March 29, 2001
By CHUCK SCHOFFNER
ST. LOUIS (AP) - A look at the teams in the NCAA women's Final Four:
Seed: No. 1 East.
Road to St. Louis: Beat No. 16 Long Island 101-29, beat No. 9 Colorado State 89-44, beat No. 4 North Carolina State 72-58, beat No. 3 Louisiana Tech 67-48.
Last Final Four: 2000.
Hot player: Diana Taurasi, a poised, flashy freshman who was selected the outstanding player at the East Regional after games of 24 and 17 points. Taurasi brings elements of a game honed on the Los Angeles playgrounds, usually against guys, yet plays within the confines of the offense. At 6 feet, she's tall enough to shoot over defenders, quick enough to drive around them and strong enough to finish.
Key to success: Maintaining the drive that has carried the team after losing All-Americans Svetlana Abrosimova and Shea Ralph to season-ending injuries. Getting Notre Dame center Ruth Riley in foul trouble would help. The Huskies also have make Irish point guard Niele Ivey give up the ball before she wants and challenge Alicia Ratay's shots. Ratay is shooting 54.7 percent from 3-point range.
Seed: No. 1 Midwest.
Road to St. Louis: Beat No. 16 Alcorn State 98-49, beat No. 8 Michigan 88-54, beat No. 5 Utah 69-54, beat No. 3 Vanderbilt 72-64.
Last Final Four: 1997.
Hot player: Center Ruth Riley, who has scored 56 points in the last two games while making 19-of-33 shots. Riley, a 63 percent shooter for the year, is as good as anyone at turning and shooting in the low post and has become an adept passer out of double teams. She came up big in the two earlier games with Connecticut, getting 29 points and 12 rebounds in the Irish victory at South Bend and scoring 23 in the two-point loss at Storrs.
Key to success: Keeping Riley, and everyone else for that matter, out of foul trouble. The Irish bench is not deep and the drop-off is evident if a couple of starters are on the bench. Riley and Kelley Siemon must neutralize Connecticut's inside strength and the perimeter players have to keep Taurasi from dominating the game.
Seed: No. 3 Mideast.
Road to St. Louis: Beat No. 14 Cal Santa Barbara 75-62, beat No. 6 LSU 73-70, beat No. 2 Texas Tech 74-72, beat No. 4 Xavier 88-78.
Last Final Four: 1999.
Hot player: Camille Cooper, a 6-foot-4 center who's shooting 64 percent in the NCAA tournament and averaging 17.3 points - three points higher than her season average. Cooper excels at getting position on the low post and is an intimidating defender with her long arms. She could have a big game against Southwest Missouri State's centers, who had trouble stopping the better post players in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Key to success: Stop Jackie Stiles, stop Jackie Stiles, stop Jackie Stiles. But not at the expense of allowing someone else to break loose for a big night. The Boilermakers must make Stiles work to get the ball and take difficult shots after she catches it, although she often makes those as well. Offensively, the Boilermakers need another strong game from Kelly Komara, who has replaced injured point guard Erika Valek.
SOUTHWEST MISSOURI STATE
Seed: No. 5 West.
Road to St. Louis: Beat No. 12 Toledo 89-71, beat No. 4 Rutgers 60-53, beat No. 1 Duke 81-71, beat No. 6 Washington 104-87.
Last Final Four: 1992.
Hot player: It's not hard to figure this out. Jackie Stiles has become the talk of the tournament. The NCAA career scoring leader, Stiles has simply willed the Lady Bears to the Final Four with her spunk, deadly shooting and tireless play. She has scored 32, 41 and 32 points in the last three games and was simply unreal in the upset of Duke. The Blue Devils kept throwing different defenders at Stiles and she kept making shots, sinking 15-of-22.
Key to success: Getting points from someone other than Stiles. Tara Mitchem
is a likely choice. With Stiles slowed by a concussion against Toledo, Mitchem
scored 40 points. She was perfect against Washington, going 7-for-7 from the
field and making all six of her free throws. Carly Deer needs to continue her
strong work on the boards and on defense, and a little production from the
centers wouldn't hurt.