AFTER WINNING herseventh national title last week, Tennessee women's basketball coach PatSummitt said, "There's a lot more parity in the game now." She shouldknow. Summitt won her first six titles in a 12-year span, then didn't winanother for nine years. The wait for eight, though, doesn't figure to be aslong. Here's an early look at next year's top five:
Summitt relies on Candace Parker, an unusually versatile 6'4" sophomore whocan play every position on the floor. But in beating Rutgers 59--46 in the NCAAtitle game in Cleveland on April 3, the Lady Vols showed that the playerRutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer calls "the best in the world" is onlypart of their picture. With Parker double- and triple-teamed, Tennessee gotcontributions from everyone, including Nicky Anosike (16 rebounds) and 5'2"junior point guard Shannon Bobbitt (four three-pointers). "It was a totalteam effort," says Summitt. And most of that team is coming back. The LadyVols lose just one starter—6'3" forward Sidney Spencer—and next fall theywelcome the nation's top recruiting class.
The Scarlet Knights can defend as well as any team in the country, but thepotential for a high-octane offense, which they demonstrated with eightthree-pointers in the first half of their Final Four win over LSU, is whatmakes them truly dangerous. Every player returns, including the 6'4"emerging post star Kia Vaughn.
In getting embarrassed by Sylvia Fowles and LSU in the Elite Eight, the youngHuskies revealed that they were still a work in progress. But with every playerback, including 6'4" freshman of the year Tina Charles, and national highschool player of the year Maya Moore, a 6'1" shooting guard, joining thepack, the Huskies will be tougher to beat next season.
Fowles (left) and the other four starters from this year's Final Four squad allreturn, but no one is sure who'll be coaching them. Bob Starkey, the assistantwho took over when Pokey Chatman resigned on March 7 amid allegations of aninappropriate relationship with a former player, has said he won't take thejob.
The Terrapins will have established talent (four starters from the 2006championship team, including Crystal Langhorne, who led the nation by shooting70.7% from the field last year), potential (a top five freshman class) andmotivation (they were prematurely bounced from this year's tournament in thesecond round by Ole Miss).
WADE PAYNE/AP (PARKER)
GOOD STUFF Wooden award winner Parker had 17 points in UT's championship game win.
DALE ZANINE/US PRESSWIRE (FOWLES)