TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Cal's trainer, Lindsay Gottlieb, faced three of the four Final Four participants this season. Here, she badyzes the confrontations of the semifinal games of the NCAA Tournament for The Associated Press:
This could be the most competitive Final Four we have had in many years without a clear favorite towards her. Unlike last year, any of these four teams could be cutting the nets on Sunday and it would not be a total surprise.
From a fan's perspective, I'm really excited about this game because it has two incredible teams with unique contrasting styles. What we are seeing is the strength and power of the internal game of Baylor against the great offensive of Oregon. The question is: How will you take care of each other? Oregon has the ability to extend the floor and run the pick-and-roll so beautifully, led by Sabrina Ionsecu, who is a surgeon on the floor. I anticipate that the Ducks will try to move the Baylor greats in the pick-and-roll, and I will challenge them to face the five players on the floor.
The question that we have all had to deal with is: How do you protect the internal game of Baylor? There is no easy answer. Our game plan was to try to get his guards to hit us. I'm sure others have had the same idea. And throughout this tournament they have done just that! Chloe Jackson, Juicy Landrum and Didi Richards have raised their scores, which makes Baylor a really strong national championship contender.
What is Oregon going to do? They had a great game plan against Mississippi State with the flaccid defense on Big T, and I'm sure they will make it difficult for Baylor.
I guess Baylor has not seen an offense as good as Oregon's throughout the year. Stanford is in charge of the Princeton offense, and his ability to disperse and make the big guys run gave Baylor some trouble. Oregon handles different things, but its offensive is literally a symphony with a great game of guards that organizes it.
I have been very impressed by Baylor's ability to do things that other people can not do on the defensive. Due to its depth and size inside, they could play Kristine (Anigwe) straighter than anyone else in the country: this allowed her guards to press everyone else. Against Oregon, the question will be whether they can effectively protect the pick-and-roll, allowing them to stay at home with Oregon shooters. Easier said than done! I'm excited to see what Kim's (Mulkey) game plan is.
She has been there before and won a national championship, while it is the first time in Oregon on the biggest stage. There is a lot to do in the Final Four with the pomp and circumstances that surround the event. It can distract, but honestly, once you step on the court, it really measures 94 feet and only basketball and the coaches will have their teams well prepared.
When you have a competitor with a singular focus like Sabrina, in spite of the inexperience in that scenario, I do not think that she allows her team to be anything other than what they are capable of being.
Well, certainly there is no shortage of arguments to talk about this pairing. This should be a really fun and dramatic game. Geno Auriemma said the other day that if you're Connecticut, you know you're going to have to go through Notre Dame to win a national championship, and if you're Notre Dame, you know you're going to have to go through Connecticut.
They are the two heavyweights of this sport. I think they both have so many heavyweight players that they can do a lot of things, but it may be due to the impact of the children who are not named (Napheesa) Collier, Arike (Ogunbowale) and Jackie Young. They could be the "support people", so to speak, who make the difference, and both have incredible support players from All-American players.
Christyn Williams was the key the first time they played. She and Megan Walker are the ones that opposing coaches say you should try to beat yourself, you can not let the other "Big 3" dominate. The crazy thing is that both were the No. 1 in their clbad that left high school. Everyone wants "role" players like that!
Things are a bit different for UConn this year and they do not talk much. What I mean is, two years ago, when they lost to Mississippi State, I think Geno would have expected them to lose a game or two at some point during the season. It was the season after Stewie, he did not think they were going to be undefeated, and yet they did it until the Final Four. The same as last year, they were undefeated and did not face many deficits until they played Notre Dame in the national semifinals.
It is possible that this year's team may not be the best in the last three years, however, this team may have a better chance of winning these two games explicitly because they have already lost this year. They have a mental advantage greater than that of the last three years: they have lost games, they are not afraid of losing, they have advanced in closed games and they seem to have a chip on their shoulder.
Notre Dame, on paper, has the most experience and talent. All five of his players on the court change the game and are absolutely loaded. They are well trained in addition to that by Muffet McGraw. It is a good combination. On paper, they may have to be favorites with the experience they have. They have an incredible collection of talents and clearly Arike (Ogunbowale) is not afraid to take and make the great shot.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/WomensNCAATournament and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25