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The last season of the century will be one of the most wide open in a while, with quite a few teams capable of taking the title in 2000. That’s quite a difference from the past couple of seasons, when Tennessee was all but crowned champ before the opening game tipoff.

But when it’s all said and done this season, we see Connecticut taking home the hardware behind All American Svetlana Abrosimova and coach Geno Auriemma.

Key players: F Svetlana Abrosimova, jr., 6 1; G Shea Ralph, jr., 6 0; F Tamika Williams, so., 6 2; C Paige Sauer, sr., 6 5; G Keirsten Walters, so., 5 8; G Sue Bird, so., 5 9.

The skinny: Coach Geno Auriemma has plenty of talent to mold into the first national champion of the 21st century. Along with All America forward Svetlana Abrosimova (16.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg), the Huskies return junior Shea Ralph (16.8 ppg) and last year’s Big East Rookie of the Year, Tamika Williams. Though it won’t be easy getting through the stacked Big East, the experience should toughen up the Huskies for a long Tournament run.

Key players: F Tamika Catchings, jr., 6 1; G Semeka Randall, jr., 5 10; G Kristen Clement, jr., 5 11; G F Kyra Elzy, jr., 6 1; C Michelle Snow, so., 6 5; F C Gwen Jackson, fr., 6 2.

The skinny: What’s this? The Lady Vols at No. 5? It’s true, the seemingly unstoppable machine was shown to be human last year, and now the Vols are without Chamique Holdsclaw. But all is not lost. Semeka Randall and Basketball News preseason Player of the Year Tamika Catchings will lead a balanced attack that will have Tennessee in the hunt until the end.

6. Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters

Key players: G Tamicha Jackson, sr., 5 5; C Shaka Massey, sr., 6 3; G Betty Lennox, sr., 5 8.

The skinny: Plenty of talent returns from last year’s national semifinalist, led by senior guard Tamicha Jackson, sophomore center Ayana Walker and freshman forward Catrina Frierson. If the Lady Techsters’ five freshmen can come through, a third straight Final Four appearance isn’t out of the question.

Key players: G Nikki Teasley, jr., 6 0; G Juana Brown, jr., 5 11; F LaQuanda Barksdale, jr., 5 11.

The skinny: Junior guard Nikki Teasley will again lead the Tar Heels after pacing the team in scoring as a sophomore at 15.4 ppg. Teasley also led the Atlantic Coast Conference in assists and steals. She’ll get support from junior LaQuanda Barksdale,
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who tallied 13.9 ppg in 1998 99.

19. Louisiana State Lady Tigers

Key players: F Katrina Hibbert, sr., 5 11; C DeTrina White, so., 5 11; F April Brown, jr., 5 11.

The skinny: After setting a school record with 10 Southeastern Conference wins, the Lady Tigers are back to try to improve on that mark. With four starters back, LSU may do just that. Senior Katrina Hibbert, an Australian import, leads the offensive attack (team best 14.5 ppg), which could use more size in the post.

Key players: G Erin Stovall, jr., 5 9.

The skinny: Despite the losses of DeMya Walker and Monick Foote, the Cavaliers should be OK this year behind the play of senior guard Renee Robinson. Junior center Elena Kravchenko, at 6 10, is an imposing force in the pivot, but the Cavaliers will be hard pressed to match last year’s defensive efforts (63.8 ppg).

26. North Carolina State Wolfpack

Key players: C Summer Erb, sr., 6 6; G Tynesha Lewis, jr., 5 10.

The skinny: With Summer Erb and Tynesha Lewis back in the fold, the Wolfpack should bounce back from last year’s disappointing season, which saw them finish fifth in the ACC and fall in the second round of the conference tournament. Erb, at 6 6, is an offensive juggernaut (21.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg) who’s tough to stop.

Key players: C Annie Garrison, jr., 6 3; G Stephanie Rogers, jr., 5 7; F Katie Pursley, sr., 6 1; G Becki Ashbaugh, so., 5 5; F Tammy Annas, so., 5 11; F Courtney Cushing, fr., 6 0.

The skinny: High scoring Santa Clara is looking to its potent offense to push it onto the national scene. Leading scorer Annie Garrison (12.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg) leads a pack of four returning starters. Forward Katie Pursley is deadly from downtown, having hit 42 percent of her 3 point attempts in ’98 99.

31. Old Dominion Lady Monarchs

Key players: F C Lucienne Berthieu, jr., 6 2; G Sharron Francis, so., 5 8.

The skinny: Even without Aubrey Eblin and Mery Andrade, the Lady Monarchs shouldn’t be challenged in the Colonial Athletic Association. Especially if Lucienne Berthieu, who will take over the mantle of team leader, can shoot anything close to last year’s 61.4 percent shooting performance.

Key players: F Lynn Pride, sr., 6 2; F Brooke Reves, jr., 6 0.

The skinny: Lynn Pride (17.1 ppg) joins four other junior starters for the Jayhawks, who advanced to the NCAA Tournament second round before falling to eventual champ Purdue.
ralph lauren home collection Basketball News' preseason top 64