Down the stretch of the season, the Connecticut Huskies got healthy, got whole and got about the business of trying to show they deserved a seed high enough that would allow them to stay at or near home for the duration of the 2022 NCAA women's basketball tournament.
In the end, the selection committee decided they had.
And so the Huskies, with Minnesota-born Paige Bueckers, Azzi Fudd and Nika Muhl all contributing, rode a 10-game winning streak (and 16 of their past 17) to snare a high No. 2 seed. They'll begin their quest for their first title since 2016 in Storrs, Conn.
"They are healthy and they are playing well," said Nina King, chair of the NCAA's selection committee on ESPN's selection show. "They have all their team playing, and they're another team on an upward trajectory. They dominated their conference tournament."
The Final Four will be held at Target Center in Minneapolis April 1 and 3.
Connecticut gets to play host for the first two rounds in its quest to be one of those Final Four teams. Should UConn advance to the Sweet Sixteen, that would mean a move to Bridgeport, Conn., and a possible showdown with No. 1-seeded North Carolina State. The Wolfpack have to be wondering why 29 wins and ACC regular-season and tournament titles got them the right to potentially play a regional final that would amount to almost a road game.
South Carolina, defending champion Stanford, North Carolina State and Louisville grabbed No. 1 seeds. Baylor, UConn, Iowa and Texas grabbed No. 2 seeds.
But the move that pushed UConn to a second seed and pulled them back home reflected the committee's intention to reward strong finishes.
That is the case with Iowa, on a seven-game winning streak. The Hawkeyes grabbed a share of the Big Ten regular-season title, then raced through the conference tournament to earn a No. 2 seed in the Greensboro region.
That's a move that set up two potentially tasty matchups. First, Iowa and No. 3 seed Iowa State could potentially meet in a Sweet 16 game. Second, should both Iowa and No. 1 seed South Carolina advance, the Greensboro regional final would pit Iowa's Caitlin Clark and South Carolina's Aliyah Boston — the top two candidates for player of the year — against each other.
"Iowa is a team that is hot," King said. "Co-champs in the Big Ten and ultimately Big Ten Conference tournament champions. We felt good rewarding them."
Ditto for Texas, which has won 11 consecutive games and beat Baylor in the Big 12 Conference tournament championship.
It would appear Baylor's tournament loss to the Longhorns was what kept the Bears from a No. 1 seed, thereby giving it to Louisville.
This is the first women's tournament to be expanded to 68 teams. It is the first tournament that will utilize the term "March Madness."
The Big Ten had six teams make the field. Both Indiana, which finished strong, and Michigan got No. 3 seeds. Maryland got a No. 4 seed, Ohio State a No. 6 and Nebraska a No. 8.
For South Carolina, it is an opportunity to atone for last year's heartbreaking 66-65 semifinal loss to eventual champion Stanford.
With virtually the same team back, and with Boston leading the way, the Gamecocks wrapped up the top overall seed and have their eyes set on Minneapolis.
"It's the experience of a heartbreak," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said on the selection show. "This team hasn't lost a whole lot of basketball games because they have that want-to. They know that feeling of what it was like to lose like we lost in the Final Four. They've come back and taken on all challenges. But, like Kobe Bryant said, the job is not done."