TAMPA — Don’t expect any lopsided matchups this weekend when the Women’s Final Four tips off at Amalie Arena.
“Every team here can win the national championship,” ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo said.
If that sounds obvious, it hasn’t always been the case in women’s college basketball. But this year and this Final Four are different, partly because of the matchups.
Notre Dame-UConn is the fiercest rivalry in the sport, which means the outcome of Friday night’s late game is uncertain. Baylor and Oregon play contrasting styles, which makes it hard to predict.
“I think what’s interesting to me, at least in the first game, is you have completely different styles of play,” Lobo said. “Oregon — 3s, new-school, Golden State Warriors. Baylor —old-school, San Antonio, pound it inside.”
ESPN play-by-play announcer Adam Amin said he thinks Baylor is the best team … but the Lady Bears might also just be the toughest team to plan for because of their two excellent post players, 6-foot-4 forward Lauren Cox and 6-foot-7 center Kalani Brown.
Oregon showed it can defend one big player in the center by beating Mississippi State and 6-foot-7 center Teaira McCowan in the Elite Eight.
“Can they play two?” Amin said. “We haven’t seen it yet. There’s no sample size to work off of.”
That, plus Oregon’s willingness and ability to shoot 3s should keep the Ducks competitive against the No. 1 overall seed.
But just because Baylor is the top seed doesn’t mean it’s going to win.
“I think a couple coaches summed it up yesterday to us by saying there is not favorite right now…” Amin said. “There’s a favorite in the general sense of being a No. 1 in Baylor, but I would say especially with the two matchups that we have, it’s very hard to determine who wins out.”
Women’s Final Four
Amalie Arena, Tampa
Friday: Baylor vs. Oregon, 7 and Notre Dame vs. UConn, 9:30 TV: ESPN2
Sunday: final, 6 TV: ESPN
More info/tickets: Single-session tickets are available through the NCAA’s official site; prices vary. Visit ncaa.com/womens-final-four
• The Tampa Convention Center will host Tourney Town, a free festival with contests, games, autographs and clinics April 5-7. The event includes Beyond the Baseline, which features opportunities for networking and professional development.
• The plaza outside Amalie Arena will host a free party with live music, food and games before the games (4-6:30 on April 5 and 3-5:30 on April 7).
• Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park will have a free celebration of basketball with fireworks and live music from 6-11 p.m. on April 6.
• The Women’s Final Four Bounce is a dribbling parade for children 18 and younger. It starts at 1 p.m. on April 7 at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.