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Chalk holds: top eight teams make regional finals

“That one game (the regional final) means your 40 minutes away from the Final Four. That’s when it starts to hit the kids. `This is it, this is the one I’ve been waiting for. If we win this game we’re going to the Final Four.’ Some rise to the occasion and some are beaten down by the pressure of it.’’Auriemma’s team has consistently risen to the top and they hope to make it five trips in a row to the national semifinals when they face Kentucky on Tuesday night.Top seeds Baylor, Notre Dame, Connecticut and Stanford have run through their opponents to advance to the regional finals. The four have won by an average of 26 points.Some of the No. 2 seeds have had a little tougher time. While Duke has cruised through the first three rounds, Kentucky, Tennessee and Maryland all had harder times. The Wildcats had to survive a tough game against Wisconsin-Green Bay in the second round. The Lady Vols and Terps had to pull of huge rallies in the round of 16 to still be playing.It is the fourth time the top eight teams advanced to the regional finals. The eight remaining teams have combined for 20 of the 30 national championships with only Duke and Kentucky yet to win one.“That tends to be how it works in women’s basketball,’’ said Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves. “You don’t see many different faces. In women’s basketball you don’t see a ton of upsets. I think it’s changing. We’ve broken through three straight years to the Sweet 16. We plan on continuing to be here. I truly believe we have that kind of program now. It’s interesting how that worked out. The 1s and 2s should make for a great Elite Eight and tremendous Final Four.’’The most intriguing matchup will take place Monday night when top-seed Baylor faces No. 2 Tennessee in Des Moines. The unbeaten Lady Bears and star Brittney Griner will try and reach the national semifinals for the second time in three seasons and finish off their perfect season.Standing in the way is Pat Summitt and her Lady Vols. If the Lady Bears win, it could mark the final time Summitt roams the sidelines after 38 years and 1,098 wins with the Lady Vols. Summitt announced in August she’d been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, and has not committed to coaching next season.

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