March Madness: What the Final Four journey means to the LSU Tigers

Mar 30, 2023; Dallas, TX, USA; LSU Lady Tigers forward Angel Reese speaks to members of the media at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 30, 2023; Dallas, TX, USA; LSU Lady Tigers forward Angel Reese speaks to members of the media at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The LSU Tigers return to the Final Four on Friday night. Hearing what the journey means to the Kim Mulkey and her players makes the game more unique.

The LSU Tigers (32-2) will clash with the Virginia Tech Hokies (31-4) tonight in the women’s Final Four. Both teams have much to play for, given what players and coaches devote to a season. But when we think about the potential edge or advantage, we’re drawn to the question of what team wants it more.

Alexis Morris: The comeback kid’s culminating challenge

Answering such questions from the LSU Tigers’ perspective requires considering the individual journeys involved. For example, senior guard Alexis Morris recently opened up about her collegiate career. Few fans realize Morris started her career under Kim Mulkey at Baylor. However, Mulkey dismissed Morris after multiple violations of team rules.

“I am the comeback kid. I went through so much adversity,” Morris explained. “At one point…I wasn’t even going to play basketball anymore…[so] this moment is literally everything to me.”

Indeed, Morris did come back. After falling out at Rutgers, Morris transferred to Texas A&M before reuniting with Mulkey at LSU.

Morris remains one of the most critical players on the floor for the LSU Tigers. She posted 21 points in the Elite Eight win over Miami and 15 points and seven assists against Utah in the Round of 32.

Kim Mulkey: The right decision to come home and lead the LSU Tigers

For Mulkey, bringing a championship to LSU is everything. The LSU Tigers head coach assembled a women’s college basketball program on the cusp of a dynasty at Baylor. However, the prospect of coaching back in her home state of Louisiana and around family was too good to pass up.

“It’s energized me, to go back home, to see familiar faces,” Mulkey told the media on Friday. “It’s ironic, kind of, that in two years at LSU my LSU team is in a Final Four in a state that was very good to me, not far from an institution that was very good to me.”

The LSU Tigers in the Final Four is validation for Mulkey, proof that she made an excellent decision to come home. Also, the short-term success in Baton Route is a testament to Mulkey’s elite ability to coach and recruit. But, of course, there is no more tremendous recruiting success in the current season than that of Angel Reese.

Angel Reese: Meeting new challenges to achieve her destiny

For Angel Reese, headlining the Final Four is meeting her destiny. No women’s college basketball player in the country has taken off more than her. From magazine covers to hefty NIL deals, the ‘Bayou Barbie’ is cementing her place as a college basketball star and pop culture mainstay.

Reese could’ve easily led her former program at Maryland to the women’s NCAA tournament. However, the sophomore forward explained to the media that transferring to LSU was about a fresh start and more significant challenges.

"“Just being able to be within a program where like with Kim Mulkey where she was going to push me every day and keep my humble and to get me to the next level, I think what was important for me. And I needed Coach Mulkey and that’s just what I needed. I needed Coach Mulkey.” -Angel Reese"

We argue Reese is the women’s NCAA Tournament’s most valuable player. Her 76 points, 51 rebounds, 12 steals, and seven blocks over the last three games are historic. No women’s basketball player, college or pro, has produced such numbers.

Next. What to know about LSU’s opponent Virginia Tech. dark

The LSU Tigers and Virginia Tech Hokies will tip-off on ESPN at 6 pm CST. The winner will advance to the women’s NCAA championship game. In the other Final Four contest, unbeaten South Carolina (36-0) battles Iowa (30-6).