Half of the bids for the Women's Final Four are accounted for after Baylor defeated Tennessee, 77-58, and Stanford topped Duke, 81-69, Monday night. The remaining two spots will be decided Tuesday evening when Kentucky takes on Connecticut (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) and Maryland battles Notre Dame (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).
The UConn Huskies are hoping to make their fifth straight appearance in the Final Four -- and eventually, win their third national championship in four years -- but first they need to get past Kentucky to advance from the Kingston region.
Unlike in recent seasons when the Huskies could rely on Maya Moore to carry the load, this year's squad features a balanced attack. Freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is averaging a team-high 14.9 points, with Tiffany Hayes (14.6) and Bria Hartley (13.9) right on her heels. Head coach Geno Auriemma admitted he has no idea who will step up from game to game.
"It could be anybody in this case because there isn't one person that dominates our offense like there was last year or the previous five or six years. The interesting part for us is to see who does take on that role. It could be a combination of people," he said.
Kentucky may not have UConn's storied history, but they do have one of UConn's former players: Samarie Walker transferred to Kentucky midway through last season. She's coming off a double-double against Gonzaga and figures to play a big role in Tuesday's game against her former teammates.
As for Notre Dame, they're hoping to erase the memories of last year's heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M in the championship game. They're in top form, defeating St. Bonaventure by 44 points in their last game. Led by junior Skylar Diggins (16.6 points per game) and senior Natalie Novosel (15.3), they're an experienced team that shouldn't have trouble dealing with the pressure.
Maryland is a taller team, with four players averaging at least five rebounds a game, but the two teams are near equals in filling the basket, each ranking in the nation's top five in scoring. Leading scorer Alyssa Thomas averages 17.2 points and 8.0 rebounds, with Laurin Mincy adding 13.4 points. Tianna Hawkins is grabbing a team-high 9.4 boards a game to go with 12.1 points.
The 2012 Final Four will be played Tuesday, April 1, in Denver, Colo., with the championship game held two nights later April 3.
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