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2017 Women’s Final Four Breakdown: Get to know UConn, Mississippi State and Stanford

Who else is in the field?

Pittsburgh Penguins v Dallas Stars Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

UConn Huskies

18th Final Four appearance (tied with Tennessee for Division 1 record)
Division 1 record tenth straight appearance
National Championships: 11; have won last four (both Division 1 records)

You can pretty much grab a marker and write UConn’s name in the Final Four before the season every year, and the odds of you picking that part of the bracket correctly are about 99.9%. In fact, the Huskies haven’t missed the tournament’s final weekend since the Bush (43) administration when they were routed by LSU 73-50 in the 2007 Fresno Regional final. All they’ve done since then is win the whole thing six of the next nine tries after that - including the last four - and gone undefeated for the last two and a half seasons. So much for rebuilding.

“Everyone knows the story by now. Despite losing their trio of All-Americans in Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson, the UConn Huskies are back in the Final Four for an unbelievable 10th-straight season. Not many thought they would get through this “rebuilding” year unbeaten, but here we are.

The expectations are the same as always for UConn: National championship or bust. While they aren’t unbeatable like years past, it will still take a monumental effort to beat the Huskies. Something to watch on Friday is in their two games coming off a long break (The first round and Sweet Sixteen), UConn struggled. If they come out of the gates slow once again, the door will be open for Mississippi State to pull off the upset.” --Daniel Connolly, The UConn Blog

Keep an eye on: Napheesa Collier (24 ppg, 9.7 rpg) and Gabby Williams (21.2 ppg) have been the Huskies’ top scorers in tournament play thus far, with Collier recording back-to-back double doubles (27 and 14 against UCLA ; 28 and 12 against Oregon).

Stanford Cardinal

13th Final Four appearance
National Championships: 2

It’s incredible that in 31 years at Stanford, Tara Vanderveer only has a pair of titles to show for it. But when you look at the dominance of other teams like UConn and Tennessee, it’s fairly understandable. Still, although Geno Auriemma gets most of the press, Vanderveer’s a legend and a pioneer of women’s basketball, and her team’s back in the Women’s Final Four for the second time in four seasons and for the fifth time in the last nine years.

“Stanford's obviously a program that's familiar with this territory - this is the Cardinal's 13th Final Four appearance - but this team is a little different than most of the squads that have made it to this point in the past. Erica McCall and Brittany McPhee have been great inside and outside this season, but the difference maker for Stanford is Karlie Samuelson, who shoots an absurd 49 percent from three, giving the Cardinal a variety of reliable scoring options they can mix and match. Stanford 20-2 on the road or in neutral site games this season, so they're going to be a tough out one way or another - but their 3-point shooting might be the most important key to watch.” --Jack Blanchat, Rule of Tree

The potential championship matchup has the word in 2017 “narrative” written all over it. If the Cardinal advance past the Gamecocks and end up facing the Huskies for the title, it would be Stanford’s first championship game appearance since 2010. UConn’s last loss came on November 17, 2014. Their opponent that night? Stanford. Oh, by the way, UConn’s Katie Lou Samuelson and Stanford’s Karlie Samuelson are sisters, and the third Samuelson sister (Bonnie) graduated from Stanford two years ago and is third all-time in program history in threes made and attempted.

Keep an eye on: Brittany McPhee (21 points vs. Kansas State in the round of 32; 27 points vs. Notre Dame in the Lexington Regional final) and Erica McCall (23 vs. Texas in the Sweet 16) have led the way for the Cardinal in the tournament.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

First Final Four appearance

They’re basically the underdog going into the weekend, but not really, because the Bulldogs are a very good basketball team that just happened to be placed on the same side of the bracket as the Huskies. And if they do end up losing to UConn, that won’t put a damper on the tremendous job Vic Schaefer has done not just this year, but over the last four years as well.

"Mississippi State is finally in the Final Four. Finally. For the first time in school history, the women’s basketball team has made it this far. Clearly the newcomer of the bunch, the Bulldogs will have a lot to prove this weekend. Especially given how the season ended a year ago and given whom MSU is playing tonight. MSU is set to face UConn, a team that hasn’t lost a game in their last 111 attempts. This is the same team that thrashed the Bulldogs in the Sweet Sixteen by 60 points. MSU has made history getting to the Final Four, and they’ll hope to do it again tonight." --Ethan Lee, For Whom the Cowbell Tolls

The Bulldogs are the team that the Gamecocks have the book on because they’ve played them twice: once in the regular season and then in the SEC Championship Game - both Carolina wins. Although, our friends at FWtCT (aka FFWtCT) think that a potential South Carolina/Mississippi State III for the national championship would fare a little differently.

Keep an eye on: Morgan William, who had a performance for the ages against Baylor in the Oklahoma City Region final (41 points), as well as Victoria Vivians (their leading scorer).