TAMPA — A day before the first semifinal tipped off, the Final Four had its first upset. Stanford senior guard Candice Wiggins was honored as the Wade Trophy player of the year on Saturday, beating last year's winner, Tennessee's Candace Parker.
"I was very shocked and elated and so honored to receive this award," said Wiggins, who also was named a WBCA All-American for the fourth year. "I was not expecting it. I was just going to sit back. … To get the award is so amazing, and to have it this year, my last year with this team I so desperately love and a coach I absolutely love to play for, that's what makes it the most special."
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said she had been told just before the ceremony that Wiggins would win.
"For everyone in that room, including Candice, it was a shock. … I thought it was going to be Candace Parker," VanDerveer said. "(Wiggins) was kind of chitchatting with (Maryland's) Kristi Toliver next to her, and she heard 'Stanford.' And she was in shock. She heard her name, and she was, 'Oh, my God.' It was hysterical to watch her, but we're so excited for Candice."
Parker was honored Saturday as the Associated Press player of the year, getting 40 of 50 votes. Connecticut's Maya Moore was second with five votes. Wiggins and LSU's Sylvia Fowles got two votes each.
IT'S ALL NEW: Connecticut hasn't been to a Final Four in four years, and it has been eight since Geno Auriemma had a team that made it with no Final Four experience. So he's had to remember to remind his players to focus on the games and not the peripheral events that lead up to them.
"It's impossible not to be distracted," Auriemma said. "We've been here since Thursday night, and I'll bet you we've spent three, four hours actually working on the game of basketball.
"We're outside in the sunshine (Saturday) for 40 minutes signing autographs, and the kids are sweating and getting sunburned. And you have to do it. We went to a dinner (Friday) night, got there at 6 and left at 10."
SHORTHANDED: Connecticut has gone nearly three months without two starting guards. Junior Kalana Greene was lost for the season with a torn ACL in December, and senior Mel Thomas tore hers Jan. 15. As a result, the Huskies have had to succeed without the depth they would normally have.
"There's just some things you can't overcome," Auriemma said. "Some things hit your team so hard that you can mask it and camouflage it and put some makeup on it, but sometimes you just can't get over that hump."
THISCLOSE: It's hard to argue that Auriemma and Tennessee's Pat Summitt are the top coaches in women's basketball, but you probably don't realize how close they are in terms of winning percentage.
Auriemma has the best one in women's history, .8444, but Summitt has a career mark of .8435. If both teams win tonight and meet in Tuesday's championship game, Summitt would vault ahead if Tennessee beat Connecticut.