Don't forget about teams joining UConn and Notre Dame in women's Final Four

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There has been a certain obviousness associated with the women's Final Four, almost as if a Notre Dame-Connecticut national championship had been etched on a tablet Moses forgot to bring down from Mount Sinai.

As you might imagine, this does not make Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer very happy.

"I think some people resent it, at least a little bit," she said Wednesday. "Why have the NCAA tournament if [the result] is inevitable? We definitely want to be party-crashers."

And thanks to the ultimate bracketologist, the NCAA tournament selection committee, the Cardinal will have their chance Sunday in the first national semifinal at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

Truth is, coach Geno Auriemma isn't too crazy about the notion that his Huskies (38-0) and Irish (36-0) are destined to meet in the first battle of unbeatens in a championship in NCAA Division I history.

"I've not bought into any of that," Auriemma said. "I kind of don't like when you have a sense of you're disrespecting people, and I wouldn't want Maryland or Stanford to feel like we're just there as filler for the Notre Dame-Connecticut big thing, because I've been there, I've seen it and I don't like it.

"So we're just preparing as we would for anything else. I know it's a great story, and I know everybody loves story lines, and in today's day and age, God forbid if you don't have a story line, we'll just create one."

"But I caution everybody, there's two other teams good enough to win a national championship, so let's not write that story just yet."

The unblemished season that has carried the Huskies to their seventh consecutive Final Four experienced two critical moments, in the first two weeks, that set it on its course. Auriemma said both took place in games against opponents who join the Huskies in Nashville.

The first came in the second game this season against Stanford. After opening the season with an 89-34 win against Hartford, the Huskies played the Cardinal in Storrs, Conn.

"Kaleena [Mosqueda-Lewis] got hurt and couldn't play the entire second half," Auriemma said of his junior forward, who sustained a compressed ulnar nerve in her elbow in a fall under the basket. "We got some great contributions from the bench that night and beat a very good team, [76-57]."

That night, Morgan Tuck scored 11 points and Kiah Stokes added 10 points and 13 rebounds after Mosqueda-Lewis, who had nine points in the first half, left the game early in the second.

After the game, Tuck had the first of two knee surgeries. A short time later, Mosqueda-Lewis' diagnosis placed her in a tenuous situation. And that weekend, the Huskies were headed to Maryland to open a two-game trip that would end at Penn State.

"We played in front of huge crowd, against another great team, and received contributions from off the bench again," Auriemma said. "I think those games let everyone else on our team know that it didn't matter if we didn't have some players. We were capable. Those two games showed us an awful lot."

Four months later, the lessons about perseverance have been absorbed and memorized and will be required to carry them through one more weekend.


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