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.