Lincoln Regional breakdown


Undefeated Connecticut starts its path to Nashville, Tenn., in the Lincoln Regional. What are the rest of the storylines in this corner of the bracket?

Three observations

1. NC State senior Kody Burke is that rare bird: a Californian who came all the way across the country to play for the ACC's Wolfpack. Now Burke has the chance to compete in the NCAA tournament very near where she grew up. Burke is from Northridge, Calif., and the No. 5 seed Wolfpack play their early-round game(s) in Los Angeles. They open with No. 12 BYU (ESPN2, 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday).

2. Texas A&M, a No. 3 seed, certainly hopes its upcoming early-round games at home in Reed Arena go better than the NCAA tournament went for the Aggies last season. Even though they entered the 2013 Big Dance with a full head of steam after winning the SEC tournament, the Aggies were upset in the second round on their home court by former fellow Big 12 member Nebraska. Texas A&M comes into this season's NCAA tournament under the radar, but the Aggies tied Tennessee for second in the SEC regular-season standings. And Texas A&M was one of just two teams -- Tennessee was the other -- to beat South Carolina in SEC play this season.

3. Some Oklahoma fans have felt the Sooners -- who were one of the last teams picked to this NCAA field and are a No. 10 seed -- underachieved this season. Certainly, Oklahoma seemed to fall short of most preseason expectations. The Sooners finished tied for fifth with Iowa State at 9-9 in the league. Oklahoma is 4-6 in its past 10 games, but can the Sooners turn it on now? They open against No. 7 seed DePaul. -- Mechelle Voepel

Three players to watch

Kirby Burkholder, James Madison: The first-round game in College Station, Texas, between James Madison and Gonzaga matches up two of the best mid-major players as Burkholder shares a court with Gonzaga's Haiden Palmer. Stepping out of the considerable shadow cast over the Colonial Athletic Association by former Delaware All-American Elena Delle Donne, Burkholder earned conference player of the year honors by averaging 18.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. She's an inside-outside presence who registered nearly 63 percent of her field goal attempts from the 3-point line but still gets inside with a 6-foot frame to rebound and get to the free throw line nearly five times per game.

Moriah Jefferson, Connecticut: It is hard to be overshadowed on a team that receives as much attention as Connecticut, so it's not breaking news that Jefferson is enjoying a breakthrough sophomore season. But of all the reasons this Connecticut team is better than the one that won a title a season ago, from Breanna Stewart's development to Bria Hartley's return to form, Jefferson's play might be the most dramatic. Her defensive play makes her a star all by itself, but she is also a borderline All-American candidate purely as a point guard on the other end, where she ranks 12th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio and shoots 58 percent from the floor, largely off turnovers and selective 3-point looks.

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