The NCAA women’s basketball bracket 2011 finally lost a No. 1 last night. Of course, the bracket kept the women’s basketball favorites around much longer than the men’s tournament did. By the time a No. 1 fell, it was to a No. 2 seed, and not to a No. 8 or a No. 11. However, a No. 11 did take aim at a top team for a Final Four spot last night as well. Yet Gonzaga failed to knock off Stanford at home, while Tennessee was the one to suffer another NCAA tournament upset.
The Volunteers have been bending a bit since the second round, as Marquette and Ohio State pushed them more than expected. Now they would face second seeded Notre Dame in the Dayton regional final, but since the Irish were 0-20 lifetime against the Volunteers, things appeared safe.
Instead, Notre Dame got out in front and had enough to hold on, unlike Marquette and Ohio State. Tennessee had nothing left by the end, as they couldn’t make another rally and went down by 73-59. After running a possible Connecticut-Tennessee national semifinal, Notre Dame has now set up a potential all Big East battle with the Huskies.
It is usually weird to have a women’s Final Four without Tennessee involved. However, this is their record-setting third straight early exit from the bracket, after having won two championships in a row. While Connecticut has taken back control of the sport in the last three years, its other great dynasty has been repeatedly coming up short.
For some reason or other, the Huskies and Volunteers just can’t seem to meet on the court anymore. Nowadays, Connecticut’s greatest rival is Stanford, who is aiming for a second straight title game appearance. But first, they had to reach their fourth straight Final Four in a road game against the last Cinderella of the tournament.
11th seeded Gonzaga had played every round at home in Spokane, including the Elite Eight. But home court advantage, and record-setting Courtney Vandersloot, could only do so much against the Cardinal.
Unlike the Tennessee women and the Kansas men, Stanford defended their No. 1 standing at a regional final. The Cardinal pulled away in the second half, and cruised to an 83-60 win that made them cut down the nets again. Yet they still haven’t cut down the final nets of the season during their run.
The NCAA now shows Stanford and Notre Dame in the Final Four, and has no team lower than a No. 2 left in the field. With Gonzaga gone, a No. 2 like Notre Dame is the closest thing to a Cinderella in women’s basketball. This leaves Duke and Texas A&M to try to match them tonight, as they attempt to upset Connecticut and Baylor in the last regional finals.
ESPN- “NCAA Tournament Bracket – 2011”
Yahoo Sports- “Irish beat Tennessee, reach third Final Four”
SI.com- “Stanford ends Gonzaga’s run with 83-60 victory”