Basketball

Women’s Final Four Preview

Women’s Final Four Preview

Wed Mar 31, 2010 8:00 am EDT

Women’s Final Four preview: Can anyone challenge UConn?

By Jeff Eisenberg-Yahoo.com

As the Uconn women’s basketball team posed for TV cameras following its 90-50 demolition of Florida Statein Tuesday’s Dayton Regional final, there was only one relevant question worth asking.

Is there an opponent capable of even keeping it close against the Huskies?

UConn’s 40-point margin of victory against the Seminoles was the largest ever in an Elite Eight game. Not only have the Huskies beaten every opponent by at least 10 points during the women’s Division I record 76-game win streak, they’ve won their first four NCAA tournament games this season by an average margin of 47 points a game.

Fourth-seeded Baylor is UConn’s first opponent in the Final Four on Sunday, with the winner of top-seeded Stanford and third-seeded Oklahoma looming in Tuesday’s national title game. What chance do any of them have of pulling what would be one of the biggest upsets in any sport in decades? Read on for my take.

Baylor (27-9)

It’s rare that an opposing team can make the case it has the best player on the floor against UConn, but Baylor’s 6-foot-8 freshman Brittney Griner might have a legitimate case. Griner demands double-teams in the low post on offense and is a game-changer on defense, tallying an NCAA tournament record 35 blocks in four games and helping to hold Duke to 23 percent shooting in the Elite Eight.

What makes an upset such a long shot is the Bears lack shooters surrounding Griner and often struggle to score consistently themselves. Baylor would need to shoot at least 40 percent from 3-point range instead of its usual 27.9 percent to punish the Huskies for collapsing on Griner and complementary players Morghan Medlock, Kelli Griffin and Melissa Jones would each need to exceed their scoring average.

Odds of an upset: 20 to 1

Oklahoma (27-10)

The Paris twins are gone and sharp-shooter Whitney Hand is out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in November, but the Sooners are back in the Final Four for the second straight season. They’re here thanks to fleet-footed guard Danielle Robinson, high-scoring wing Nyeshia Stevenson and an improved frontline headlined by seniors Abi Olajuwon and Amanda Thompson.

Oklahoma actually led UConn into the second half during a regular-season matchup in mid-February before the Huskies clamped down on defense, tossed an aggressive zone at the Sooners and rolled to a 76-60 win. If Oklahoma beats Stanford and sees that zone again, it’s going to need to do a better job of attacking the middle of the zone and hitting outside shots to have a chance.

Odds of an upset: 25 to 1

Stanford (35-1)

A formidable interior attack headlined by Jayne Appel and Nnemkadi Ogwumike propelled Stanford to a 35-1 record and a third consecutive Final Four. The Cardinal’s last two losses both came at the hands of UConn, one in the Final Four last year and the other an 80-68 road setback that Stanford actually led by one at halftime.

Stanford’s lack of lateral quickness is a liability defensively against teams that spread the floor and attack off the dribble, but that’s one of the few weaknesses on this team. If Stanford’s streaky outside shooters are knocking down jumpers efficiently enough to punish opposing teams for collapsing on Appel and Nnemkadi, the Cardinal are capable of beating anyone — maybe even UConn.

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UConn, Griner Headline Intriguing Final Four Field

UConn, Stanford, Baylor, and Oklahoma head to San Antonio for Final Four

By DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer

Baylor’s Brittney Griner cuts off a piece of the net after Baylor beat Duke 51-48 in the NCAA… Expand

(AP)


The women’s Final Four will have a familiar look with three of last season’s semifinalists returning, including defending national champion Connecticut.

The Huskies are two victories away from becoming the first school with consecutive undefeated seasons. Standing in the way in the national semifinals is 6-foot-8 freshman phenom Brittney Griner and Baylor. She has carried the Lady Bears to the Final Four, already setting the NCAA tournament record for blocks in only four games.

Stanford will be making its third straight Final Four appearance when it faces Oklahoma in the first semifinal Sunday night in San Antonio. After routing their first three opponents in the tournament, the Cardinal needed a buzzer-beating layup by Jeanette Pohlen to top Xavier in the Sacramento Regional final on Monday night.

Odds of an upset: 12 to 1

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