SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)
Since the brackets for the NCAA women's tournament were released, it's been expected that No. 1 seed Stanford and No. 2 seed California would meet for the third time this season to decide a spot in the Final Four.
Fourth-seeded Georgia, though, will have something to say about that.
Stanford (33-2) and Georgia (27-6) will meet in the first regional final Saturday night, followed by LSU and California, with the winners to face off Monday for a spot in the Final Four.
Stanford is two wins away from becoming the first program to reach six consecutive Final Fours, although Connecticut also has a chance to match that streak this season. Georgia and LSU have been to multiple Final Fours in their respective histories.
Stanford is coming off one of its more impressive victories of the season, a 73-40 rout of Michigan in the second round. It was an emphatic statement after the Cardinal struggled in the Pac-12 Conference tournament title game and didn't look overly dominant in a first-round win over No. 16 seed Tulsa. But the types of challenges the Cardinal have faced - from Colorado and UCLA in the conference tournament to Tulsa and Michigan - have helped them get ready for Georgia.
''Georgia's a very talented team. They're quick, they're athletic, and they definitely like to push the pace,'' Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike said. ''I think that presents a huge challenge for us because we have been working all season long on making sure our pace is efficient. So I think that will be a great test.''
Georgia reached the round of 16 by outlasting Iowa State in the second round thanks to uncharacteristic success hitting from the perimeter. Georgia's strength is on the inside with post Jasmine Hassell, yet the Lady Bulldogs knocked down 12 3-pointers - all of them needed - in holding off the Cyclones. Guard Jasmine James, who made three 3-pointers in the first 32 games, made a pair against Iowa State. The 12 3s were the most in any NCAA game in Georgia history.
The Lady Bulldogs' reward was an extended stay in Spokane. They chose not to go back home to Georgia after trying to do the cross-country travel in 2010 and seeing it fail miserably. The Lady Bulldogs won their first two games in Tempe, Ariz., went home, then returned to Sacramento, Calif., for the regional semifinals, where they were routed by Stanford 73-36.
Coach Andy Landers joked that his players spent the extra time in Eastern Washington getting registered to vote and taking up residency, but said the decision was smart and beneficial.
''It's been very productive, both academically, basketball-wise and from a rest standpoint. All of those things are important,'' Landers said.
The matchup between the Cardinal and Lady Bulldogs also features 1,564 combined career victories at Stanford and Georgia between Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer and Landers. This is also the 20th trip to the round of 16 for both coaches at their respective schools.
''I'm looking at all the things that they're doing, I really like them,'' VanDerveer said. ''I'm going to steal (from) them for next year.''