ALBANY, N.Y. — The women’s Final Four is set, and it’s one exclusive party.
UConn, Louisville, Mississippi State and Notre Dame are headed to Columbus, Ohio, marking the fourth time in tournament history that four No. 1 seeds made it to the national semifinals.
The Bulldogs have lost only one game this season, falling to the Gamecocks in the final of the Southeastern Conference Tournament. They are back in the Final Four for the second straight season led virtually by the same group that got them to their first national semifinal last year.
“They’ve lived all year with a bull’s eye on their backs. That’s hard to do, y’all,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. “These kids are special.”
The Bulldogs will be taking on Louisville who has had its own special season, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles for the first time in school history. They entered the NCAAs as a No. 1 seed for the first time and are back in the Final Four for a third time under coach Jeff Walz.
The Cardinals are led by Asia Durr and Myisha Hines-Allen. Louisville also made the Final Four in 2009 and 2013. The team advanced to the title game both times before losing to UConn.
They understand the task in front of them facing Mississippi State.
“They’re a really good team and we’ll have to be well-prepared against them,” Walz said.
On the other side of the bracket, this is the 11th consecutive Final Four appearance for the Huskies, breaking a tie with John Wooden and the UCLA men’s team for the Division I record. UConn is into the national semifinals for the 19th time overall, snapping a tie with Tennessee for the most in women’s basketball history.
The Huskies will face former Big East rival Notre Dame on Friday night.
UConn’s 111-game winning streak was stopped at this point last season when Mississippi State won their semifinal on a last-second shot by Morgan William in overtime. The Huskies are undefeated again after knocking out defending national champion South Carolina in the Albany Region final.
“Every team starts the season saying that’s our goal to go to the Final Four. For us, it’s an opportunity to go back to where we felt like we didn’t really give our best effort,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “We lost to a really good team. Happened in a way that was really, really disappointing. I know that we were anxious to go back and put ourselves in that same situation and see how much we’ve changed since last year.”
The Irish and Huskies have a storied history on the game’s biggest stage. The teams met early in December and UConn had to rally from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to stay unbeaten.
This might be one of the best coaching jobs by Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame. She lost four players over the course of the season to ACL injuries, but the Irish find themselves back in the Final Four after rallying from a six-point halftime deficit to beat Oregon 84-74 on Monday night.
It’s Notre Dame’s first trip to the national semifinals since 2015.
“This one’s just so rewarding because I think even though we’re a No. 1 seed, it’s a little unexpected,” McGraw said.
Other tidbits from the Final Four:
Three of the five members of The Associated Press women’s All-America team are in the Final Four. Mississippi State’s Victoria Vivians, Durr and UConn’s Katie Lou Samuelson all reached Columbus.
The last time four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four was 2015. It also happened in 2012 and 1989.
The ACC has two teams in the Final Four. It’s the fourth time in the past six years that a conference had two teams in the national semifinals.