Why they'll win: Louisville-Cal
Cards have energy, momentum; Bears calm and confident
Why Louisville will win
We saw it against Baylor, as the Cardinals somehow found a way to shut down Brittney Griner and the presumed 2013 repeat champions. We saw it against Tennessee, when Meaghan Simmons was thrown off her game and the Lady Vols fell short at the hands of a fiery Louisville squad. And we will see it on Sunday when UofL takes on California in the national semifinals.
Head coach Jeff Walz is a mastermind of game plans and he has found a way to get teams out of their comfort zones and also halt their best players.
“I think [Louisville is] really good and they’re their best when they’re making you uncomfortable, when they make you off-kilter,” California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “I think Jeff does a really good job of figuring out what’s going to make another team uncomfortable and trying to play to that.”
Another thing Louisville has working in its favor is momentum. The squad is playing with an energy that has been seemingly unmatched in the NCAA tournament. The Cards relish being the underdog and it’s clear they are on a mission … one that isn’t complete until they raise a national championship trophy and cut down nets. Two teams stand in their way, the first being the Golden Bears.
“When we came in the NCAA tournament, we knew it was going to be one and done and we don’t want to be done,” Jude Schimmel said. “Our job’s not done until we win the championship and that’s our ultimate goal.”
Shooting the lights out the past two games with an average of more than 50 percent behind the arc, a few 3-pointers certainly won’t hurt the Cardinals’ chances of sealing the deal and moving on to the national championship matchup. Of course, they may have a few big-stage jitters to work out early on, but it’s nothing these Cards can’t handle.
The Cardinals will need to see consistent numbers from all five starters, who average nearly 10 points a game or more across the board. Shoni Schimmel, who averages more than 14 points a game and 3.5 assists, along with Monique Reid, who was a member of the Louisville squad that made it to the 2009 Women’s Final Four, will both need to be steadying forces to help keep some of the younger, but necessary members, of the squad in check.
No one quite knows what tricks Walz may have up his sleeve or what circus shots Shoni Schimmel might have in her back pocket. One thing, though, is certain -- expect a Cardinals squad that is ready to stick to a game plan, no matter how crazy it might be, and swoop in to shock the nation once again.
--Summer McKesson, NCAA.com
Why Cal will winLouisville knocked off two of the best teams in the nation in the Oklahoma City Regional, but the Cardinals’ giant-killing run will come to an end when they face California on Sunday.
Cardinals head coach Jeff Walz will throw every game plan he can dream up at the Golden Bears, but Cal is ready for the unexpected and prepared for every scheme imaginable. They are expecting an off-kilter attack, but Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb is stressing to her players to stay within themselves.“We’ve talked about not being rattled by their changing defenses, not focusing on what they’re doing and focusing on kind of the looks we’re trying to get and how we’re trying to play,” Gottlieb said. “The key with our players is not letting [Louisville] dictate how we want to play on the offensive end and I think that’s what they’re so good at doing.”
The two squads boast almost identical scoring averages (72.3 points per game), and their field-goal percentages and scoring defense averages are very similar, but where the Bears will win this contest is on the boards.
Cal ranks third in the nation in rebounding margin (11.6) with forward Gennifer Brandon giving the Bears a top-notch inside presence. She ranks 15th in the nation with an 11.2 rebounding average. Cal has outrebounded opponents in all but two games this season -- and both of those ended in losses.
“It’s going to be incredibly important,” Gottlieb said. “It’s certainly a part of our identity, huge factor in our success all the time. We don’t take it for granted. They’ll tell you in the locker room every single game somehow I find a way to weave that into a key to the game. Rebound like they’ve never seen anyone before. And rebound only like Cal can.”
By comparison, Louisville is only outrebounding teams by an average of 2.7 per game.
“They're a very physical basketball team,” Walz said of the Bears. “Their post play is as good as I've seen on film. I love how aggressive they are going to the boards.”
And though Louisville pulled off some incredible upsets last week, the Bears also are battle-tested. Cal survived two overtime games, beating South Florida 82-78 in second-round action, and rallying to defeat Georgia 65-62 to clinch its first trip to the Final Four.
Cal is calm and confident. They won’t get frazzled when Louisville tries to frenzy the pace. They’re athletic and relentless on the boards, and they’re going to send the Cardinals home.
--Amy Farnum, NCAA.com