Louisville faces tough road to Sweet 16 of NCAA Tournament
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Every women's college basketball team's goal this season was to make it to Tampa, site of the women's Final Four.
Third-seeded Louisville finds itself here two weeks earlier than they might have hoped, sent on the road because its home arena is hosting men's tournament games.
That leaves the Cardinals with a tough path just to get to the Sweet 16, beginning Saturday at the Sun Dome - home of No. 6 seed South Florida (26-7).
''I think it's an advantage for us, not to have to play them at home,'' said Jeff Judkins, coach of 14th-seeded BYU, which won two games last year as a No. 12 seed and has a shot at another surprise run. ''I feel bad that they've had a great season and they wanted to host, but sometimes things have to bounce your way. Hopefully we'll take advantage of that.''
Louisville (25-6) lost just one game at home this season, and they've lost only one game to an unranked opponent all season. Beat the Cougars on Saturday night, and they'll then have to face either USF, which went 12-2 on its home floor, or No. 11 seed LSU.
The Bulls have an elite scorer in guard Courtney Williams, who's averaging 20.2 points, while forward Alicia Jenkins averages a double-double with 12.9 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.
LSU (17-13) has reached the Sweet 16 in each of the last two seasons. The Tigers opened the season 2-4, with leading scorer Danielle Ballard missing 14 games due to a violation of team rules. They have bounced back through a difficult SEC schedule, with three losses to No. 1 seed South Carolina but wins against top-15 opponents in Mississippi State, Kentucky and Texas A&M.
Some things to watch in the regional games in Tampa:
STRONG TIES: Want Cinderella pedigree? BYU senior forward Morgan Bailey is the niece of former NBA player Thurl Bailey, who led N.C. State to the 1983 national championship as a No. 6 seed. Bailey, the West Coast Conference Player of the Year, averaged a double-double with 17.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR: USF has players from Spain (two), Portugal (two), Sweden and Denmark on its roster. LSU isn't far behind, with players from Denmark, Australia and Japan.
YOUNG SCORERS: Louisville's top two scorers are freshmen, with Mariya Moore and Myisha Hines-Allen averaging 13.8 and 11.5 points per game, respectively. The other three starters are seniors, giving coach Jeff Walz a mix of youth and experience entering the tournament.
RARE OPPONENTS: BYU and Louisville have met only once before, also in the NCAA Tournament. Louisville won an opening-round matchup in 2007.
BEEN HERE BEFORE: Walz and LSU coach Nikki Caldwell have a history with the NCAA Tournament in Tampa, which hosts the women's Final Four this year. The last time the national finals were in Tampa (2007), both were assistants on Final Four teams, with Walz in his final season at Maryland, which lost in the semifinals. Caldwell was on Pat Summitt's staff at Tennessee, which won the championship that year.