No underdogs needed in Final Four

Leave the bracket-busting unpredictability to the men’s

tournament. In the women Final Four, it’s a dose of March

Mildness.

Connecticut, Stanford, Notre Dame and Texas A&M, two No. 1

seeds and two No. 2s, will be in Indianapolis on Sunday for the

national semifinals.

The double-digit seeds don’t rule here – just the double-digit

wins. The Huskies, Irish, the Cardinal and the Aggies all won their

regional final games by at least 10 points, sucking the drama out

of the most meaningful games of the season.

In one game in Indianapolis, the top-seeded Huskies (36-1) have

a third straight national championship in sight when they play

second-seeded Notre Dame (30-7). The Big East teams already played

three times this season, UConn winning each time.

In another game, No. 1-seed Stanford (33-2) makes its fourth

straight Final Four and plays second-seeded Texas A&M

(31-5).

The winners play Tuesday for the national championship.

The Huskies made their fourth straight Final Four after cruising

to a 75-40 win Tuesday night against Duke. Maya Moore, only the

second four-time All-American, expects to leave the Huskies with a

third straight national title.

”One thing is the absolute truth, there’s only one team playing

right now that knows how to win a national championship,” UConn

coach Geno Auriemma said. ”Only a couple kids playing next weekend

know how to win a national championship and I’m fortunate to have

them on my team.”

In UConn’s way is a Notre Dame team that will have the

home-state advantage, but not much else. The Irish are 0-3 this

season against their Big East antagonist: losing 79-76 on Jan. 8;

78-57 on Feb. 19; and 73-64 in the conference tournament on March

8.

”You would love to be playing somebody that’s not in your

conference, but, at the same time, there’s going to be a Big East

team playing for the national championship next Tuesday night and

that’s pretty cool,” Auriemma said.

The Huskies are two victories away from winning an eighth

overall championship to match Tennessee’s record. It would also

match the title run that the Huskies had from 2002-04 and the one

that the Lady Vols achieved from 1996-98.

Notre Dame was making its first trip to the Final Four since

2001, when Muffet McGraw’s team won it all. In that season, the

Irish lost to Connecticut in the Big East tournament championship

game before beating UConn in the national semifinals.

”I think it’s just another example of how exceptionally strong

our conference is,” McGraw said Tuesday. ”Connecticut is a

tremendous team and, of course, we’re both very familiar with one

another from our three games earlier this season. It should be

another competitive and exciting matchup and we’ll be working hard

in practice this weekend to get ready for Sunday night’s game in

Indianapolis.”

Perhaps the Irish can take some inspiration from the Aggies, who

proved a lengthy losing streak against one team isn’t fatal in the

NCAA tournament. Texas A&M lost eight straight against Baylor,

including three this season, before pulling off the 58-46 win on

Tuesday and advance to the first Final Four in team history.

”We’re coming in as a two-seed, a very good two-seed that

could’ve been a one-seed. We’re coming in with a lot of

ammunition,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said.

For Stanford’s Jeanette Pohlen and Kayla Pedersen, they’ve

reached the Final Four in every season of their four-year careers,

a run that began by winning the 2008 Spokane Regional final behind

Candice Wiggins. The Cardinal have won 27 straight games to match

the longest winning streak in school history.

Notre Dame, only 140 miles north of Indianapolis, should have

Conseco Fieldhouse colored in green. But Notre Dame’s win denied

the Final Four a now-rare matchup in the marquee – and nasty –

Tennessee-UConn rivalry.

The two storied programs haven’t played since 2007. That’s fine

with Auriemma.

”We’re playing who we’re supposed to be playing,” Auriemma

said. ”Why? Why would I miss it? I don’t miss it all. If Maya was

supposed to play them we would have played them. … The object of

coming to Connecticut is to play against the best teams in the

country and Maya’s done that.”

She has at least one more ahead.