Saluting top seniors in Nashville

It has been confirmed that Hartley will not be performing the national anthem. But hey, Beyonce can't ball, either.

Career highlights:

Hartley arrived in Storrs just as the Notre Dame-UConn rivalry was really igniting. In her first home game against the Irish in 2011, Hartley scored 29 points in a 21-point Connecticut win. A year later, she played all 45 minutes and scored 25 points in a loss to the Irish. Hartley's biggest moments have come in some big games, and that is exactly the opportunity she has once again in Nashville.

What's at stake: Simply by their birth year and a decision to head to Storrs to continue their educations and basketball careers, Hartley and Dolson are indelibly linked. Point guard and post for the most well-known women's college basketball program in the country for most of their careers, they have a chance to go out on top much like Charles did in 2010 and Renee Montgomery did in 2009.

Alyssa Thomas, Maryland

Strengths: Thomas averaged 7.3 rebounds as a freshman, and that constitutes a bad year in her outstanding career. She will go down as one of the greatest rebounding forwards in the game's recent history and will finish second to Crystal Langhorne all time at Maryland. But it's Thomas' all-around talents that got her compared to LeBron James. Thomas is rebounder, defender, facilitator and finisher all rolled into one, a true 94-foot player.

Weakness: While it's difficult to find a hole in Thomas' game, off the court she has a kryptonite: small dogs. Thomas is petrified of a Chihuahua that is owned by a friend of senior teammate and roommate Lauren Mincy.

"Look at Alyssa and her Incredible Hulk stature," Mincy said. "You wouldn't think she would be scared of a little dog, but she runs into her room and locks the door."

Any chance Notre Dame can come up with a new mascot by Sunday night?

Career highlights: The résumé begins impressively with three ACC Player of the Year awards, three first-team WBCA All-America selections and becoming Maryland's all-time leading scorer for men and women. In a career full of mega-games (and 66 double-doubles), the 6-2 Thomas saved one of the best for an opportune time. Without her career-high 33 points and 13 rebounds, Maryland might not have reached the ultimate Thomas career highlight: the Final Four.

What's at stake: Her individual legacy was secured some time ago, but a national championship, or even just an appearance in a title game (think Angel McCoughtry at Louisville) would elevate Thomas into Terrapin legendary status. Kristi Toliver, Langhorne and Marissa Coleman will always be remembered for their improbable championship run. To do it as a senior in her last game would put Thomas at the top of the Maryland list.

Natalie Achonwa, Notre Dame

Strengths: From the moment the Irish set foot in Indianapolis in 2011 for the first of their four straight Final Fours, it was clear Achonwa was a leader -- or would soon be one. Just a role player at the time, she was glib and charismatic, a program caretaker in waiting. The rest of the world got to see more of that this season. Achonwa's skills as a post player are obvious. Her talents as the voice and face of Notre Dame women's basketball in 2014 might have become even more evident in the moments and days following her devastating knee injury that will keep her off the court for the Final Four. Her presence remains vital.

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