ESPN Network: ESPN | NBA.com | NHL.com | ABCSports | Insider | Shop | Fantasy
NCAA index ESPN.com
to MIDWEST region to WEST region to MIDEAST region to EAST region
click for menu bracket gallery scoreboard tcmens
 
Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The road to the Final Four this year has been unlike any other for Tennessee coach Pat Summitt.

"No question, it's been the toughest," said Summitt, making her 15th trip to the NCAA women's championship tournament.

The top-seeded Lady Vols (30-3) cruised through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament before a disputed call by officials and clutch shooting helped them win the Midwest Regional and advance to New Orleans.

"Look at the two games that we've had to play and the controversial end to the first one," Summitt said after Tuesday night's 62-60 victory over Stanford. "The last 48 hours, the kids, every time they turned on the TV, they had to listen to all this talk about it, almost like we didn't deserve to win."

Tennessee beat Baylor 71-69 in the regional semifinal after officials called a disputed foul as time expired, then put two-tenths of a second back on the clock and Lady Vol Tasha Butts at the foul line. She sank both free throws for the win.

The officials' call was widely criticized and decried as "an embarrassment to women's basketball" by ESPN analyst Stacey Dales-Schuman.

But the Lady Vols moved on to play Stanford, a team they beat in overtime in December, for a chance to reach the Final Four. Tennessee was in for another close game.

With the score tied and 8.4 seconds remaining, Summitt drew up the final play during a timeout. She positioned two of Tennessee's best 3-point shooters on the wings to draw out the defense and gave the ball to Butts to drive to the basket.

Butts dribbled toward Stanford All-American Nicole Powell, spun around her and shot the ball, which banked off the glass and into the basket with 1.7 seconds left.

Powell's desperation 3-pointer at the other end bounced short off the rim. The Lady Vols screamed, hugged each other and donned regional championship T-shirts and hats before cutting down the nets.

Summitt was concerned her players might have been distracted after the Baylor game.

Clearly, the Lady Vols had made some enemies just by having a disputed call go their way.

A sports columnist for the Norman Transcript in Norman, Okla., where the regional was held, called on readers to back Stanford because "cheering for Tennessee is like rooting for the Yankees, IBM and Microsoft."

"I really have to applaud their efforts with all the distractions that could have potentially been there," Summitt said. "I asked them about it earlier (Tuesday) and they were completely numb to it. They said, 'Coach, we're ready to go play.'"

The Lady Vols advanced to the national semifinals on Sunday against LSU, which Tennessee beat 85-62 in the regular season finale Feb. 29.

Connecticut and Minnesota will play in the other semifinal, setting up a possible national championship Tuesday night between Tennessee and the Huskies.

The Lady Vols didn't practice Wednesday, and Summitt stayed at home to watch film. Tennessee planned to leave for New Orleans on Thursday.

Tennessee has not won a national title since 1998, and the current Lady Vols team is far from emulating that dominating, 39-0 championship club.

Instead, this season was full of tense games and last-second victories despite some poor performances. The Lady Vols have rallied to win 10 games in which they trailed at halftime, and they have won three of four overtime contests.

The Lady Vols have even managed without a true point guard since Loree Moore tore a knee ligament Jan. 24 at Duke. Minus Moore, Tennessee is 14-2 with losses to Connecticut, then Georgia in overtime in the SEC tournament.



EAST
1 Penn State
2 Connecticut
3 Houston
4 North Carolina
5 Notre Dame
6 Colorado
7 Auburn
8 Virginia Tech
9 Iowa
10 North Carolina State
11 UC Santa Barbara
12 Southwest Missouri State
13 Middle Tennessee
14 UW-Green Bay
15 Penn
16 Hampton
MIDEAST
1 Duke
2 Kansas State
3 Boston College
4 Texas Tech
5 Louisiana Tech
6 Ohio State
7 Minnesota
8 Old Dominion
9 Marquette
10 UCLA
11 West Virginia
12 Montana
13 Maine
14 Eastern Michigan
15 Valparaiso
16 Northwestern State
WEST
1 Texas
2 Purdue
3 Georgia
4 LSU
5 Miami
6 TCU
7 Villanova
8 Michigan State
9 Arizona
10 Mississippi
11 Temple
12 Maryland
13 Austin Peay
14 Liberty
15 St. Francis (Pa.)
16 Southern
MIDWEST
1 Tennessee
2 Vanderbilt
3 Oklahoma
4 Baylor
5 Florida
6 Stanford
7 Rutgers
8 George Washington
9 DePaul
10 Chattanooga
11 Missouri
12 New Mexico
13 Loyola Marymount
14 Marist
15 Lipscomb
16 Colgate