COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie faced three of the four women’s Final Four participants this season. Here, she breaks down the matchups for the NCAA Tournament semifinal games:
The two teams are a mirror image of each other with two great coaches.
Mississippi State plays superb defense and makes your life difficult to get open. The Bulldogs showed their mettle last year when they played Connecticut with their ability to disrupt and apply full-court pressure.
They have a great backcourt with Morgan William and Blair Schaefer complemented by Victoria Vivians and definitely have a huge inside presence with Teaira McCowan that Louisville will have to find a way to contend with. The Cardinals have their own inside player in Myisha Hines-Allen, but she’ll have a tough time in the middle against the 6-foot-7 McCowan.
Louisville is much more of an offensive-minded team and they have the most success when they are able to run teams into the ground. They are fast-paced and have a star in Asia Durr. They feed off her at every turn and are capable of doing that. She can hit so many incredible shots and she doesn’t have to be open to do it.
Coach Jeff Walz gets his kids ready to play for every game and they feed off his confidence. So if they can have that swagger going and can dictate the pace, they can win the game.
Clearly these two teams have had some tremendous games over the years. They know each other inside and out.
Connecticut has proven again and again they are the best team this year, going undefeated so far. They have tons of experience and some of the best players in the country in Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson and Kia Nurse.
What sets this team apart from some other UConn teams is that the senior leaders are two of the best defenders. They make it difficult for anyone to score. Add in Azura Stevens to the mix and they have a great piece off the bench. She’s been an amazing cog that keeps them going when she is in the game. She takes up a lot of space and gives them a rim protector.
When most teams play Connecticut, they play the uniform and not the players. Notre Dame doesn’t have that problem. Muffet McGraw always has her team ready and they aren’t scared of the UConn mystique. They are the most likely ones to beat Connecticut because they have done it in the past.
Obviously Notre Dame did lose a few kids to injuries this year, but they still have a very, very good group with Arike Ogunbowale, Marina Mabrey, Jessica Shepard and Jackie Young. They still have plenty of talent.
For the Irish to win this game, they’ll have to keep it close and give themselves a chance in the fourth quarter to make UConn have the pressure of hitting shots when the game is on the line.