California golden bears (32-3)
Coach: Lindsay Gottlieb
Conference: Pac-12 (at-large bid)
Region: Spokane, Wash. (No. 2 seed)
Last Final Four: First appearance
The skinny: It has been a season filled with remarkable firsts for the Golden Bears, from sharing the Pac-12 regular-season championship to reaching the 30-win mark. California had to rally from 10 down to oust Georgia with a 65-62 overtime victory in the Spokane regional final. The Golden Bears became the first team from the western United States other than Stanford to reach the Final Four since Long Beach State in 1988. Gottlieb, 35, was in elementary school then. California was the selection of President Obama to win the Spokane Regional when he filled out his NCAA women’s tournament bracket.
Keep an eye on: Senior Layshia Clarendon is the team’s leading scorer at 16.4 points per game. She has topped the 20-point mark 11 times this season. She also handles the ball well, plays sticky defense and rarely leaves the floor.
The quote: “Why not us? Why not the Cal Bears? We’re not backing down from anyone now.” — Clarendon.
Louisville Cardinals (28-8)
Coach: Jeff Walz
Conference: Big East (at-large bid)
Region: Oklahoma City (No. 5 seed)
Last Final Four: 2009
The skinny: The Cardinals knocked off top-ranked Baylor in a Sweet 16 stunner and then eight-time national champion Tennessee in the regional final. They became only the second No. 5 seed to reach the national semifinals, joining Southwest Missouri State’s 2001 team that featured Jackie Stiles, the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history. Only seven teams outside of the top four seeds have ever made it to the Final Four since the NCAA tournament started in 1982. Louisville joins the school’s men’s team in the national semis, marking the 10th time that a program had both teams make it that far.
Keep an eye on: Shoni Schimmel earned most outstanding player honors in Oklahoma City with a combination of her accurate three-point shooting and fearless drives to the basket. Younger sister Jude is Louisville’s top reserve.
The quote: “We ruined the entire party. We’re the ugly ducklings that ruined the party. No one gave us a chance and we shocked everybody.” — Walz.