The Bruin schedule includes 16 of the Top 20 teams; for them to return, Moore will again have to look to a freshman—this time she is Melanie Horn—to round out her squad. Horn, a 6'5" center, needs to be more aggressive, but Moore is known for developing centers, and she should have Horn raring to go by tournament time. Teaming with Curry and senior playmaker Anita (Juice) Ortega, who has the moves of her namesake, Horn could help bring another championship to UCLA.
As good as the Bruins are, they are not the front-runners for the AIAW title. In Dixie alone there are three teams with deadly gunners and 6'5" centers who could be more than a match for UCLA. Tennessee has Brogdon, an All-America forward who averaged 21.7 points per game, and Holly Warlick, the fastest guard in the country. To complement that pair, Coach Pat Head imported 6'5" Center Cindy Noble, a sophomore transfer from Ohio State. Last year the Lady Vols were 27-4 with a 6'1" center. Noble's inside strength should be enough to take the Vols to the top, but to do so they will have to get past two challengers in their own part of the country, North Carolina State and Old Dominion.
State will host this year's finals at the Greensboro Coliseum. The last time a title game was held there, the Wolf-pack upset UCLA in the semis and then beat Marquette to take the 1974 men's crown. Coach Kay Yow is hoping for a replay of sorts, and with all starters back, including Beasley, an All-America forward, she may get her wish.
Old Dominion's second-year coach, Marianne Stanley, is positive she can beat N.C. State—and perhaps everyone. "Last year we all felt like we were walking on eggs," she says, "but now we're relaxed and the championship is not a pipe dream." Returning to lead the attack is Lieberman, who will move her 20.2 scoring average from forward to point guard. She will be missed on the boards, but Stanley has a supporting cast that can take up the slack. It includes 6'5" junior Center Inge Nissen, All-Canadian transfers Jan Trombly and Chris Critelli, and swingman Angela Cotman.
While Old Dominion has a pipeline to Canada, Louisiana State has its Australian Connection. In 1977 Aussies Maree Jackson and Julie Gross, both 6'2", led LSU to a surprising second-place finish in the nationals. Jackson is gone, but Gross returns and will be joined by another 6'2" Aussie who can shoot, Louise Klaffer. Should Klaffer misfire, Coach Jinks Coleman can turn to Lisa Brewer, who's a shrimp at 5'7" but a giant from 20 feet.
On paper, Old Dominion and LSU look almost unbeatable, but they play in the two toughest regions of the country. While Old Dominion must contend with North Carolina State and Tennessee, LSU could be upset in the Southwest Regional by Louisiana Tech, Which lost Belinda Jones to the new women's pro league but still has sharpshooters Elinor Griffin and Jane Ellen Cook. LSU also must fight off three Texas powerhouses. Wayland Baptist's All-America Guard Kathy Harston may be out for the season with a knee injury, but smooth Center Jill Rankin could be enough all by herself to carry the Flying Queens to the national tournament for a fifth time. Trying to shoot them down will be Stephen F. Austin, which has the biggest front line in the country. The Ladyjacks are shaky at guard, but Texas isn't. Coach Jody Conradt brought in Hattie Browning and Evwella Munn, a pair of junior college All-America back-court players from Temple ( Texas) Junior College. They are quick enough that the Longhorns' lack of height should not be an insuperable obstacle.
In the East, Rutgers and Penn State are vastly improved, but Maryland, the 1978 AIAW runner-up, will again dominate the region. The Terps lost top scorer and quarterback Tara Heiss, but sophomore Center Kris Kirchner is back, 10 pounds lighter and much quicker, along with Jane Zivalich and Betsy Bailey. All three scored in double figures last season.
Three-time AIAW champ Delta State was upset in the regional by Valdosta State last year, missing the final four for the first time since 1974. With 6'2" transfer Jessie Mae Brown and 23.3-point-a-game sophomore Forward Annie Laurie Witherington, the Lady Statesmen are out for revenge—and should get it. If Delta can get past a strong rival in its region, Ole Miss, it could run into a sophomore who is also looking for revenge. Last January in Madison Square Garden, Curry played her worst game in UCLA's 84-78 loss to Delta. "I wasn't in awe of the Garden," she says. "It's a nice place, but the floor has a lot of dead spots. I was just plain awful." She would like nothing better than to match her shot against Witherington's at Greensboro. Thus the title game could be a shoot-out between members of the Class of '81, and it is hoped there will be no dead spots to mess up their performances. These days sophomores notice such things.