A Cinderella and three juggernauts are set to dance on Sunday in the Final Four of the women's 2014 tournament.
Connecticut, Notre Dame and Stanford are regulars to the scene, although one limps into the proceedings with something to prove. Maryland will look to continue its miracle run, the deepest the program has experienced since 2006, as captured by ESPN Stats and Info:
Maryland women's basketball makes Final Four for 1st time since winning national title in 2006— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 2, 2014
The matchups, littered with underlying storylines and spectacular players, promises to thrill those fans who simply can't get enough of the Madness. Here's the scoop about Sunday's event with a prediction for each matchup to boot.
|Date||Time (ET)||Matchup||TV Info||Pick|
|Sun., April 6||6:30 p.m.||No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 4 Maryland||ESPN||Notre Dame|
|Sun., April 6||8:30 p.m.||No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 2 Stanford||ESPN||Connecticut|
No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 2 Stanford
There is no way fans can get tired of this heavyweight matchup.
The players sure can't.
Connecticut and Stanford are mainstays in the Final Four and routinely battle each other for supremacy. The Cardinal can be happy about making it to Tennessee but surely know it is yet another category they trail the Huskies in:
Stanford to the Women's Final Four for the 6th time in the last 7 seasons (only UConn has more appearances in that span, 7)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 2, 2014
Here's more salt in the wound—the Cardinal dropped a title bout to Geno Auriemma's team back in 2010 and have yet to re-enter the picture.
Don't expect much to change. These two met back in November, where the Cardinal suffered a 76-57 loss. While a lot has changed, the fact remains the Huskies still have Stefanie Dolson beneath the rim. She scored nine points and grabbed five boards in that matchup.
Oh, and the Associated Press Player of the Year is still around, too. That would be Breanna Stewart, who averages 19.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks and in tandem with Dolson creates a duo the Cardinal simply have no answer for—regardless of the stage.
Predicted Winner: UConn
No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 4 Maryland
Brenda Frese's team has had a wild run to the Final Four after a 28-6 campaign, and she's not afraid to verbally throw down about her team—or the others that remain, per Mike Organ of The Tennessean:
I feel like Maryland and Stanford are the extras at the Miss USA pageant. Everybody’s rooting for the other two. Our job is to be able to crash the party.
Notre Dame can’t play that card. They’ve been to four straight Final Fours. You’re not an underdog. Everyone’s still picking them, so there’s no way they can be the underdog. They can try.
Notre Dame may look to play that card after the loss of star Natalie Achonwa:
Our thoughts are with Natalie Achonwa and @ndwbb... Senior forward out for the Women's Final Four with torn ACL.— NCAA Women's BKB (@NCAAWomensBKB) April 1, 2014
The loss of the senior's 14.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game hurts in a big way, but it needs to be put into perspective—she scored just seven points in the Fighting Irish's 87-83 victory over the Terrapins back in January.
In that contest, Jewell Loyd stepped up with 31 points, as did Kayla McBride with her 20 points. Sure, it was a little too close for comfort, but Notre Dame has already shown it has the depth to knock off Maryland.
Coach Muffet McGraw put it best:
It's not about the cards you're dealt but how you play the hand.Just cause we don't have an ace up our sleeve doesn't mean we're gonna fold🍀— Muffet McGraw (@MuffetMcGraw) April 3, 2014
Maryland will keep it close, but pair experience with astounding depth and it's hard to see how the Terrapins emerge with the victory.
Predicted winner: Notre Dame