A few weeks ago, Joe Lunardi, the NCAA men's tournament bracketing expert out of St. Joseph's, was asked in a humorous manner whether he'd like to take a shot at forecasting the women's 64-team pairings.

"That's easy," Lunardi responded. "It's a 63-team play-in to see who is going to meet Connecticut for the title."

The defending NCAA champions are heading for the overall No. 1 seed for the second straight year although Stanford has been right behind the Huskies. The Cardinal, whose only loss was to Connecticut in December, has gone wire-to-date as the No. 2 ranked team in the Associated Press women's poll.

The competition to fill most of the rest the top 16 teams in the NCAA bracket is as unsettled as it has ever been heading into the first weekend of conference playoffs to claim automatic bids.

There are many teams that appear destined for high NCAA seedings, such as third-ranked Nebraska, West Virginia, and Xavier, who have never or rarely been in the hunt for those positions.

Nebraska is still unbeaten with a first-ever Big Twelve regular-season title in hand as it wraps up play this weekend. The conference tournament is next week.

The Cornhuskers drew a school-record crowd of more than 13,000 on Saturday. Afterward, the players eagerly offered to stay well beyond the two-hour limit to keep signing autographs.

Meanwhile, there are a bunch of unusual seed positions and matchups in conferences that have already announced their tournament pairings.

In the last several years, Maryland, the 2006 NCAA champion, and North Carolina, were Final Four material.

On Thursday, the Terrapins and Tar Heels will meet in a first-round game in the Atlantic Coast tournament with the winner meeting No. 1 seeded Duke in the quarterfinals.

Rutgers, which finished at home last night against Louisville, will not be holding a double bye for the Big East competition this weekend in Hartford. The Scarlet Knights have spent the last several years as one of the key challengers to Connecticut.

Kentucky has improved to a No. 2 seed in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Penn State is somewhat better than recent seasons with a No. 6 seed heading into Thursday's Big Ten opener vs. No. 11 Minnesota. Tyra Grant needs 24 points to become the fourth Nittany Lion to reach 2,000 for a career.

George Washington will enter the Atlantic Ten tournament Friday in Upper Marlboro, Md., with its lowest seed ever at No. 11 in the 12-team field.

Drexel and Delaware scramble. The seeds for next week's Colonial Athletic Association tournament will be determined tomorrow night when the regular season ends.

"There are so many scenarios at this hour that it is taking me three days to figure them out," said Niki DeSantis, the CAA's women's publicist.

Drexel, the reigning CAA champion, will play at William and Mary. The Dragons are still trying to get a bye after sliding into a three-game losing streak.

Delaware will host Hofstra. The status of freshman sensation Elena Delle Donne, the nation's leading scorer, is undetermined. She stepped into a pothole a week ago and has missed two games because of a sprained ankle.

Foster homecoming. Former St. Joseph's coach Jim Foster, now at Ohio State, was honored Sunday with the head women's coach's office named after him in the new Ramsay Center.

"To have that happen in a building named after [Hall of Fame men's coach] Jack Ramsay is special," Foster said.

Honors. Temple's Kristen McCarthy is the Big Five women's player of the week.

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com. Read his blog at go.philly.com/womhoops.