NASHVILLE, Tenn. – All the talk of Stanford feeling like a junior varsity team crashing the Final Four or being an extra at the beauty pageant is just rhetoric to UConn coach Geno Auriemma. Motivational chatter he says no team here needs since each has won a championship.
Auriemma noted Saturday he’s never won any pageant.
Nope, he and his Connecticut Huskies just win titles – and they’re back chasing perfection again. They are two wins from making history: The first program in the women’s game with nine national titles.
“I think this team thinks they can win anywhere, anytime against anybody,” Auriemma said.
Before UConn (38-0) can think of a possible undefeated showdown with Notre Dame in the title game, however, the Huskies must get past Stanford tonight in one national semifinal.
Stanford is back at the Final Four for the sixth time in seven years. Stanford has two titles to its credit, though the Cardinal have been shut out in eight previous Final Four berths over the past 20 years. Compare that to UConn, which has won all its titles on 13 trips in that same span.
Auriemma said every team here can win a national title, which is the beauty of the Final Four.
“All you got to do is play really well two nights, and you can win a national championship,” Auriemma said. “And all four teams that are here are capable of doing that because they’ve already done that. So I don’t think they should feel like they’re a JV team. I don’t think anybody should feel like they’re the extras at the Miss America pageant.”
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer credits the media wanting the story of two undefeated teams playing for a title, and she makes no apologies for wanting to muck that up.
“If we’re going to be someone’s hors d’oeuvre, we’re not going to get swallowed easily,” VanDerveer said. “We’re going to work really hard to play the best game we can, and we definitely talk about it.”
The Huskies have won six of the past seven against Stanford (33-3), including the last tournament meeting in the 2010 title game. They also won Nov. 11 in Storrs, Conn., by 19.
The defending national champion has won 44 straight overall, and UConn sophomore Breanna Stewart was named The Associated Press’ player of the year Saturday. All five starters score in double figures, and the Huskies play defense just as well, holding foes to 47.3 points a game.