NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Muffet McGraw and Geno Auriemma were well aware of the talk. There has been a buzz throughout women’s basketball all season about the potential showdown between their undefeated teams. Well, the wait is over.
Auriemma and UConn (39-0) and McGraw and Notre Dame (37-0) are set to meet in an unprecedented championship clash tonight.
“I think it’s something that everyone’s looked forward to all year long,” McGraw said. “People were hoping we would end up here. It’s great for the game and I think it’s great we’re both undefeated coming into it. It should be a great matchup for women’s basketball.”
Auriemma agreed that this once-in-a-lifetime matchup – the first time undefeated teams, men or women, have met for the NCAA national crown – could help grow the women’s game.
“An awful lot of people might tune in … that wouldn’t normally tune in,” he said. “A game on national television between two great teams, nothing could be better for the sport.”
There’s also so much at stake for both teams.
A victory by UConn would be the ninth of Auriemma’s career, breaking a tie with Pat Summitt for the most all-time. And if he does, he’ll accomplish it in Summitt’s backyard.
“I’m not a numbers guy and don’t get caught up in that stuff,” Auriemma said. “Wednesday morning when I wake up, my life doesn’t change one iota. Stewie (Breanna Stewart) says she came to win four national championships, that’s what I think is more significant. For Bria (Hartley) and Stef (Dolson) to win a national championship their senior years. They get ‘X’ amount of chances to do it. God willing, I’ll get more chances down the road.”
While Auriemma deflected the talk on a record title, Dolson is happy to be a part of it.
“It’s amazing,” the 6-foot-5 Connecticut center said. “I mean, obviously it’s something coach isn’t going to talk about. We don’t really talk about as a team, it’s just something that we know that we have the chance help him kind of win that ninth one.”
It would also be the fifth unbeaten season for Auriemma and UConn and the first time the Huskies went 40-0. They’d match Baylor as the only teams to accomplish that feat.
Notre Dame isn’t concerned about UConn. The Irish are looking for their first since 2001 – the school’s only championship.
They have made the Final Four the past four seasons, including reaching the title game in three of those years. This year they hope for a breakthrough.
“Getting here consistently has been great for our program,” McGraw said. “Taking the next step would be a huge accomplishment.”
Notre Dame has won seven of the last nine meetings between the schools. The Irish have a simple explanation why they’ve had success against the Huskies.
“We’re not afraid of them,” sophomore star Jewell Loyd said.