Posted by: kevinfortruth | April 7, 2013

The 2013 Women’s college basketball season, so far… and the Final Four tonight


What a year it has been so far in women’s college basketball.

Baylor, for all intents and purposes, was predicted to have an undefeated season along with winning their first back-to-back national championships but Stanford put the first part of that prediction to rest early on and Louisville prevented the rest of it from happening. 

Shortly after Stanford’s victory over Baylor in Hawaii, Baylor beat Notre Dame in South Bend.  A few weeks later UCONN gave Stanford a drubbing in Palo Alto. To add insult to injury, the California Bears came into Stanford a little more than a week later and gave Stanford their first back-to-back home losses in over a decade.  UCONN continued on their roll until Notre Dame beat them in Storrs, CT. 

UCONN’s troubles were far from over because Baylor later visited UCONN and beat them as well.  Two home losses that early on was quite unusual for UCONN.    

At this point, all the elite teams had at least one loss with Stanford and UCONN having two losses but for UCONN, the bleeding was just beginning.

Notre Dame then went on to beat UCONN twice more, once in South Bend and the last time in Hartford for the Big East title.

With conference tournaments over, Baylor and Notre Dame had one loss each, Stanford had two losses and UCONN, surprisingly, had four losses.

UCONN was not supposed to have four losses at this point in the basketball year; after all, they heavily recruited three “All American” caliber high school players.  UCONN fans assumed these super kids were going to hit it running and never look back – hopefully all the way to New Orleans.

My head is still spinning just thinking about all these contests and their national championship implications. 

I cannot remember a year where all the elite teams were beating each other during the regular season.

Continuing on to the NCAA Tournament, Delaware went  further in the tournament than ever before – UCONN and ND beat Louisville during the regular season, yet Louisville, in the tournament, slayed the giant bear from Waco when it really counted.  Say what?  Did that really happen?

The biggest surprise, however, is that the Big East (or the soon-to-be “former” Big East) has three teams playing in the Final Four in New Orleans this weekend.

It is no surprise that a PAC-12 team is in the final four, but I doubt anyone thought it would be the California Bears – most people thought the only Bears that would be in the final four would be the Bears from Waco. Most NCAA followers also thought that the only PAC-12 team worthy of Final Four consideration was Stanford.

The clue many of us missed was when the Cal Bears beat Stanford early in the season – that game should have told us that Cal was not done yet and they proved it by defeating team after team to earn their place in the Final Four.

I am sure the bookies are scratching their heads while emptying their wallets – and my gut feeling is that the carnage is not over yet. 

Who knows, the other two number one seeds, UCONN and ND,  could fall as well.  I don’t know if that would be a first but it sure would be a recent first.

Cal and Louisville are longshots to win and Notre Dame is probably the odds-on favorite to win it all, considering they beat two of the three remaining three teams.  In addition, Notre Dame beat one of the remaining teams, UCONN, a total of three times. (gasp!)  I hate even mentioning that.  Do wonders cease to exist?

Any team is capable of putting together a streak of improbable victories, but I do not believe Louisville can continue shooting the lights out from outside – so I am picking them to not win it all.  Louisville might win their next game against the Cal Bears tonight but they will not win the whole enchilada because both Notre Dame and UCONN have their number already.

I am not sure if any team has defeated two teams with bears as mascots in one tournament – I will have to research that.

The Cal Bears are new to the Final Four, and as a result will probably freeze up against one of the remaining teams, so if they make it past Louisville, Notre Dame or UCONN will make sliced bread out of them.

Now, for the only two teams with enough depth to win it all – UCONN and Notre Dame.  I believe, for a variety of reasons, that UCONN will have ND in their rear view mirror by game end. One good team beating another equally good team three times is the same season is one thing, beating that same team a fourth time is a statistical improbability.

UCONN didn’t help themselves in one of the games by missing an unusual amount of free throws and they lost another one of the games by making an unusually high number of turnovers and erratic passing.  UCONN fell into the trap that so many other teams make – playing their opponent’s kind of game and not playing their own game that has earned them victory after victory all year long.

