To preview the Women's Final Four, set to tip off in Denver on Sunday, we've brought in Jessica Lantz from Swish Appeal, SB Nation's women's basketball blog.
1) How big a favorite is Baylor headed into the Final Four and how surprised would you be if they didn't win?
I think their status as a favorite is firmly established, particularly in the media. The fact that the Lady Bears haven't lost this season has continued to make Baylor the prohibitive favorite. If they get past Stanford, I would be surprised if they don't win. But they don't give out titles based on resume alone. And beating someone twice in a season is sometimes a tough task. I can't lie though, I have Baylor taking the title in my bracket.
2) Which of the other three teams is the biggest threat to the Lady Bears?
To me, the biggest threat is Stanford. Aside from the fact that the Cardinal are the only one of the three that haven't faced off with - and lost - to Baylor, Stanford is really good. Really, really good. Keep an eye on the ease in which Nneka Ogwumike glides in and out of the lane. Spy her smooth shot from nearly everywhere on the court. Be ready to see why she's going to be this year's number one draft pick in the WNBA.
3) What's going to be the key match-up in the Baylor/Stanford game?
Particularly after the recent diagnosis of head coach Kim Mulkey's Bell's Palsey, I am sure that the coaching matchup of Kim Mulkey and Hall of Famer Tara VanDerveer will get some play. But Nate wrote a bit about one of Baylor's weaknesses earlier this week - their narrow turnover margin. It's not a specific matchup persay, but Nneka's 'little' sister, Chiney, is the Pac-12 defensive player of the year. She's already said she's planning to go hard for the loose balls and if the Cardinal defense can disrupt the passing lanes and create extra offensive possessions, that could become a key.
4) What would you tell a basketball fan about why they should watch the women's Final Four?
This is such a hard question to quantify for a fan of basketball but a non-fan of the women's game. We asked our readers and twitter followers what they would tell someone and got some great responses.
One of my favorites is from a Cal fan, norcalnick. "To watch the single most skilled post I've ever seen face the single most physically dominating post I've ever seen," he said.
I have been looking forward to the Ogwumikes to take on Baylor and Brittney Griner all year long and I cannot wait for the semifinal machup. I'm actually rather disappointed this is the semifinal matchup rather than an option as the championship game.Combining a few other thoughts from others in the Swish Appeal community that stand out to me is the teamwork on the court, finesse and skill of the players, and fundamentals executed in a high level.
Personally, one of the other things I love about the women's game, and in turn the women's Final Four, is the physicality of the players. They dive for balls and sacrifice their bodies, they stand their ground to take a charge and they hustle to the bitter end - not for individual recognition, but all for the sake of their team.
5) Is there anyone out there who would be a fair match-up for Griner? The Russell to her Chamberlain?
I'm just not sure that anyone matches up with Brittney Griner right now, or at least not in the college game. Her talents are unique and still developing. I'll borrow the words from USA basketball and Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma talking about Griner's selection as a finalist for the 2012 Olympics."She brings an element to any team that is impossible to find. You don't just get players that are game changers like that. I don't think anybody else in the world has anybody like Brittney Griner."