NEW ORLEANS — The subtitle to the Final Four might as well be the Big East throws one last bash. Three of the four teams — Connecticut, Louisville and Notre Dame — hail from a league that is breaking up after this season.
"I guess the shout-out should go out to all the (university) presidents for having the foresight to tear apart the greatest basketball conference that ever existed," UConn coach Geno Auriemma sarcastically said Wednesday, noting two teams in the men's Final Four (Louisville and Syracuse) also will be departing the Big East. "But I guess it's a great swan song."
Irish coach Muffet McGraw said her team takes pride in being part of a league that has three teams left standing.
"It proves we were the best conference," she said. "I don't think that there was any question when you have two No. 1 seeds coming out of the same conference. But to see Louisville join us in the Final Four … shows what depth and strength we had in the Big East."
The two No. 1 seeds, UConn and Notre Dame, meet in one semifinal. Louisville, a No. 5, and California, a No. 2, meet in the other.
Auriemma said a part of him would like to see a reseeding for Final Fours. At the same time, he recognizes the allure of the "Cinderella" story that will accompany Louisville or Cal in Tuesday's final.
"One of them is going to be playing. And that's something that I'm sure very, very few people predicted," Auriemma said. "So that's just part of the NCAA Tournament's beauty."
At this point, only California of the Pac-12 can spoil the Big East's party. Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said she understands why her team will be overlooked because of the sentimentality.
"It's unfortunate just because growing up on the East Coast I would watch those games and the rivalries," the ex-Syracuse coach said. "But obviously, for this weekend, we're focused on just trying to take care of our business."
Gators fall: Hollie Mershon had 26 points and 10 assists to lead host Drexel past Florida 67-57 in the WNIT semifinals. Freshman Sydney Moss led the Gators (22-15) with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Drexel (27-10) faces Utah on Saturday.