All season there has been a buzz around women’s basketball about UConn and Notre Dame.
Now the stage is set for the former Big East rivals to meet in an historic national championship game.
The teams enter the NCAA tournament unbeaten – only the second time that’s ever happened. They are on a collision course to meet in the national title game.
“We really haven’t talked, I bet hardly at all, about this national championship or what number it is or any of that,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma, whose Huskies are tied with Tennessee with eight national titles each.
Despite being the 13th women’s team to go unbeaten in the regular season, the Irish have felt almost unappreciated with most of the talk centered on the Huskies. Coach Muffet McGraw doesn’t seem to mind. “I like it because we can get a chip on our shoulder and head into the tournament with a bit of chip,” she said.
Even though UConn and Notre Dame didn’t play this season, they know plenty about each other, having met 12 times the previous three seasons. The Irish have won seven of the past nine games.
Before a potential meeting of unbeatens, the two might have to go through SEC powers Tennessee and South Carolina, who also earned No. 1 seeds. While it’s the 22nd time the Lady Vols have earned a top spot, it’s the first for the Gamecocks. The Huskies, Lady Vols and Gamecocks all could have to play on an opponent’s home court with a trip to Nashville on the line. Stanford, Notre Dame, Louisville and Nebraska, who are all hosting regionals, were a combined 52-3 at home this season.
The Lady Vols, who won the SEC tournament championship, are the top seed in the Louisville Regional and would also like nothing more than to break the tie with Connecticut and win their ninth NCAA title. The Lady Vols won’t have an easy path. West Virginia is the second seed. Host Louisville is the three seed and Maryland is the four.
South Carolina doesn’t have an easy road to the Final Four, either. The Gamecocks could face an inspired young North Carolina team in the regional semifinals before potentially playing at Stanford.
And the Tar Heels could have coach Sylvia Hatchell back at that point. The Hall of Famer battled leukemia during the regular season.
Tennessee is in its 33rd straight NCAA tournament, playing in every one. Five teams are in their first – Akron, North Dakota, South Dakota, Winthrop and Wright State.