Notre Dame, on the other hand was running on all cylinders, which was also unusual.  There were several teams during the year that pushed Notre Dame to the limit and UCONN was a team more than capable of doing the same but for some reason they caved under pressure.

As far as the “Luck of the Irish” goes, St. Patty’s day is long gone.  Luck runs in streaks and the UCONN rookies are ready to put their three Notre Dame losses behind them by going for the gusto.

Moriah Jefferson, aka MoJe and Morgan Tuck, aka MoTuck, and Breanna Stewart, affectionately known simply as “Stewie” have all upped their games considerably since their last Notre Dame loss.

Tonight will not be like the movie, “Groundhog Day” and St. Patty will not see his shadow again for the fourth time, i.e. he has run out of luck. 

As Michael Scott once said on The Office, “Game, set, match, point – UCONN.”  (I added UCONN to the quote.)

Regarding the final game – not knowing which team will win the first game tonight, I will leave the outcome of the championship game to the prognosticators but I feel that UCONN is more than capable of being either of the two teams – and beating them decisively. 

My only “fear” is that the media will place an asterisk to the right of the winning team because Baylor, the team that was predicted to win, was “upset” early on and any team that ultimately wins the championship does not deserve the title.

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Responses

  1. Kevin,

    Good analysis as always. It was interesting to see L’ville come back in 2nd half vs Cal They started hitting their shots and forced Cal into their game.

    The win by UConn over ND was one of their biggest ever and Stewart has emerged as the player we all hoped, expected and assumed she would be. The look of joy and relief on her face during the game as she made big play after big play was priceless. She is having a lot of fun.

    Can she have another super game tonight? You’d expect her to have a let down but something tells me her confidence is so high right now she will play well. I think KML will be open for a lot of shots tonight b/c I’m not sure L’ville can cover both her and Stewart. Seems that UConn will have the size advantage despite Dolson being slowed by her injuries.

    The key to the game just like against ND will be UConn’s defensive intensity which could wear down L’ville and cause some turnovers. Another thing to look for is an opportunity for UConn to use Jefferson’s speed and tenacity to slow down the Schimmels.

    L’ville is a great team with a terrific young coach. They are really hot right now and have the “team of destiny” look about them. This should be a great game to watch.

    One other point; Regarding the asterisk issue, I think the trolls/haters and even some of the media will talk about it no matter who wins, but I’m confident that this will issue will quickly fade away.

    Captain Pine

    • Hey Capt; thanks again for visiting. your comments are always welcomed. We seem to be thinking in the same direction on a lot of issues about the tournament. Even if we take a different position on a play or two or a strategy, that is fine also because that is what blogging is all about. People watching, thinking, analyzing, discussing.

      The biggest thing about Stewie’s breakout game is that it gives Louisville at least two excellent players to focus on and they cannot double guard two different players, otherwise it leaves two UCONN players totally open.

      If the only consistent shooter was KML they could crowd her like they did Griner.

      The other big thing in UCONN’s favor is that teams seldom do ONE kind of thing exceptionally well in back to back games.

      Sure, Louisville could shoot 20 / 20 from the free throw or shoot 70 percent inside as a team, but they cannot and will not shoot 15/16 from the three again. That was an abberation, a wonderful one for them but an abberation, none the less.

      My gut tells me that Dolson will be giving key minutes again but she has learned that her feet will not move like she wants them to move and as a result, to prevent travel calls, she will have to dispose ov the ball to an open player sooner versus later. She will also have to keep the ball high when she geta a rebound because Louisville will swarm all over her like locusts and tie up the ball – and depending on the arrow, they might get possession when UCONN would normally make a play out of the rebound.

      The keys tonight, I believe, will be Tuck in the middle with Dolson and Stewie, in and out – blocking the smaller Louisville players when they drive. Hopefully, Tuck will get the assignment to guard and hawk Hammond and Faris will get Schimmel. Jefferson will probably get Slaughter – just to keep on her and a hand in her face. (not like her hand in Diggins face, that was hilarious to see).

      Hoping for a UCONN victory first and a great game otherwise.

      thanks for visiting.


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