Notre Dame top seed in Lexington, Maryland is 2, Kentucky 3
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Coach Muffet McGraw said Notre Dame capturing its fifth straight No. 1 seed wasn't as easy as it looked.
''It's a lot of hard work. It is so difficult to do what we've been doing. I know this team makes it look easy and they're having a lot of fun doing it. But they put in an awful lot of work and so does my staff,'' she said Monday night after the brackets were announced.
The second-ranked Irish (31-1) are the top seed in the Lexington Regional despite Jewell Loyd leaving early for the WNBA after last season and Taya Reimer leaving the team in December for personal reasons. Despite that, Notre Dame is looking to become just the second school to advance to six straight Final Fours. Fifth-ranked Maryland (30-3), the Big Ten champion, is seeded second, No. 12 Kentucky (23-7) is third and would have the hometown advantage for the first four rounds. No. 13 Stanford (24-7) is seeded fourth.
McGraw said she was surprised the Irish are playing in Lexington while No. 3 South Carolina (31-1), which was supposed to be the higher seed by the NCAA, is playing at Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
''I don't understand that,'' she said. ''It almost appears we were the overall No. 2.''
The Irish, coming off a third straight Atlantic Coast Conference title, are in the tournament for the 21st straight season and seeking their first national championship since 2001.
The only other team to advance to the Final Four six straight times is Connecticut, which is looking for it a record ninth straight time. The Huskies, who are seeking their fourth straight national championship and 11th overall, have ended Notre Dame's season three straight seasons - the past two in the title game. The Irish have lost in the title game in four of the past five seasons.
The Irish will host North Carolina A&T (19-11) on Saturday. The other game in South Bend pits eighth-seed Georgia (21-9) against ninth-seeded Indiana (20-11).
The Terrapins, a No. 1 seed a year ago who lost to Connecticut in an NCAA semifinal, will open at home against Iona (23-11). In the other game, seventh-seeded Washington (22-10) faces 10th-seeded Pennsylvania (24-4).
''Our team is really confident right now, after winning the (Big Ten) regular season and the Big Ten Conference Tournament,'' Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. ''We're playing and practicing really hard. They're trying to really the most prepared team going into the tournament.''
The Terrapins, who won the national championship a decade ago, will be seeking its third straight Final Four appearance.
Kentucky, who lost to third-ranked South Carolina 83-63 in a Southeastern Conference semifinal game, are in the NCAA Tournament for a school-record seventh consecutive time. They have made it to the regional finals three times, losing twice to Connecticut, but have yet to make a Final Four appearance.
The Wildcats will open against 14th-seeded UNC Asheville (26-6), while sixth-seeded Oklahoma (21-10) plays 11th-seeded Purdue (20-11) in the other game at Lexington.
Stanford enters the tournament for the first time since 2000 as neither the Pac-12 regular-season nor tournament champion. The Cardinal will be looking to rebound after getting knocked out of the Pac-12 tournament with a 73-65 loss to Washington in a quarterfinal game after allowing the Huskies to shoot 47 percent - the best any opponent has shot against Stanford this season.
The Cardinal hosts 13th-seeded San Francisco (22-11), while fifth-seeded Miami (24-8) plays 13th-seeded South Dakota State (26-6) in the other game.
AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this report.