"They're individuals," Gottlieb said. "I would say it is a group that genuinely enjoys life and playing college basketball."
They are also highly competitive, though. Asked where they were during last season's Final Four, both Clarendon and 6-3 Cal center Talia Caldwell said they did not watch the games because they were so bitter about not being there themselves.
"I was just disgusted seeing all those teams. I felt like we should have been there, even last year, and we would have competed and could have won the whole thing," said Caldwell, who averages 9.1 points and 7.3 rebounds. "So it just motivated I know me personally for next year and I wanted to work on my game."
To beat Louisville, Cal may have to adopt the kind of physical, Big East defensive play that can disrupt an opponents' shooting rhythm. The Cardinals have been shooting 50 percent in the tournament, and upset Baylor simply by outscoring them, 82-81, on the strength of 16 made 3s on 25 attempts (64 percent). Schimmel made 5 of 8 3s and Antonita Slaughter hitting 7 of 9.
With his team shooting like that, Walz deflected compliments regarding his team's defense against Baylor and its star center, Griner.
"Instead of worrying about how we guarded Brittney ... maybe everybody should start asking how do we score 82, because there's not been one team in the four years that Brittney Griner was at Baylor that scored more than 82 points," Walz said.
That is precisely what Gottlieb has been trying to figure out.
"We care about what they're running and how they're getting those open looks," Gottlieb said. "And, yeah, sure, I'm cognizant of the fact they're hot. And why are they hot? And what do we need to cool that down? We talk to our players about that, but it becomes more about specifics of how we want to defend them or what they've been doing well and not."
As to the question of destiny, Gottlieb added, "Our kids pretty much think we've got a good thing going, too."