The NCAA women’s Final Four 2011 bracket appeared conventional. This Final Four had No. 1 and No. 2 seeds left, as women’s basketball has far less room for Cinderellas than their male counterparts. Their closest thing to Butler and VCU were No. 2 seeds Notre Dame and Texas A&M, who upset Tennessee and Baylor to get here. Yet the bracket still had Connecticut and Stanford left, as it seemed that nothing would stop them from a second straight NCAA tournament final.
All that Stanford had to do was beat Texas A&M, while Connecticut looked to defeat Notre Dame for the fourth time. The Aggies had never been here before, and the Irish hadn’t reached this stage since their 2001 title. Meanwhile, the Huskies were the ultra-dominant two-time champions and the Cardinal were trying to finally win it all in their fourth straight try.
In the first semifinal, everything was going according to script, as Stanford led by 10 with several minutes left. But all of a sudden, Texas A&M put together a rewrite, with a furious rally to take a one point lead. Even when Stanford got the lead back with nine seconds left, Tyra White raced for a winning layup six seconds later.
The Aggies’ 63-62 victory eliminated the main Final Four storyline before it was even official. Virtually everyone believed that Connecticut and Stanford would be the last two standing on the bracket. Now it seemed that a third straight women’s title was guaranteed for the Huskies, since they wouldn’t have to go through the Cardinal.
First they had to defeat Notre Dame, which hadn’t been a problem this season. But the Huskies were only up by six at the break, although few of their games are still in reach by halftime. This inspired Notre Dame to jump ahead early in the second half, and even begin to pull away later.
It became clear that Maya Moore would need to be more of a one-woman show than usual for Connecticut. An 8-0 run got the Huskies within three points, as she scored 36 of their 63 points overall. Yet her 36 couldn’t outweigh Skylar Diggins’ 28 or Natalie Novosel’s 22.
With the Irish’s 72-63 triumph, the bracket was officially shattered. Having Notre Dame and Texas A&M meet in the final is the women’s equivalent of having Butler and VCU face off in the men’s semifinals. Of course, the Irish and Aggies are far more powerful, but they presumably weren’t powerful enough to do this.
At least one 2011 NCAA tournament won’t be won by Connecticut this year, as the women’s Final Four eliminated the Huskies a lot sooner than the men’s did. Now the Cinderella finalists have one day to come down before their unlikely championship showdown tomorrow.
ESPN- “NCAA Tournament Bracket – 2011”
CBS Sports- “UConn women stunned by Notre Dame in Final Four”
SI.com- “White layup allows Texas A&M to upset No. 1 Stanford in Final Four”