We've never seen anything like this before—not in the women's game, not in the men's game, not in any of the other major North American sports: Two undefeated teams battling to be called champions of their sport.
On Tuesday night, Connecticut and Notre Dame will meet at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, and no matter what, one squad will leave with a perfect season. As if that's not enough to compel you, the former Big East chums are unequivocally the titans of women's college basketball, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
This is 4th straight season where UConn and Notre Dame will meet in the Final Four (Notre Dame won 2 of 3) #pursuitofperfection— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 8, 2014
The Huskies have been a mainstay as champs for the last 15 years, the Irish have been knocking on the door with two title trips in the previous three seasons and these are still two of the powerhouses' best teams ever assembled.
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma put it simply to the Associated Press' Doug Feinberg, via ABCNews.com:
The fact that it's Notre Dame and Connecticut, I think the women's basketball fan obviously has an interest in (Tuesday) night's game. The almost-women's basketball fan will have an interest in the game; those that have not had any interest may tune in to see what's going on.
Let's take a look at what you need to know for what is one of the most anticipated meetings in the history of the women's game.
Date: Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
UConn Player to Watch: Breanna Stewart
Really, it would be safe to put Connecticut's entire frontcourt here.
Stewart, Stefanie Dolson and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis make up the best trio of forwards in the nation, and it's not even close. Any one of them has the ability to take over at any given moment, but Stewart, the AP and Naismith Player of the Year, is the most important.
Which UConn big will have the best game?
Consider the team's offensive performances so far in the NCAA tournament.
Against Prairie View A&M (1.159 points per possession), St. Joseph's (1.475) and Stanford (1.165), the Huskies were better offensively than their season average (1.153, which is first in the country, per wbbstate.com). In those games, Stewart led the team in scoring each time, averaging 19.3 points on 48.8 percent shooting.
But against BYU (1.046) and Texas A&M (1.090), the team's worst offensive performances of the tourney, Stewart averaged just 14.5 points on 37.5 percents shooting.
It's not a coincidence, either.
Stewart averages 19.5 points on 49.9 percent shooting for the season. As one of the most difficult individual matchups in the country going up against a frontcourt that is without Natalie Achonwa, she should easily reach those numbers against the Irish.
Notre Dame Player to Watch: Kayla McBride
With Connecticut's advantage in the frontcourt, Notre Dame's guards are going to have to get it done.
That's a difficult proposition against Bria Hartley and Co., but having Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd makes thing significantly easier.
McBride struggled a bit during the earlier rounds of the Big Dance, but she exploded against Maryland in the Final Four with a transcendent first half, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
She ended up with 28 on 12-of-21 shooting in the 87-61 victory.
If the dynamic scorer, who is capable of pouring in points from all three levels of the floor, continues to play like that against UConn, she is going to give the Huskies a lot of problems.
Geno has been here eight times before, and eight times walked away as a champion, per ESPN.com. Muffet McGraw is undoubtedly a star in her own right, but Auriemma is a maestro when it comes to these situations.
Who finishes the season undefeated?
Expect him to make the fullest of the Huskies' major advantage on the inside with Achonwa sidelined and for UConn to complete another men's-women's sweep.
Prediction: UConn 72, Notre Dame 66