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Too close to call

There is no clear favorite to pick in the women's Final Four

By Chuck Schoffner

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Michigan State is back where it started the postseason, Baylor is riding a surge of community support and LSU comes in with a quiet determination.

And Tennessee is, well, the same ol' Tennessee -- confident, experienced and eager to end a national(championship drought that probably seems like decades to the Lady Vols but in reality is six years.

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It's a women's Final Four with good stories but no clear-cut favorite.

Yes, Tennessee (30-4) has come this far for the fourth straight year and 16th time overall and owns more NCAA titles (six) than any other school. But the Lady Vols' opponent in Sunday night's semifinals, Michigan State (32-3), already has beaten No. 1-ranked Stanford in this tournament, has exceptional teamwork and isn't likely to be intimidated.

LSU (33-2), the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, has a unanimous All-American in Seimone Augustus and brings experience from its Final Four trip last year. Don't count on any of that rattling Baylor (31-3), which beat top-seeded North Carolina to get here and lost to LSU by one point back in November after trailing by 21.

Wide open? Definitely.

"I think there's just parity now in women's basketball," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson said. "We've talked about it for many years. I think each year, you just have players that go and help build programs for whatever reason. The more parity, the more exposure we're each going to get."

The Lady Bears certainly have brought some positive exposure for Baylor, which was rocked by scandal in the men's basketball program and never made the NCAA women's tournament before Mulkey-Robertson arrived in 2000.

Baylor was the worst team in the Big 12 when she took over. Now, the Lady Bears are two victories from becoming the top team in the country, and Mulkey-Robertson will be the first to have played and been a head coach in the Final Four.

She played in three Final Fours at Louisiana Tech in the early 1980s.

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"It's happened rapidly," Mulkey-Robertson said. "I don't think any of us expected it to happen this quickly."

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