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East final no surprise to the participants

Not the East Regional final you thought it would be, is it?

No. 6 seed Notre Dame plays No. 5 George Washington tonight for a berth in the Final Four.

"I know everyone expected North Carolina and Alabama in the final game," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

Notre Dame upset No. 2 seed Alabama on Saturday to set up this unlikely matchup after the Colonials beat top seed North Carolina.

Connecticut, Old Dominion and Stanford, the other No. 1 seeds, advanced to their regional finals. But Notre Dame (30-6) and George Washington (28-5) got rid of the East's top four seeds.

"We've been able to keep our poise through all this," McGraw said. "But coming into the season, our goals were very high."

Beth Morgan, who scored an East Regional-record 36 points against Alabama, said it has been slow getting people to realize the Big East is more than a one-team league, referring to unbeaten Connecticut.

"We have both dominated the other teams there," she said.

Since 1991, George Washington has been the best team in the Atlantic 10, a conference without a Final Four appearance since Rutgers in 1986. The Colonials have won 20 games seven straight years and won five conference titles.

"We're not a team that suddenly showed up," center Tajama Abraham said.

Midwest Regional

Connecticut (33-0) and Tennessee (26-10) face each other for the sixth time since January 1995 when they play tonight's final.

UConn won all three regular-season games, including 72-57 on Jan. 5. The teams split two Final Four games.

"It was nice to play them in January because it didn't mean anything," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "That's what creates a big-game atmosphere because all of our other games with them had so much riding on them, and this one will."

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said her team was just trying to survive in January.

"I think our attitude in January was one of going through the motions, and I'm not sure we were really excited about our schedule," said Summit, whose defending national champions faced a killer schedule and were 10-6 in mid-January.

Both teams look different than they did in January. Tennessee has point guard Kellie Jolly, who missed the first 16 games because of a knee injury. Connecticut no longer has top reserve Shea Ralph, who tore knee ligaments in the Huskies' first-round game.

_ TIMES WIRES

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