Paige Bueckers on playing Final Four in Minneapolis: 'It's surreal'

Paige Bueckers of the Connecticut Huskies smiles during the post-game press conference after defeating the N.C. State Wolfpack during the Elite Eight round of the 2022 NCAA Womens Basketball Tournament held at Total Mortgage Arena at Harbor Yard on M (Khoi Ton/NCAA Photos / Getty Images)

As former Hopkins star Paige Bueckers prepares to play in the NCAA Women's Final Four in front of a hometown crowd in Minneapolis, she says her team is "laser focused" on the task at hand.

Bueckers and UConn are set to take the floor Friday night to faceoff with Stanford at the Target Center for the semi-final game.

For Bueckers, she says the chance to play in front of a hometown crowd in Minnesota is surreal.

"It still hasn't really sunk in, it's really surreal to me," Bueckers told media members. "I've been in this locker room before during a state tournament in high school. It's all familiar, it's all crazy. It's also crazy because last year we were in the bubble, we were in San Antonio the whole time. It was basically testing, practice, and hotel. We're all just grateful it's not that experience again. We're excited to have fans, be in different locations. And I'm obviously super grateful that it's at home."

The matchup will be a chance for redemption for Bueckers. The last time she played in the Target Center was in 2018 in the AAAA championship game versus Eastview. She scored 37 points for Hopkins but her team lost after a second-half surge by Eastview.

Related: Paige Bueckers, UConn arrive in Minneapolis for Women's Final Four

"I think there is a reason why I'm back here and why I'm getting the opportunity again," said Bueckers. "It's crazy what God does in your life. Just to be back here and get that opportunity and experience again. Obviously, I want a different outcome. We're going to do whatever it takes as a team to get that outcome and I'm just excited to be back."

Her team will also be looking for some redemption after getting bounced in the Final Four last year. Bueckers says the team will have blinders on for the week ahead, trying to block out any distractions.

"I think we’re all super focused," she explained. "This is obviously a lot different than the bubble [in San Antonio in 2021]. There’s a lot more distractions and things you can get caught up in. We’re just trying to stay locked in and sort of tunnel vision this thing. We also just want to experience and fun with it… We came here on a mission, and we’re not going to stop until we do what we want to do. I think we are just super laser focused on what we’re here for."

UConn sailed through the Bridgeport Regional bracket in Connecticut before grinding out a double-overtime win in the Elite Eight versus one-seed NC State.

If they take down Stanford, the team will move onto the championship game on Sunday versus the winner of South Carolina versus Louisville.