UConn, Stanford, SC, Louisville head to Final Four in Minneapolis

The top teams in the country will meet on the Target Center field for the NCAA Women’s Final Four from April 1-3.

MINNEAPOLIS — There will be plenty of familiar faces at the Women’s Final Four with Stanford, South Carolina, Louisville and UConn heading to Minneapolis.

With all the upheaval that has occurred at the NCAA Women’s Tournament this year — a record number of double-digit seeds won — there remain three No. 1 seeds and the No. 2 seed UConn.

UConn has been the mainstay of the group, reaching the Final Four 14 times in a row now. The team participated in a total of 21 national semi-finals and won a record 11 championships. Paige Bueckers, a native of UConn and Minnesota, will face defending champion Stanford, who has appeared in 15 Final Fours. Louisville takes on South Carolina in the first semifinal on Friday night. The two schools are each playing their fourth Final Four.

Stanford and UConn have a long history in the Final Four, having played in the national semi-final or league game five times – most recently in 2014. UConn is 4-1, including a Final Four victory at Minneapolis in 1995.

“All the coaches that go to Minneapolis have really good players, otherwise we wouldn’t be here,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after his team won a double-overtime thriller against NC State – the fourth seed serial number 1.

RELATED: Paige Bueckers Leads UConn to Final Four, Returning to Minneapolis

Stanford is two wins away from repeating itself as champions – a feat last accomplished by UConn from 2013 to 2016 when the team won four straight.

“It’s crazy to say that but you’re always happy to go to the Final Four, but sometimes you’re really happy. And I’m really happy,” coach Tara VanDerveer said.

This year’s trip has been easier for the cardinal, who spent months living in hotels last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are delighted to have fans, because last year there were more fans than we had all year, but it still wasn’t the same atmosphere as today,” said VanDerveer. “We’ve had this on our radar all year. We never really talked about going to the Final Four. We talked about it, but now we’re really going. It doesn’t get old.”

RELATED: Visitor’s Guide to Minneapolis: NCAA Women’s Final Four Edition

Dawn Staley has the Gamecocks in the Final Four for the fourth time in seven seasons.

They nearly reached the championship game last season when Aliyah Boston’s last-minute shot bounced off the edge and Stanford won 66-65.

Boston and her teammates were pushed to get another chance, but she didn’t dwell on those painful final seconds.

“I think part of growing and maturing is being able to move on,” Boston said. “So it happened last season, but it’s not something I can keep thinking about or else there wouldn’t be any progress. So I dropped that from last season and we moved on to something else.

They’ll face a Louisville team that topped Michigan in the semifinals and reached the Final Four for the first time since 2018. These two teams don’t have much history, last meeting in 2016.

The Cardinals have been among the best in the nation all season, ranked near the top of the AP Top 25 for most of the year. Led by sophomore Hailey Van Lith, who scored 22 points against the Wolverines, Jeff Walz’s side will be looking to win their first national championship.

“He meant the world to me personally,” Louisville forward Emily Engstler said of her coach. “He lets you be yourself and he protects you and you can trust him, and that’s tough in this industry. I’m going to do everything I can to get him a national championship.

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