NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisville has really relished being the underdog. So much so that coach Jeff Walz doesn't want to hear about how the Cardinals have that team-of-destiny air about them heading into the women's Final Four.
Yet, is there any other way to see Louisville after it derailed AP Player of the Year Brittney Griner and defending national champion Baylor, and then upset Tennessee — the most storied program in the sport?
Surely they couldn't be the underdogs against Final Four newcomer California in Sunday's national semifinals. Don't tell that to Walz.
"No one expects us to win now," Walz insisted. "I'm sorry, we're seeded fifth. So my thing is, I know we won two games, but we're seeded fifth, and if they expected us to win, we'd be seeded second or third."
California, Walz noted, "is a team that's 32-3, that beat Stanford. ... They're a great basketball team, so we're going to have to figure out a way."
And while destiny may be on Louisville's side, history is not. No team seeded worse than fourth has ever won a national semifinal game.
The Golden Bears were the No. 2 seed in the Spokane region and did not have to play their Pac-12 rivals, top-seeded Stanford in the NCAA tournament. Georgia took care of the Cardinal in the regional semifinal. The Lady Bulldogs also led Cal late in regulation before the Bears stormed back to force overtime and pull out a three-point victory.
Neither Cal nor Louisville were widely expected to make it this far, although President Obama saw something in the Golden Bears when he placed them in his Final Four bracket. Obama also had the Louisville's men's program making the Final Four. The school became the 10th to have both programs competing in the national semifinals.
Now the women's team or Cal will have a spot in the national championship game against either Connecticut (33-4) or Notre Dame (35-1).
"I definitely agree that a lot has to go right in order to get to this point, but I also think there's a huge impact that our players have in making things go right," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "The teams that were in front of us at each stage were really formidable and we had to get the job done."
Cal's matchup with Louisville has the promise of an entertaining game at the very least. Both teams talk about how they like to have fun and play loose.
Walz, who has a slight speech impediment, doesn't mind when his players poke fun at the way he talks. He also won't yank rising star Shoni Schimmel (14.4 points per game) off the court when she misses a crazy shot because he doesn't want to suppress the creativity of his talented players.
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