A sampling of national-media reaction after the UW women's basketball team reached the Final Four for the first time.
It wasn’t enough for the Washington women’s basketball team to end a 10-year victory drought in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies decided to show some staying power, too.
UW is in the Final Four for the first time, a berth secured on Sunday morning when the Huskies knocked off longtime Pac-12 rival Stanford, 85-76, in the Lexington Regional final. The victory came on the heels of upsets over Kentucky in the Sweet 16 and Maryland in the second round, both on their opponent’s campus.
Considering the Huskies finished fifth in the Pac-12 and finished the regular season unranked, reaching the Final Four is a remarkable achievement. Seventh-seeded Washington is the lowest-seeded women’s team to reach the Final Four since 2004, when Minnesota was also seeded seventh. The Huskies are also only the second team to make it to the final weekend of the tournament after finishing the season unranked. Arkansas was the other team to do so in 1998, when it was seeded ninth, the lowest seed to ever make a Final Four.
And yet, despite facing three ranked opponents on the way to the national semifinals in Indianapolis, UW won all four games by at least nine points, including double-digit wins over Penn in the first round and the Terrapins in the second round.
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Up next for the Huskies is a matchup with Syracuse on Sunday. These teams met in the regular season on the day after Thanksgiving in Las Vegas on the same day as the Apple Cup. The Orange held on for a 66-62 victory. Who would have thought the game would end up as a Final Four preview?
With Washington thrusting itself in the spotlight, the national media took notice this weekend. Below is a sampling of reaction:
ESPN.com’s Graham Hays wrote about how the NCAA tournament allowed Chantel Osahor to finally get her due:
“At the same time, even if we shouldn’t be surprised at the performances, part of the beauty of the NCAA tournament is its ability to show us what we’ve been missing. At its best, it doesn’t just confirm what is already known. It gives someone like Louisville’s Angel McCoughtry, Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen or even Missouri State’s Jackie Stiles the stage they deserve. And Osahor has come a long way to get here — not just in terms of air miles this month.”
Hays also explained in a separate post how the Huskies won the game:
“Let’s start at the beginning because the winning team did. Washington began the game on a 12-0 run that set the terms for the rest of the engagement. Emotionally, a team riding a wave of momentum in the postseason is more likely to stay there if it plays from ahead. Tactically, playing from behind only makes it that much harder for opponents to show patience against Washington’s zone and avoid shooting themselves out of games.”
Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated had some observations about Washington’s short rotation:
“Who says a short bench can’t win in March? Injury-plagued Washington, utilizing a limited six-woman rotation, continued its tear through the NCAA tournament by beating No. 4 Stanford, 85–76, to win the South Regional in Lexington. … Now a Washington team that lost 10 games during the regular season is peaking at the right time, having won eight of its last 10 overall. The Huskies will take on No. 4 Syracuse in the Final Four in Indianapolis, and with a week of rest, not even a short rotation might stop Washington now.”
Nick Gray, writing for The San Francisco Chronicle, pointed out one thing that has made a big difference for the Huskies this season:
“Washington’s energy level can be credited to a relaxed routine started in January, head coach Mike Neighbors said. The Huskies practiced one day a week. They extended the practice protocol to the NCAA tournament. On Saturday, they practiced for no more than 40 minutes, Neighbors said, and spent the rest of the time absorbing the surroundings of Rupp Arena.”