And then…there were four. But only one can win it all.
The UConn, Oregon, Baylor and Notre Dame women’s basketball teams all touched down in Tampa Tuesday night before hitting the hardwood later this week in the NCAA Women’s Final Four.
Notre Dame is the defending national champion. Baylor is the top ranked team in the nation. U
Conn is making a record 12th consecutive Final Four appearance and took home the championship in 2015, the last time it was played in Tampa.
Oregon is making it’s Women’s Final Four debut.
“When you get to the Final Four, only the best teams are left, and this particular weekend is no exception,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma on tarmac at TIA. The Huskies were first to arrive Tuesday.
Organizers rolled out the red carpet at TIA so fans, alumni, and even some pirates could greet the players.
Notre Dame standout Arike Ogunbowale even got a special welcome from her brother, Tampa Bay Buccaneers runningback Dare Ogunbowale.
But some of the day’s biggest fans were, in fact, the smallest fans.
9 year old Isaiah Polanco plays basketball at Tampa’s Jackson Springs recreation center. He and his team lined the red carpet to get a glimpse of some of the game’s best.
“It’s kind of crazy to get to see them actually in real life,” Polanco said.
Her players may be little but coach Tiffani Brazell hopes seeing the success of the Final Four inspires her players to dream big, no matter what.
“I wanted to come and show them that whatever dreams they have, they can do it,” Brazell said.
Wednesday the Final Four teams will participate in community service events as part of Community Day in Tampa Bay.
Baylor and Oregon face off at 7 p.m. Friday, April 5th at Amalie Arena, followed by Notre Dame and UConn at 9:30 p.m.
The National Championship game is Sunday, April 7th at 6 p.m.