It's really easy to talk about the Connecticut Huskies' dominance in terms of wins and losses.
UConn is unquestionably the favorite to win the 2011 NCAA Tournament, if for no other reason because star forward - and assumptive first pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft - Maya Moore is arguably the most skilled college basketball player anywhere.
But to understand just how remarkable this team is, you have to take the circumstances of their season into account.
What's loss beneath their overwhelming dominance of opposing teams is that this is also a team that has suffered through more adversity than just losing to the Stanford Cardinal in December, which ended their historic winning streak at 90 games. They entered the season without starting point guard Caroline Doty who suffered an ACL injury last summer. Freshman post Samarie Walker decided to transfer to Kentucky, leaving them further shorthanded. Moore was then forced to play more of a post role in the team's offense instead of her more natural wing position.
And yet despite losing some of their swagger after the Stanford loss and playing with a thin post rotation, they absolutely obliterated the Duke Blue Devils on national television.
This is not necessarily a "team of destiny", but it's definitely a team with shocking mental fortitude and a resilience that is not only about bouncing back but rising to the occasion to present the illusion to the casual observer that nothing is wrong.
Although the season might be defined in the eyes of the mainstream by 90 wins and one loss - for better or worse - to truly understand what makes this team so tournament ready you have to understand how much they've had to overcome just to maintain their dominance consistently: injury, the pressure of approaching and breaking a "men's" record, a bizarre transfer of a rotation player, and somehow continuing to overwhelm Big East opponents playing with essentially a six-woman rotation.
There might be an impulse for some people to question whether UConn really can repeat this year given the circumstances and improved Baylor Lady Bears and Stanford teams presumably standing in their way in the Final Four. But as they've consistently overcome adversity that would break other teams this season and finished as the number one seed, who are we to doubt their ability to keep it going with a third straight national championship now?
UConn isn't invincible - Stanford demonstrated that and we can point to any number of other ways that they could lose games in the right circumstances. In theory, perhaps they could even lose before the Final Four. Yet in practice, identifying who that lucky opponent might be or when it might occur is almost impossible to predict - they're by far the best team in this bracket and it will take a lapse on their part to suffer a loss.
And that's the thing: it never occurs to this team that they might have a lapse, even when most of us would consider it understandable or, to some extent, human.
Just ask Duke.
Predictions from SBN's Swish Appeal (click here for full article):
#1 UConn def. #16 Hartford
#8 Kansas State def. #9 Purdue (Feel free to toss a coin to pick this one, I picked KSU based on an offensive rebounding edge.)
#5 Georgetown def. #12 Princeton
#4 Maryland def. #13 St. Francis
#6 Penn State def. #11 Dayton (Another close call, but had a hard time finding a tangible reason to pick Dayton.)
#3 DePaul def. #14 Navy
#10 Marist def. #7 Iowa State
#2 Duke def. #15 Tennessee - Martin
UConn def. Kansas St.
Maryland def. Georgetown (Should also be an interesting one, but Maryland's considerable rebounding differential should make the difference.)
DePaul def. Penn St. (A rebounding test for DePaul, but their gexecution wins out.)
Duke def. Marist (The likelihood of things coming together for Marist in this one is slim.)
UConn def. Maryland
DePaul def. Duke (For all the reasons listed above regarding Marist: disciplined offense and shooting efficiency does the trick. And no, a #3 beating a #2 is not an upset.)
UConn def. DePaul
For more on the bracket, check out our Women’s NCAA Tournament StoryStream. For everything women’s NCAA hoops, stop by SBN's Swish Appeal. To fill out your own bracket and join Swish Appeal's writers in a bracket challenge, check out the Yahoo Women's Basketball Tournament Pick'Em.