The entire 2013-14 women’s college basketball season has been steamrolling its way to Tuesday’s national championship game between Connecticut and Notre Dame.
After all, we are talking about two of the best programs in the history of the game that just so happened to finish the campaign undefeated. Throw in the fact that the Huskies and Fighting Irish are former conference rivals, and you have a recipe for a perfect title contest.
Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma certainly thinks that will lead to even more buzz than usual, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
"An awful lot of people might tune in Tuesday night that wouldn't normally tune in. A game on national television between two great teams, nothing could be better for the sport."
With the backdrop for such a monumental clash set, let’s dig into a few storylines to watch when the Irish and Huskies take the floor.
Somebody Has To Lose
The overarching headline leading up to the title game is the fact that both Connecticut and Notre Dame are undefeated.
The 39-0 Huskies and 37-0 Irish have been on something of a collision course all season long, and fans will finally get to see the showdown unfold. Typically, the two schools would have played this year during the Big East schedule, but conference realignment left the rivals in opposite leagues.
Connecticut may be seen as the titan of the women’s basketball world, but Notre Dame has won seven of the past nine meetings. The Fighting Irish will have confidence heading into the contest and recent history on their side.
History on the Line
There is plenty of history at stake during this national title showdown.
For one, it is the first time two undefeated teams in either the men’s or women’s game have met in the NCAA championship game. The sport has featured more parity seemingly every season, which is a testament to just how impressive the Huskies and Fighting Irish have been this year.
Furthermore, if Connecticut wins it will mark Auriemma’s ninth national title, which would put him ahead of Pat Summit for the most of all time. Center Stefanie Dolson just wants to be a part of it, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
It's amazing. 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. ... But if it happens, for all of us, now we have two of the nine. You know we have, like I was talking about that small piece of history. It's just something we have a chance to kind of add to the legacy of UConn and add to coach's legacy. I think that's something he would be extremely proud of.
A win for the Huskies would also give them a 40-0 record, which has only ever been done by Baylor.
Natalie Achonwa’s Absence
Fans never want to see outside forces play a factor in historical matchups in sports, but it is unfortunately too late for that when it comes to the Connecticut and Notre Dame game.
Senior All-American Natalie Achonwa will miss the contest thanks to an injury she suffered earlier in the tournament. Even Auriemma was sorely disappointed:
All other issues aside I was sick to my stomach when I heard about Natalie Achonwa tearing her ACL. I've been there and I feel for her.— Geno Auriemma (@genoauriemma) April 1, 2014
Beating Connecticut is a monumental enough task in its own right, but the Fighting Irish will have to find a way to do so without Achonwa’s 15 points a game and solid defense and rebounding.
Looking forward, Taya Reimer will likely be tasked with replacing the defense, while Kayla McBride, Jewell Loyd and perhaps even Michaela Mabrey will have to pick up the scoring slack.
Whether that will be enough against the mighty Huskies remains to be seen, but the Irish have plenty of talent across the board to win this game. If they do, it will cap off one of the best seasons in the history of college basketball.
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