STANFORD -- Stanford and Connecticut coaches gave it their best shot Wednesday to dispel the notion that the 2014 women's Final Four is a two-school event.
Most analysts expect top-ranked UConn (38-0) and No. 2 Notre Dame (36-0) to cruise into the finale after semifinal games Sunday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
"I know everyone has wanted to make it about this inevitable march toward two undefeated teams playing for the national championships," said Connecticut's Geno Auriemma, whose team faces Stanford at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.
"I don't like when you're disrespecting people. I'm glad there are two teams that are undefeated." But, "I cautioned everybody there are two other teams out there good enough to win a national championship."
Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer recalled the feeling of being overlooked in 1990 when Stanford won its first championship.
"If people want to think of us at the JV team, so be it," she said.
Notre Dame's situation is more precarious than UConn's with the loss of senior forward Natalie Achonwa, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament Monday in an Elite Eight victory over Baylor.
The Fighting Irish plays fourth-seeded Maryland (28-6) in the first game Sunday.
"It wasn't just stand around and 'Let's watch Chiney'" Ogwumike, Auriemma said in a teleconference. "Their team has grown.
"If anybody thinks we're going to play the same Stanford team as in November, they're kidding."
Four days later, Connecticut routed Maryland on the road 72-55 in front of 15,327 fans. UConn played without Morgan Tuck and Mosqueda-Lewis.
Auriemma called the two victories the biggest moments in the Huskies' season.
"Those two games maybe let everybody on our team know, hey, it doesn't matter if we have everybody or most everybody, we have it in us to persevere," he said.
In December 2010, the Cardinal snapped UConn's' NCAA record 90-game winning streak. Stanford also stunned its rival in the national semifinals in 2008. But Connecticut won the next two Final Four encounters, including a national championship game in 2010.
UConn reached its record seventh-consecutive Final Four. Now the reigning NCAA champions are going for their record ninth title.
How did it happen? The players embraced their roles this season.
"We're all part of this production," VanDerveer said. "Some people are on stage, some people are in the back doing the lights or doing the curtain."
Ogwumike was not among them.
The all-American forward recalled Wednesday how some teammates said Ruef had her best game of the season against Penn State in the Sweet 16.
But just before the North Carolina game, Ogwumike told her friend, "Your best game is yet to come."
Then it happened.
"Like a fairy tale," Ogwumike said.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.
FINAL FOUR SCHEDULE
At Nashville, Tenn.
Maryland (28-6) vs. Notre Dame (36-0), ESPN 3:30 p.m.
Stanford (33-3) vs. Connecticut (38-0), ESPN 5:30 p.m.