Half of the women’s Final Four is set with two familiar faces — Stanford and South Carolina — advancing to the national semifinals.
They could be joined by the other two No. 1 seeds, Louisville and N.C. State, or national semifinal stalwart UConn and newcomer Michigan. The Cardinals face the Wolverines and the Wolfpack play the Huskies on Monday night.
With all the upsets that occurred during the women’s tournament this year — a record number of double-digit seeds won — so far it’s the top two teams in the field reaching the Final Four.
Stanford is two wins away from repeating as champion and is playing in the Final Four for the 15th time in program history.
“It’s crazy to say this but you’re always happy to go to the Final Four, but sometimes you’re like really happy. And I’m like really happy,” coach Tara VanDerveer said.
This year’s trip was easier for the Cardinal, who spent months away from home last year living in hotels because of the pandemic.
Stanford awaits the winner of N.C. State and UConn in Friday night’s semifinal in Minneapolis. The title game is Sunday night.
“We’re excited to have fans, because last year it was more fans than we had all year, but it still wasn’t the same atmosphere that it is now,” VanDerveer said. “We’ve had this on our radar all year. We’ve never really talked about going to the Final Four. We’ve talked about it but now we’re really going. It does not get old.”
Dawn Staley has the Gamecocks in the Final Four for the fourth time in seven seasons.
They fell just short of reaching the finals last season when Aliyah Boston’s last-moment shot bounced off the rim and Stanford knocked them off, 66-65.
Boston and her teammates have been driven to get another shot, but she hasn’t dwelled on replaying those final painful seconds in her head.
“I think part of growing up and maturing is being able to move on,” Boston said. “So that happened last season but that’s not something I can continue to think about or else there wouldn’t be any progress. So I’ve let go of that since last season and we’ve moved on.”