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NCAA Women's Final Four May Be Upsetting

DAVID GREENE, host:

That's the men's Final Four; it's also Final Four weekend in women's college basketball. Their semifinals tip off this evening in Indianapolis, and that is where we find NPR's Tom Goldman. Hi, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN: Hi, David.

GREENE: We're talking a lot about Connecticut this weekend. They're in the women's Final Four as well.

GOLDMAN: Yes, they are. They certainly are. They're playing Notre Dame tonight.

GREENE: And they already have two straight titles under their belt. This could be number three. I guess they're the odds-on favorite.

GOLDMAN: Well, not with everyone. They are certainly one of the favorites but they don't have the dominance and the ability to intimidate the past UConn women's teams have had. And even their coach acknowledged that - Geno Auriemma. And Notre Dame is certainly aware of that, even though Notre Dame has lost three times this year to the Huskies.

In the plus column for UConn, they do have Maya Moore. She's the best player in the country. She dominates games. They basically play six-person rotation. That means a lot of minutes for those six players, but Geno Auriemma gets the most out of them. And a couple of freshmen, post players, Stefanie Dolson, point guard, Bria Hartley, have been the big contributors too.

GREENE: And what do you think the key is if Notre Dame is going to contain Maya Moore and have a chance?

GOLDMAN: Well, I think what you have to do, you've got to play as good a defense as you can. The Irish have an outstanding point guard in Skylar Diggins and she and forward Devereaux Peters, they could keep Notre Dame close for a while, David. But this really should be the fourth UConn win over Notre Dame this year.

GREENE: And on the other side, we have Texas A & M facing Stanford, and I know Stanford is known for a pretty high-flying offense. I mean, can the Aggies keep up? Do they have a defense that can keep up with them?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, well, their defense is what they're all about. If their defense plays the way it usually does, you know, they could make this close and maybe even pull off the upset. The Aggies are this scrappy defensive-minded team. In the tournament, they've held opponents to less than 45 points a game. Their defense is keyed by their guards, the Sydneys - senior Sydney Colson and junior Sydney Carter. And they've been great at shutting down opposing guards.

And that's why the Stanford senior point guard, Jeanette Pohlen, is one of the keys today. Point guards start the offense - they drive the team. And Stanford has this dominant frontline with the Ogwumike sisters - Chiney and Nnemkadi, but they need Pohlen to direct the offense to them and they need Pohlen to hit her long-range outside shots as well. And for her to do that, she's got to handle the defensive pressure from those Sydneys.

GREENE: We have some perennial powerhouses on the women's side - Tennessee, Baylor - both out. What's that done to the tournament? I mean, more competitive, more open?

GOLDMAN: You know, the fear, David, among those who want the women's game to keep growing in popularity is that this may make it less competitive. You know, there's just not the widespread talent in the women's game that there is in men's. Most of your top-rated high school female players end up going to a handful of premier college programs. And that's why many expected and hoped that this Final Four was going to be the four number one seeds. It was believed that would give us the best basketball in Indianapolis.

But as we've talked about, Texas A & M, Notre Dame, they're number two seeds, they're no slouches, and they could, you know, make for some potentially good games tonight.

GREENE: That's NPR's Tom Goldman reporting on the Women's Final Four, which kicks off tonight in Indianapolis. Tom, enjoy the games.

GOLDMAN: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.