Back At It Again With The Final Four Bid
Excuse me as I use a 4 year old vine reference (#Millenials).
But seriously, the Irish did it once again. After winning four straight games in the NCAA Tournament this season, the Irish have found themselves one of the four teams left. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish women’s basketball team is a 1-seed in the Final Four. They join fellow 1-seed Baylor and 2-seeds UConn and Oregon. On Friday night, the Irish will take on the Huskies for a chance to play in the national championship. The rivalry will be renewed once again. But, how did we get here?
After beating up on Bethune-Cookman and Michigan State, the Irish travelled to Chicago for their regional games to take on Texas A&M in the Sweet 16 and then Stanford in the Elite 8. Despite the Aggies’ Chennedy Carter putting up 32 points against the Irish, the dominant Notre Dame team still won but in closer fashion than most would like. In March and in the tournament, a win by just 1 point is a good win. We got somewhat spoiled. However, the Irish balled out on defense, which is what they had to do to win these tough games. The defense toughened up so that Carter could not get many good looks down the stretch, rendering her completely tired.
Against the Cardinal, the Irish looked sluggish on offense. Only scoring 26 points in the first half, the Irish saw a defecit of 7 points going into halftime. The balanced attack of Alanna Smith, Kianma Williams, and Dijonai Carrington helped the Cardinal control the tempo and offense. However, the Irish EXPLODED with confidence and tenacity especially on offense. The third quarter saw the Irish eequalling their point total from the first half. A mix of Arike, Jackie Young, Jess Shepard and Bri Turner under the hoop, and then Abby Prohaska with a fearless drive to the hoop for two was just the spark the Irish needed. It stunned the Cardinal for the rest of the game, and the Irish won pretty handily.
The Final Four
Now, the Irish have made the trip to Tampa. Tomorrow night, they face the dreaded UConn Huskies. The Huskies made it to the Final Four as an uncharacteristic 2-seed. This is the first time since 2006 that UConn was not a 1-seed. They still pretty much dominated their region as well.
The Irish and Huskies played in South Bend in December in the beginning of the season. The Irish were dominated that whole game particularly on offense. The weaker defense hown in the former part of the season showed that day. Christyn Williams, Napheesa Collier, and Katie Lou Samuelson provided a lot of the offense then and through the whole season for the Huskies. However, they did lose to Baylor and Louisville during the regular season, which are still “good” losses.
With the Irish hitting a defensive stride, and the addition of some offensive spark from the bench players, this could be a game that the Irish could take to avenge the regular season loss. I actually don’t know how this will go, just like last year in the same game. The Irish have to play their A+ game to beat UConn, and I think they could do that with the momentum they have. At this point, I could see any of the 4 teams lifting the trophy on Sunday night, and the Irish do have a very good shot to repeat as champions.
Again, we shall see. Tune into ESPN2 at 9 PM on Friday, April 5. The Irish and Huskies will play after Baylor and Oregon play their game in Tampa.