Four reasons to watch Final Four: McCoughtry, Paris, Appel, UConn
Connecticut is favored to complete its third undefeated season
Jayne Appel and Stanford could be the team that stops the Huskies
Courtney Paris made big news with a big promise; can she keep it?
The women's NCAA tournament has already provided us with plenty of entertaining moments. From Ball State's first-round upset of Tennessee to Stanford star Jayne Appel's dominating performance in the regional finals. With the Final Four approaching, there are still opportunities for more. Here are four reasons you shouldn't miss the action in St. Louis.
1. Connecticut is on its way to history -- again. Like them or not, you have to admire what the Huskies could pull off this season. We haven't seen a team as impressive as this since -- well -- the 2001-02 Connecticut team that went 39-0. Should they wrap up a sixth national championship on Tuesday, it would mark the program's third undefeated season (the first came in 1994-95).
The Huskies have provided plenty of reasons to think that might be reached, winning by more than 30 points a game during the regular season. Still, their performance in the NCAA tournament gives opponents a glimmer of hope, as they fell behind in the first half against California during the regional semifinals and struggled in the opening period against Arizona State. Before you get too excited, they still won those games by double digits.
2. The $64,0000 question. Will Courtney Paris have to pay back her scholarship as she promised to do if Oklahoma doesn't win the national title? The answer is no, regardless of whether or not the Sooners win the championship. Paris' determination and dedication to bringing the Sooners a title is admirable. But Paris is also a big reason the Sooners finally have the pieces surrounding her to compete for the national title. With talent and a personality big enough to match her 6-foot-4 frame, Paris been as big a recruiting tool as OU's fantastic facilities.
3. Jayne Appel's follow-up. Stanford's Appel, who put up 46 points and 16 rebounds in the regional final win against Iowa State, is one of the reasons Cyclones coach Bill Fennelly believes Stanford is the only team capable of beating Connecticut. Last year the Cardinal knocked off the Huskies before losing to Tennessee in the national title game. Despite the loss of four-time All-America Candice Wiggins to the WNBA and starting point guard JJ Hones to a knee injury, this Cardinal team may be even more prepared. Stanford has shown that it can win even without big numbers from Appel. When she struggled in the Pac-10 tournament, Kayla Pedersen and Nnemkadi Ogwumike carried the load. If Jeanette Pohlen can continue to run the point as well as she has throughout the tournament, Stanford could pull off a shocker.
4. Who would think the Louisville women would outlast the men in the NCAA tournament? As much as Courtney Paris has meant to Oklahoma, it may pale in comparison to the impact Angel McCoughtry has made at Louisville. Having been to the Final Four in 2002, the Sooners were already on the map before Paris arrived. The Cardinals, however, were barely a blip on the radar, having never reached the Top 25, let alone a Sweet 16. While there is talent around her, McCoughtry has carried the Cardinals the whole way. She's the only player that ranks among the best on both ends of the floor. McCoughtry leads the nation in defense with 4.3 steals a game and is one of the most prolific scorers, ranking third nationally with 23.3 points a game.
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