Your all-ACCess Final Four guide

Your all-ACCess Final Four guide
By Jeremy Stone, Yahoo Sports
April 1, 2006

Jeremy Stone
Yahoo Sports
BOSTON – Maryland coach Brenda Frese opened Saturday's Women's Final Four media activities by welcoming LSU to the "ACC tournament, Part II." But even if you're not an ACC – or LSU – fan, this Final Four should have something for you.

So in honor of the conference of honor, here's Yahoo! Sports' all-ACCess, A-to-Z guide to the Women's Final Four.

A is for ACC. The Big East has won five of the last six NCAA titles, and the SEC has had at least one team in all but two Final Fours. But the ACC has surged to the forefront of women's hoops with this Final Four trio. So even though it sounds like a men's Final Four with Duke, Maryland and North Carolina, take notice – the women can play on Tobacco Road, too.

B is for Bales, as in 6-foot-7 Duke center Alison Bales. She's gone from solid complementary player to star the last two weeks, breaking the NCAA tourney record for career blocks. Her matchup against LSU's Sylvia Fowles could decide who's playing Tuesday.

C is for championship, and three of the four teams are seeking their first. North Carolina won in 1994 on Charlotte Smith's last-second three-pointer, and this is the Tar Heels' first trip to the Final Four since.

D is for Duke. The Blue Devils have been heavy hitters on the women's hoops scene since 1999, but they've been known as much for stunning losses and big pre-Final Four wins as they have for continued success.

E is for Erica White, the LSU point guard. A reserve until midseason, White matched her career high with 14 points to help the Lady Tigers edge Stanford in the regional final.

F is for Frese, as in Maryland coach Brenda Frese. The 35-year-old led the Terps to their first winning record in ACC play since 1997. It won't be the last; Frese has stockpiled the roster with high school All-Americans.

G is for George Mason. Detractors of the women's tourney love to point out that you'll never see a No. 11 seed in a Women's Final Four. They're right. But you're also less likely to see a pair of one-sided semifinals Sunday – that's the benefit to having three No. 1 seeds and a No. 2.

H is for high-scoring. Duke, Maryland and UNC are the three most prolific offensive teams in the country, which should make for entertaining action.

I is for Ivory, as in UNC superguard Ivory Latta, the ACC player of the year. This Final Four also features two-time Wade Trophy winner Seimone Augustus of LSU, but Latta has the spunk and the game to be the player you remember.

J is for junior Shay Doron, who is the veteran of Maryland's starting five. The Terps also start two freshmen and two sophomores. All average at least 11 points per game.

K is for Katrina, as in the hurricane. "The Katrina victims, they really helped inspire us," LSU's Scholanda Hoston said in response to a question the Lady Tigers have been answering for months.

L is for Lady Tigers. LSU became the sixth school to reach three consecutive Final Fours, and the fifth school in as many years to send both the men and women to the Final Four in the same year.

M is for Maryland, the school with the longest-ever gap between Final Four trips (17 years). North Carolina (at 12 years) ranks third.

N is for North Carolina. The NCAA rewarded the Tar Heels for a 29-1 regular season by placing them in the toughest region. UNC responded by squeaking past Purdue, then thumping an angry Tennessee team.

O is for overtime, which is the way Maryland and Duke earned their trip to Boston with OT wins in regional finals.

P is for parity, which was the big buzzword at last year's Final Four, which featured newcomers Baylor and Michigan State. This year, with three teams from one conference, parity gave way to power shift.

Q is for question marks. How will the Terp and Tar Heel players handle their first time in the Final Four spotlight? Will the Lady Tigers remember blowing a 15-point lead in last year's Final Four, and if so, will it motivate or torment them?

R is for rematches. Maryland has the lone win over North Carolina this season, although UNC avenged that loss in the ACC title game. And LSU beat Duke to reach last year's Final Four.

S is for scandal. With the Duke men eliminated more than a week ago, you'd think the Duke women would enjoy some time in the spotlight. Instead, they face a big distraction in the turmoil that has engulfed the school's men's lacrosse team. They wouldn't talk about the issue Saturday.

T is for TD Banknorth Garden. It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but it brought the "Garden" back to Boston. Unfortunately, a lot of folks here still call the place the Fleet Center – probably because it took so long to get used to that name.

U is for UConn, which for the second consecutive year isn't at the Final Four. It's only the second time in 12 years that neither Connecticut nor Tennessee made the national semis.

V is for victories; each team has at least 30 of them. These four have combined for 126 against 11 losses.

W is for the Wade Trophy, the oldest player of the year award in women's basketball. LSU's Seimone Augustus has won it twice, making her the first woman in 26 years to duplicate Nancy Lieberman's feat.

X is for XXV, as in 25. It's the 25th go-round for this event, which has become the Super Bowl of women's team sports.

Y is for yesteryear. If you don't think women's basketball – or TV sports broadcasts – has come a long way in 25 years, you should see the replay of the first NCAA title game that I can't stop watching on TV at the media hotel. The CBS Sports promos are especially priceless.

Z is for zoom … or zzzz. A late Sunday start on the day that Daylight Saving Time begins seems like a recipe for sleepiness. But there should be enough quickness on the floor to keep things interesting all the way toward midnight.

Jeremy Stone is an editor for Yahoo! Sports. Send Jeremy a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Sunday, Apr 2, 2006 3:49 am, EDT

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