A first-time participant takes on the four-time defending national champions — it’s David vs. Goliath.
Mississippi State’s prize for taking down Baylor to earn its first Final Four berth? A date Friday with 11-time champ Connecticut. Stanford, which has won two national titles, faces South Carolina in the other semifinal after advancing past Notre Dame 76-75.
Before the Final Four gets started on Friday, here is a rundown of the tournament and how it got to where it is today:
1The NCAA women’s basketball tournament began during the 1981-82 season, but for the first time the Final Four will be hosted in Dallas at American Airlines Center. This will be the fifth time it will be held in Texas, most by any state. Austin hosted in 1985 and 1987, and San Antonio hosted in 2002 and 2010.
2The Final Four will be played on a Friday/Sunday schedule, which it was from 1982-1990 and again from 1996-2002. From 2002-16, the Final Four was played on a Sunday/Tuesday schedule. During Friday’s national semifinals, Stanford plays South Carolina at 6:30 p.m., and Mississippi State faces Connecticut at 9 p.m.
132 Number of wins among the four teams in the Final Four compared with 123 wins last year.
3 For the third year in a row, the Final Four includes a first-time participant in Mississippi State. Last year, Syracuse, Oregon State and Washington made their debuts in Indianapolis.
4 South Carolina is making a second Final Four appearance in three years after its debut in 2015. The Gamecocks become the 10th school to make the men’s and women’s Final Four in the same year with the men capturing its first trip with a 77-70 win over Florida on Sunday. The feat has happened 13 times with Connecticut accomplishing it four times, including both championships in 2014.
5 Former Connecticut standout Breanna Stewart was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player the past four years. In 35 seasons of the women’s basketball tournament, a Huskies player has won the award 11 times; Tennessee is next with seven. Stanford has won it twice with Jennifer Azzi in 1990, and Molly Goodenbour in 1992.
6 The first women’s basketball tournament was won by Louisiana Tech in 1982. A total of 32 teams made up the field with the Final Four at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va; Tennessee, Maryland and Cheyney (Penn.) University were the other schools. Tech defeated Cheyney 76-62 and Janice Lawrence was MVP. Her teammate, Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey, was named to the all-tournament team.
7 From 1972-82, national tournaments for Division I schools were under the direction of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). Immaculata University in Pennsylvania won the first three titles and Delta (Miss.) State won the next three. Old Dominion (twice), UCLA, Louisiana Tech and Rutgers were other champions. The Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (CIAW) previously administered the tournament from 1969-71.
8 Connecticut has won the most titles with 11, all since 1995, and all with head coach Geno Auriemma. The Huskies are making their 10th consecutive Final Four appearance, and 18th overall. With a 90-52 win over Oregon on Monday, Auriemma earned his 113th victory in the NCAA tournament, moving him past former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt for most all-time.
9 Only five coaches have won multiple NCAA championships, including Auriemma (11), Summitt (8) and Mulkey (2). Southern California’s Linda Sharp and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer have also won twice. The Cardinal beat Auburn 88-81 in 1990, and Western Kentucky 78-62 in 1992. VanDerveer is a four-time national coach of the year, 14-time Pac-12 coach of the year, and has won 980 games in 37 years as a head coach. She is 828-174 in 30 seasons with Stanford.
10 Since 1982, at least one No. 1 seed has made the Final Four. Connecticut and South Carolina are No. 1 seeds, and Stanford and Mississippi State are No. 2 seeds. Connecticut has been a No. 1 seed a record 22 times. The championship game has matched two No. 1 seeds 12 times including four times since 2010.
Women’s Final Four
Stanford vs. South Carolina,
6:30 p.m., ESPN2
Mississippi State vs. UConn,
9 p.m., ESPN2
Championship, 5 p.m., ESPN