There may have been some upsets along the way, but the Final Four of the Women’s NCAA Tournament will feature the teams that have been on everyone’s radar all year long, as all four No. 1 seeds have reached the national semifinals.
Some of the favorites have hardly been challenged so far in the tournament. The UConn Huskies (36-0) have been the consensus No. 1 team in the country for most of the season, and had little trouble dispatching South Carolina (29-7) in the Albany regional final. UConn was up 18 points after the first quarter and cruised the rest of the way to win 94-65.
Huskies Looking to Reclaim Title
For the Huskies, a return trip to the Final Four will give them a chance at redemption after losing in the semifinals last season.
“I think we definitely have something to prove,” forward Gabby Williams said in the post-game press conference. “Not only to the rest of the world, but to ourselves as well.”
If UConn wants to get to the national championship game, they’ll need to get past Notre Dame (33-3). The Fighting Irish fought off a challenge from the Oregon Ducks (33-5), overcoming a six-point halftime deficit to win 84-74.
Notre Dame got 20 points out of Kathryn Westbeld, who had struggled through the first three games of the tournament after injuring her ankle in the first round. The Irish are now heading into the Final Four for the sixth time in the past eight years. Notre Dame and UConn have already played once this season, with the Huskies recording an 80-71 win in what amounted to a home game in Hartford, Connecticut.
Bulldogs Make Second Straight Final Four Appearance
The other side of the bracket features Mississippi State (36-1), the team that derailed UConn’s championship hopes last year. The Bulldogs defeated UCLA (27-8) 89-73 to make their second consecutive appearance in the Final Four.
As the only team to beat UConn in recent memory, Mississippi State has had a target on their back for most of the year, coach Vic Schaefer told reporters after their Elite Eight victory.
“That’s hard to do, y’all,” Schaefer said. “These kids are special.”
The Bulldogs will now face Louisville (36-2) in the Final Four. The Cardinals jumped out to an early lead against Oregon State (26-8) and never looked back, winning all four quarters on the way to a 76-43 win. Perhaps the most impressive part of Louisville’s victory was the fact that they only committed three turnovers in the game, tying an NCAA Tournament record.
The Women’s Final Four begins on Friday in Columbus, Ohio, with the national semifinal games. The winners will then meet on Sunday to determine a national champion. According to FiveThirtyEight.com, UConn has a 75 percent chance to win the title, which would be the school’s 12th national championship and its fifth in the last six years.