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
Connecticut, Stanford, Notre Dame and Texas A&M, two No. 1
seeds and two No. 2s, will be in Indianapolis on Sunday for the
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
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
”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
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 –
The two storied programs haven’t played since 2007. That’s fine
”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.