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Why you shouldn't be put off that the Final Four is full of No. 1 seeds

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UConn looks to change last year's ending in this Final Four (2:08)

Rebecca Lobo says that despite dominating most opponents, the Huskies enter the Final Four with a chip on their shoulder after last year's shocking loss to Mississippi State. (2:08)

The Women's Final Four will feature one matchup between teams that have played each other 47 times, and another that pits teams that have never met.

But if you're put off by an all-chalk gathering coming this weekend in Columbus, Ohio, consider that it features a longtime rivalry that definitely still has life in it, and the meeting of two programs that have built up sizable fan bases while in pursuit of winning the ultimate prize for the first time.

Maybe you're sure you already know how this will end -- and there's reason to think that, considering undefeated (again) UConn is involved. But didn't we think that last year, too, only to be surprised? So while the true Cinderellas in two No. 11 seeds exited the ball in the Sweet 16, and a couple of Pac-12 teams hoping for their first Women's Final Four said goodbye in the Elite Eight, don't despair. This could still be intriguing.

The No. 1 seeds -- UConn, Notre Dame, Louisville and Mississippi State -- will finish out the women's college basketball season. It's the fourth time in the women's NCAA tournament, which started in 1982, that all four top seeds advanced to the national semifinals. Those games are Friday -- the Bulldogs play the Cardinals (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET), and the Huskies face the Fighting Irish (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET). The championship is Sunday (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET).

For the Huskies, it's the 19th Women's Final Four and 11th in a row, both records. UConn's Geno Auriemma has most often been compared historically to Tennessee's Pat Summitt on the women's side and UCLA's John Wooden on the men's side. They had shared those respective records with Auriemma before the Huskies' dominant 94-65 victory over No. 2 seed South Carolina, the defending national champion, in Monday's Albany Regional final.

UConn faces Notre Dame for the 48th time, and seventh in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies lead the series 36-11, and have won the past eight in a row, including an 80-71 victory on Dec. 4 in Hartford, Connecticut.

But their record is 3-3 in the NCAA tournament, all occurring at the Final Four. Notre Dame won their national semifinal meeting in 2001 before going on to the Irish's only NCAA championship. In 2011 and '12, the Irish also beat Huskies in the national semis. In 2013, the Huskies won their meeting in the semis, and they won in the final over Notre Dame in 2014 and 2015.

The Irish defeated No. 2 seed Oregon 84-74 in the Spokane Regional final Monday, led by senior forward Kathryn Westbeld, who was 9-of-12 from the field for 20 points. Notre Dame clobbered the Ducks on the boards, 51-29, with guard Jackie Young leading the way with 13 rebounds.

Marina Mabrey, who has handled a lot of the point guard duties since Lili Thompson's season-ending injury in late December, had 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists against Oregon. Thompson is one of four Irish players out with ACL injuries, which includes Brianna Turner, who was injured in the 2017 NCAA tournament. Still, the Irish advanced to their eighth Final Four.

The Irish made just three 3-pointers Monday, but relied on defense and rebounding to take over the game in the third quarter. Meanwhile, UConn made 12 3-pointers against South Carolina, and had 25 assists to seven turnovers.

UConn is a team full of stars who play unselfishly, and Monday's box score was a perfect example. All five starters scored in double figures, led by senior Gabby Williams with 23 points. American Athletic Conference player of the year Katie Lou Samuelson had 17 points and a team-high seven assists. Point guard Crystal Dangerfield had 21 points, going 5-of-7 from 3-point range, with six assists.

UConn and Notre Dame were longtime rivals in the Big East, but kept their regular-season series going -- after a one-year hiatus -- following the Irish's move to the ACC in 2013-14, while the Huskies joined the newly formed American Athletic Conference.

Auriemma and Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw, who was the espnW national coach of the year, have had their squabbles in the past, but they also know their series has produced some great games.

By contrast, on the other side of the bracket are two No. 1 seeds both looking for their first NCAA title. Last year, Mississippi State reached the Final Four for the first time. Then the Bulldogs pulled the upset of the season in defeating UConn in the national semifinals in overtime, ending the Huskies' NCAA-record 111-game winning streak, before falling to South Carolina in the final.

Now the Bulldogs are back in the Final Four for the second time, having defeated UCLA 89-73 in the Kansas City Regional final on Sunday. Mississippi State is 36-1, its only loss coming to South Carolina in the SEC tournament title game. The Bulldogs are the only team in the Final Four that hasn't played any of the other three participants this season; UConn beat Louisville and Notre Dame in nonconference matchups, and the Cardinals beat fellow ACC school Notre Dame in the regular season and in the ACC tournament final.

Louisville is making its third trip to the Final Four; in 2009, led by Angel McCoughtry, the Cardinals lost the final to UConn 76-54. The Shoni Schimmel-led Cardinals lost the 2013 final to UConn, too, 93-60.

While Louisville and Mississippi State have never met, they have some things in common. Both have had similar defensive prowess this season; the Bulldogs have held opponents to 56.1 points per game, the Cardinals to 56.6. On the offensive end, Mississippi State is averaging 82.0 PPG, and Louisville 77.1.

Louisville had a good defensive plan for Oregon State's 6-foot-5 center Marie G├╝lich in the Lexington Regional final, and now will have to face Mississippi State's 6-7 Teaira McCowan, who's had 27 double-doubles this season. McCowan shared Kansas City Regional most outstanding player honors with teammate Victoria Vivians, a senior who's having the best season of a stellar career and leads the Bulldogs in scoring at 19.6 PPG.

Louisville has a double-double threat, too, in senior Myisha Hines-Allen, who has done that 16 times this season. Star guard Asia Durr, who's averaging 18.7 PPG, leads the Cardinals.

Coaches Jeff Walz and Vic Schaefer have been the architects of their programs' combined five trips to the Final Four, and both have won national championships as assistants. Walz did that with Maryland in 2006, and Schaefer with Texas A&M in 2011.

So there is no real underdog seed-wise in the Final Four -- unless you count the other three besides UConn, which is the favorite once again. The Huskies are seeking their 12th NCAA title, and their seventh perfect season. Mississippi State stopped that last season, but it will take another magical game by someone to do it this year.