Five things you need to know about the Final Four-bound UW women
If you haven’t already, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon of the University of Washington women’s basketball team. Besides advancing to the Final Four for the first time in the program’s history, the Huskies are underdogs featuring a number of unique storylines for a relatively championship-starved state.
The seventh-seeded Huskies continued their string of upsets by dropping No. 4 seed and Pac-12 rival Stanford, 85-76 . The team has the week until Sunday to prepare for Syracuse, which beat UW during the regular season, 66-62.
Here are five things to know about the Huskies leading up to the matchup in Indianapolis:
1. On top of being the program’s first ever Final Four appearance, UW had only been in the NCAA tournament once since 2007 (last season, when the Huskies were bounced in the first round). The UW women hadn’t advanced passed the second round since 2001. To put this in further perspective, the only appearance in the Final Four for the Washington men’s team came in 1953.
2. The Huskies managed the unenviable task of winning the equivalent of two road games during their improbable tournament run. After beating Penn in the first round, they upset fifth-ranked Maryland in College Park, Md. They then flew back to Seattle for less than 24 hours and beat third-seeded Kentucky in Lexington, Ky.
3. Inspiration for the Huskies stands at the core of the squad. Junior Katie Collier was diagnosed with leukemia while in high school in September of 2011. She returned to the court three months after her diagnosis and underwent daily chemotherapy. After being declared cancer-free in 2012, the Covington native tore her ACL and MCL in her first practice with the Huskies. This season, her first as a starter, she led the team in blocked shots while ranking fourth in scoring and third in rebounds.
4. At No. 7, UW is the lowest-seeded women’s team to reach the Final Four since 2004. Finishing fifth in the Pac-12, the Huskies are also only the second team ever to reach this point of the tournament after finishing the season unranked. But that’s not to say the wins have been fluky, seeing as UW won all four of its tournament games by at least nine points.
5. Guard Kelsey Plum is one of the most dynamic players in the NCAA, and in Brock Huard’s view, the “best player in the history of Washington women’s basketball.” The junior averaged more than 26 points per game while leading the team with 151 assists. Meanwhile, Chantel Osahor – described by Huard as the Marshawn Lynch to Plum’s Russell Wilson – dominated against Stanford, grabbing 18 rebounds to go along with 24 points.