Unlikely teams to face off in semis

Half of the women's Final Four turned out as expected, with top seeds Tennessee and North Carolina facing off in a national semifinal.


From the other side of the bracket emerged two unlikely championship contenders.

Louisiana State, burdened by controversy, and Rutgers, loaded with freshmen, each upset a No. 1 seed to make it to Cleveland and create an unlikely matchup in the other semifinal Sunday.

Perhaps nobody had a tougher job than LSU acting coach Bob Starkey, who took over after Pokey Chatman's sudden resignation March 7 amid allegations of improper conduct with a former player.

Starkey won four consecutive games, including an upset of top-seeded Connecticut, to deliver the Lady Tigers' fourth Final Four appearance in a row.

Tennessee is making its 17th Final Four trip under Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt, while Hatchell has the Tar Heels here for the second consecutive year and third time overall.

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, the only coach to take three schools to the Final Four, is here for the fourth time.

This time, she coaxed a Rutgers team that started the season 2-4 with five freshmen and no seniors to the Big East championship.

Then, the fourth-seeded Scarlet Knights (26-8) beat Michigan State, stunned No. 1 overall seed Duke and routed third-seeded Arizona State.

For LSU (30-7), this NCAA Tournament started amid turmoil after Chatman stepped down.

Starkey guided the Lady Tigers to victories over UNC Asheville, West Virginia, Florida State and UConn to advance from the Fresno Regional.

The other semifinal has a familiar feel, with Tennessee and North Carolina meeting in Cleveland. The Tar Heels beat the Lady Vols a year ago to win the Cleveland Regional and advance to the Final Four in Boston. The teams also met in the regular season, with North Carolina cruising to a 70-57 victory Dec. 3.