NEW ORLEANS — Louisville has really relished being the underdog. So much so that coach Jeff Walz doesn’t want to hear about how the Cardinals have that team-of-destiny air about them heading into the women’s Final Four.
Yet, is there any other way to see Louisville after it derailed AP Player of the Year Brittney Griner and defending national champion Baylor, and then upset Tennessee — the most storied program in the sport?
Surely they couldn’t be the underdogs against Final Four newcomer California in Sunday’s national semifinals. Don’t tell that to Walz.
“No one expects us to win now,” Walz insisted. “I’m sorry, we’re seeded fifth. So my thing is, I know we won two games, but we’re seeded fifth, and if they expected us to win, we’d be seeded second or third.”
California, Walz noted, “is a team that’s 32-3, that beat Stanford. ... They’re a great basketball team, so we’re going to have to figure out a way.”
And while destiny may be on Louisville’s side, history is not. No team seeded worse than fourth has ever won a national semifinal game.
The Golden Bears were the No. 2 seed in the Spokane region and did not have to play their Pac-12 rivals, top-seeded Stanford in the NCAA tournament. Georgia took care of the Cardinal in the regional semifinal. The Lady Bulldogs also led Cal late in regulation before the Bears stormed back to force overtime and pull out a three-point victory.
Neither Cal nor Louisville were widely expected to make it this far, although President Obama saw something in the Golden Bears when he placed them in his Final Four bracket.