Clodagh Scannell, Boston University: “It’s a new year, with a new staff, new team, and new philosophy. When the going gets tough… the tough gets going!”
Back for more punishment, all so that we can all have even more fun and rows, writes Kieran Shannon.
Orla O’Reilly joins Paul Dick as one of our featured bloggers. She is currently playing basketball overseas as Pro in Spain.
The women’s college basketball championship won’t include either of the game’s best players. It also won’t include the top-ranked teams. The Louisville Cardinals eliminated Brittney Griner’s top-ranked Baylor squad in the Sweet 16, while Connecticut Huskies knocked out Skylar Diggins’ second-ranked Notre Dame team in the Final Four.
That leaves an all-Big-East final and rematch of the 2009 national championship game. Notre Dame alone beat these two teams a total of five times during the regular season and Big East Tournament. It doesn’t matter, though, because the Huskies got the Irish when it mattered. The Cardinals join the men from their school, who won their own final last night against Michigan. It is the first time a school has played in both the men’s and women’s national championship since Connecticut did it in 2004. Both the women and men won that year, so we’ll see if Louisville can follow suit. A #5 seed, Louisville is the highest seed to ever reach the women’s national championship.
How They Match Up
Connecticut’s hottest player right now is freshman forward Breanna Stewart. All she did against Notre Dame was score 29 points and block four shots. She’s supported quite nicely by a whole host of characters, starting with sophomore guard Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who averages more than 17 points a game and shoots almost 50% from three-point range. Stewart and Mosqueda-Lewis will have to contend with Louisville’s junior guards Shoni Schimmel (14.3 ppg) and Antonia Slaughter (10.2 ppg, 36% from three), and sophomore forward Sara Hammond (10.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg). The two teams did play each other one time in the regular season, with Connecticut winning, 72-58.
If you know women’s basketball, you know Connecticut’s Gene Auriemma. He’s the seventh (it surprises me that it’s even that low) winningest coach in women’s college basketball. His teams have won seven national titles. Jeff Walz, on the other hand, has certainly upstarted Louisville’s program and has a bright future ahead of him, maybe even a dominant one. But whether or not he is ready to win the big one or not remains to be seen.
Both teams have made incredible runs in the tournament, but I trust Connecticut’s longevity as a women’s basketball power. The kind of success they’ve had is not an accident. The Huskies’ four losses this year came against Notre Dame and Baylor, and now that they’ve climbed that latter, I’d be surprised to see a let-down against the Cardinals. While Louisville certainly shouldn’t be overlooked, you have to wonder how many more emotional wins they could possibly have in them.
Prediction: Connecticut 76, Louisville 68