WBB: A look at the Final Four

Dan Tracy —

No. 1 Connecticut (37-0) vs. No. 4 Baylor (27-9)

No. 1 Stanford (35-1) vs. No. 3 Oklahoma (27-10)

Baylor (Big 12)

Final Four appearances: 2nd

How the Lady Bears got here: vs. Fresno State 69-55, vs. Georgetown 49-33, vs. Tennessee 77-62, vs. Duke 51-48

Coach: Kim Mulkey. 10th year, 457-77 overall

The national champions from 2005 return to the Final Four with a young, yet talented line-up led by the Big 12 freshman of the year 6’8” Brittney Griner. Griner has been the most dominant defensive force in the country this season, setting the single-season record for blocks (199) and NCAA tournament record for blocks with 35. Griner will be the obvious focus of any team on both the offensive and defensive end. Senior forward Morghan Medlock will need to help take some pressure off of the freshman phenom. Baylor has also shown its ability to force turnovers on defense with their full-court press which in the win over Duke, helped them finish the game on a 10-0 run.

Connecticut (Big East)

Final Four appearances: 11th

How the Huskies got here: vs. Southern University 95-39, vs. Temple 90-36, vs. Iowa State 74-36, vs. Florida State 90-50

Coach: Geno Auriemma, 25th year, 733-122 overall

With beating their first four NCAA tournament opponents by an average of 47 points, it’s no surprise that the Huskies are back as the favorites in their third consecutive final four appearance. All the pieces are in place for a title defense as returning All-Americans Tina Charles and Maya Moore have led the Huskies once again through an undefeated regular season and into the post-season. Their current 76 game win streak, the second longest in college basketball history, is due in large part to not only the players performance but the leadership of legendary head coach Geno Auriemma. Auriemma will be looking for his seventh national championship.

Stanford (Pac 10)

Final Four appearances: 9th

How the Cardinals got here: vs. UC-Riverside 79-47, vs. Iowa 96-67, vs. Georgia 73-36, vs. Xavier 55-53

Coach: Tara VanDerveer, 24th year, 792-194 overall

It isn’t often that the top play on Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays of the day comes the sport of women’s basketball, but it was no question that the best play of Monday and the best play of this season’s tournament came in the Stanford-Xavier regional semifinal. With four seconds remaining, Stanford junior guard Jeannate Pohlen drove the length of the court and laid in the final bucket as time expired to break a 53-53 tie and punch the Cardinal’s ticket to San Antonio. The Cardinals, under the direction of head coach Tara VanDerveer, will make their third consecutive Final Four appearance. Second-team All-American center Jayne Appel is a force inside for the Cardinal and will need to stay out of foul trouble for Stanford to have any chance at their first national title since 1992.

Oklahoma (Big 12)

Final Four appearances: 3rd

How the Sooners got here: vs. South Dakota State 68-57, vs. Ark. Little Rock 60-44, vs. Notre Dame 77-72, vs. Kentucky 88-68

Coach: Sherri Coale, 14th year, 313-142 overall

After a come-from-behind 61-59 loss to Louisville in last year’s National Semifinal, the Sooners are back in the Final Four and in search of the team’s first-ever National Championship. This year’s team has relied on consistent guard play from All-American Danielle Robinson and sharp-shooting Nyeshia Stevenson. A key for the Sooners will be to keep their games close, the Sooners are one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country and have shot 89 percent from the line already in the tournament.