For the Louisville Cardinals, the road to the 2018 NCAA women’s basketball Final Four runs through Lexington.
The Cardinals (34-2) are the No. 1 seed in the Lexington Regional, which will play its semifinals and finals Friday and Sunday in Rupp Arena. That makes Louisville the favorite to reach its third Final Four in the past decade. The Cardinals were national runners-up in 2009 and 2013 but have never broken through and won it all.
Expect Louisville to travel well. The Cardinals averaged 7,826 fans per game at the KFC Yum Center this season, good for sixth in the nation in women’s basketball attendance.
This year’s Final Four will be played March 30 and April 1 in Columbus, Ohio.
If you’re planning to take in this weekend’s Lexington Regional in Rupp Arena, here’s a chance to get to know the combatants:
School colors: Red and black
Conference: Atlantic Coast
2017-18 record: 34-2
Head coach: Jeff Walz (297-95 in 11 seasons at Louisville and overall)
2018 NCAA berth: Automatic (Louisville won the ACC Tournament). No. 1 seed in Lexington Region.
How it got to Lexington: Beat No. 16 Boise State 74-42 and No. 8 seed Marquette 90-72 at Louisville.
Notable games this season: Beat five teams ranked in the Top 25, including fellow No. 1 seed Notre Dame twice. The Cards topped the then-No. 2-ranked Irish 100-67 at home on Jan. 11 and took them down again in the ACC championship 74-72 to earn its first ACC crown. The Cards’ only two losses came at No. 1 Connecticut, 69-58, and No. 12 Florida State, 50-49.
Top players: Asia Durr (18.5 ppg, 42.0 3FG pct.), Myisha Hines-Allen (13.9 ppg, 10 rpg), Sam Fuehring (10 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 59.7 FG pct.), Jazmine Jones (8.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Arica Carter (7.4 ppg, 4.1 apg).
Location: Stanford, Calif.
School colors: Cardinal and white
Conference: Pacific 12
2017-18 record: 24-10
Head coach: Tara VanDerveer (884-190 in 32 seasons at Stanford and 1,036-241 38 seasons overall)
2018 NCAA berth: At-large. No. 4 seed in Lexington Region.
How it got to Lexington: Beat No. 13 seed Gonzaga 82-68 and No. 12 seed Florida Gulf Coast 90-70 at Stanford, Calif.
Notable games this season: Stanford has played teams ranked in the AP Top 25 11 times this season going 4-7 in those games with wins over UCLA 76-65, Arizona State 74-50, Oregon State 60-57 and Oregon 78-65. Among their losses are two to Ohio State in December and No. 1 Connecticut. They lost to fellow Lexington Region team Baylor 81-57 on Dec. 3.
Top players: Brittany McPhee (16.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Alanna Smith (13.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Kiana Williams (ppg 10.5), Marta Sniezek (5.6 ppg, 4.3 apg) and Kaylee Johnson (4.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
Location: Waco, Texas
Nickname: Lady Bears
School colors: Green and gold
Conference: Big 12
2017-18 record: 33-1
Head coach: Kim Mulkey (539-97 in 18 seasons at Baylor and overall)
2018 NCAA berth: Automatic (Baylor won the Big 12 Tournament). No. 2 seed in Lexington Region.
How it got to Lexington: Beat No. 15 seed Grambling State 96-46 and No. 7 seed Michigan 80-58 at Waco, Texas.
Notable games this season: Only loss came at No. 8 UCLA in November, 82-68. Defeated nine teams ranked in the AP Top 25 since, including Kentucky 90-63, Stanford 81-57, Texas twice 81-56 and 93-87, West Virginia 83-72, Oklahoma State twice 77-64 and 87-45, and TCU 83-63.
Top players: Kalani Brown (20.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg), Lauren Cox (15.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Kristy Wallace (12.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 5.3 apg), Dekeiya Cohen (12.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Alexis Morris (9.2 ppg, 3.3 apg).
Location: Corvallis, Ore.
School colors: Orange and black
Conference: Pacific 12
2017-18 record: 25-7
Head coach: Scott Rueck (178-88 in eight seasons at Oregon State and 466-176 in 21 seasons overall)
2018 NCAA berth: At-large. No. 6 seed in Lexington Region.
How it got to Lexington: Beat No. 11 seed Western Kentucky 82-58 and No. 3 seed Tennessee 66-59 at Knoxville, Tenn.
Notable games this season: Played 10 games against teams ranked in the AP Top 25, going 5-5 in those matchups with wins over Arizona State 57-54, Oregon 85-79 (OT), California 68-48, UCLA 67-64 (OT) and Tennessee. Lost to Spokane Region No. 1 seed Notre Dame 72-67 on Nov. 19.
Top players: Marie Gulich (17.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg), Kat Tudor (12.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Mikayla Pivec (11.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Taya Corosdale (6.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and Katie McWilliams (8.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg).
NCAA Tournament Lexington Regional
Friday in Rupp Arena
7 p.m.: No. 2 seed Baylor (33-1) vs. No. 6 Oregon State (25-7), ESPN2
About 9:30 p.m.: No. 1 seed Louisville (34-2) vs. No. 4 Stanford (24-10), ESPN
Sunday in Rupp Arena
Noon: Friday’s winners meet with a berth in the Final Four at stake, ESPN