. On Sunday, West Virginia gets Delaware (30-3), which closed out the Colonial Athletic Association as the regular season and tournament champions, has won 25 in a row and has the nation's second-leading scorer in Elena Delle Donne (25.3).
Don't I know you? Don't fool yourself, UConn loses its share of recruiting battles. And on no NCAA roster is the evidence more apparent than North Carolina. Krista Gross and Xylina McDaniel, the daughter of former NBA all-star Xavier, play for the Tar Heels but were seriously courted by UConn. Next season, guard Diamond DeShields of Norcross, Ga., a player the Huskies recruited with zeal, will join the Tar Heels. ... Of course, when we mention Kentucky it's impossible to do so without a nod to Samarie Walker, who left UConn in the middle of her freshman season. ... And Delle Donne, of course, left Storrs before ever playing a game.
Stay out of the water: No. 12 Marist, which plays No. 5 Michigan State in a first-round game in College Park, Md., Saturday, is coached by Brian Giorgis. USA Basketball just named him an assistant on Sherri Coale's World University Games team this summer. Giorgis' team won its eighth straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship. But earlier this year at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, a Marist parent was complaining that Giorgis wouldn't let his players hang out at the pool or beach on game days, something even the UConn women didn't have to deal with.
Happy 25th to Geno and Chris: This marks the 25th trip to the NCAA Tournament for the biggest power couple in women's basketball, Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey. It all started with first-round losses in 1989 and 1990 to LaSalle and Clemson before the Huskies reached their first Final Four in 1991 in New Orleans. This year, UConn will try to qualify for its sixth consecutive Final Four, which would be an NCAA Division I women's basketball record. They are after an eighth national championship. Society mavens may suggest a classy gift, something appropriate for the silver anniversary. What they really need is a win over Notre Dame.
One last hand for the Big East: The greatest conference in women's basketball is no more. But it will go out with a blast this season with eight teams in the field of 64 — most of any league. Notre Dame (31-1) and UConn (29-4) are No. 1 seeds, the third time in Big East history two top seeds have sprouted. Louisville (24-8), which will stick around with UConn in the conference "WithNoName" for one more season, is the No. 5 seed in Oklahoma City. Syracuse (24-7) is the No. 7 seed in Oklahoma City. Villanova (21-10) is the No. 8 seed in the Spokane Region and will play Michigan, coached for the first year by former St. John's coach Kim Barnes-Arico. The Big East also has three No. 10 seeds: St. John's (18-12) in Bridgeport, DePaul (21-11) in Norfolk and South Florida (21-10) in Spokane.
Prairie View is a dim one: Well, somebody has to do it. Prairie View (17-14) gets the job of being Baylor's first-round opponent on Sunday in a game that will be played on the home floor of the No. 1 Bears. Notre Dame gets the University of Tennessee. No, not that one. UT-Martin (19-14). And Stanford gets started against Tulsa (16-16). If you believe in how the bracket is set up, that means Prairie View was the 64th team in a 64-team field. But consider that to get out its bracket, Stanford may have to beat California, with whom it split the regular season series. Baylor could face No. 2 Tennessee. Yes, the real one. And Notre Dame would confront either No. 2 Duke or No. 3 Texas A&M, the SEC champion, which might be one of the hottest teams in the nation.
Hold that Tiger: Who is the most sought-after coach in the United States right now, whose name is not Auriemma, McGraw, Mulkey or VanDerveer? What about Princeton's Courtney Banghart? She led the Tigers (22-6) to their fourth straight Ivy League championship. But she's now trying to get her first NCAA win after first-round losses to St. John's, Georgetown and Kansas State. This time, the Tigers are a No. 9 seed and will play Florida State in the second game of the Baylor-Prairie View doubleheader in Waco. Banghart's name is being prominently mentioned as a possible (some say likely) successor to C. Vivian Stringer at Rutgers.
I know that name from somewhere: Yes, Gonzaga has a women's basketball program and a darn good one. They are 27-5, earned a 12 seed in Spokane and will play Iowa State in the first round. Yes, Green Bay has a women's program, too, and also a darn good one. It is 29-2, an 11 seed and plays LSU in Baton Rouge, also in the Spokane Regional.