Supporting casts could determine LSU-Baylor

Originally Published: March 21, 2005
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

With the trip to the Final Four last season and being at or near the No. 1 spot so much this year, LSU has obviously had a higher profile than Baylor. Seimone Augustus and Temeka Johnson were already stars last year, and freshman Sylvia Fowles is well on her way this year.

NCAA Women's Final Four
AP Photo/Michael ConroyWho will come up big at the Final Four in Indianapolis? It could come down to the supporting casts.

The NCAA Tournament has allowed people to become more familiar with Baylor, though, and its standout post players Sophia Young and Steffanie Blackmon.

Thus far, neither team's set of stars has had an off game in the tournament. There's a pretty good chance that it won't happen in Indianapolis, either. So it will be interesting to see if, in fact, the outcome of this Final Four matchup rests on which team's supporting cast plays better.

LSU's Scholanda Hoston is the fourth-leading scorer, and she fills the role as the team's best 3-point shooter. LSU forwards Wendlyn Jones and Tillie Willis don't have big stats, but they are "mortar" players -- strong, dependable and always doing their job.

Baylor also has players who just get things done. Guards Chameka Scott and Chelsea Whitaker have become more high-profile because of the big shots and big performances they've had in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments. But Baylor also has a player who's a lot like Jones and Willis -- forward Abiola Wabara. She has been a defensive ace for Baylor and one of those players who could make one or two "small" plays that only her coaches or teammates really notice -- but those plays could provide the margin for victory.

Emily Niemann is more than just a 3-point threat for Baylor. She isn't quick; anyone would acknowledge that. But she's tall and strong, and as such can be effective defensively. Plus, she has seemed this season to have a knack for picking up the "garbage" baskets here and there that -- again -- add up to the final result.

With apologies and all due respect to the other side of the bracket, I think these are the best two teams and the most riveting matchup in the whole tournament.

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. E-mail her at mvoepel@kcstar.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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