2013 NCAA DI WOMEN'S BASKEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
LOUISVILLE CARDINALS   CONNECTICUT HUSKIES

Because they aren’t supposed to. Plain and simple. That’s the biggest reason that the fifth-seeded Cardinals will win the national championship game on Tuesday night against Connecticut. Louisville has plowed through the top-overall seed in the NCAA tournament, Baylor, and has slipped by two No. 2 seeds (Cal and Tennessee) to reach the title game. They’ve arguably had the toughest road to get to this point and seems they’ve got what it takes to get one step further.

“No one thought we could beat Baylor. No one thought we’d come back a day after that and beat a Tennessee team,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “And I know people picked us to beat Cal, but I think it’s because they just had to because we beat Baylor and Tennessee, so it’s like, gosh, if we don’t pick them and they win, we look bad.

“I’m not sure everybody really believed that we’d win that game [Sunday] night, and I got a pretty good feeling they aren’t picking us [against UConn].”

It won’t be a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination, but Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma is correct when he sees a Louisville team that has a one-track mindset right now.

“We got a problem Tuesday night I think because I think Louisville -- Louisville really thinks they’re the best team in the country right now,” Auriemma said. “After the way they’ve played and what they’ve done, and these last couple weeks, they probably think there’s nobody that can beat them.”

Whether the Huskies have already beaten Louisville this season or not, they still can’t overlook the Cardinals’ defensive canniness that has thrown off three of the top teams in the nation leading up to this matchup.

“When other’s teams say they aren’t worried about our defense, when it comes to game time, they have to worry about it because they don’t know what we’re running,” forward Sara Hammond said.

There’s no doubt about it. There are two really good teams taking the floor on Tuesday, both that certainly want it badly and both that are playing outstanding basketball right now. The game will boil down to one thing, and that is execution.

“[Auriemma] knows what our players can do,” Walz said. “We know what their players can do. So now it’s going to come down to just flat-out execution. … It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s one we’re excited to have. I’d rather be playing [Tuesday] night than not.”

-- Summer McKesson, NCAA.com

 

Connecticut will walk away with its eighth NCAA title in program history on Tuesday night because from top to bottom, the Huskies will be the best team on the floor.

The Huskies are the most productive offensive team in the nation, but they will beat Louisville with defense.  The Huskies’ confidence is flying high after finally beating their nemesis, Notre Dame, on Sunday night. Connecticut held Notre Dame stars Skylar Diggins and Kayla McBride a combined 8-for-35 from the floor as the Irish posted its’ lowest field-goal percentage of the season at 29.7.

Louisville may be hot right now, especially from 3-point range (almost 42 percent from beyond the arc in the tournament), but don’t believe for a minute UConn won’t cool that off with its relentless pressure defense. Opponents are hitting less than 30 percent of their 3s in the postseason. In the past five games, UConn has held foes to 49.8 ppg and a 30.8 field-goal percentage, while causing 20 turnovers per content. The Huskies field-goal percentage defense (31.5) is the best in the nation.

“That's something that this program prides itself on,” guard Kelly Faris said.  “We take a lot of our momentum from our defense.”

The Huskies rank fourth in the nation with a 10.9 rebounding margin, although only one player -- Stefanie Dolson -- is averaging for the seven rebounds per game (7.1).  Several different UConn players can block shots, and the Huskies rank third nationally with 6.2 per game.  Plus, they are averaging 10.7 steals per game.

When you examine the Huskies’ offense, there are no other conclusions to draw than it is the best in the nation. UConn is tops with an 82.2 scoring average, and ranks second with a 49.5 field-goal percentage.

One look down its long bench shows you why Connecticut’s offense is the best in the land. With four players averaging double figures, seven different players have led the Huskies in scoring in a least one game.

When Connecticut and Louisville met in January, the Huskies downed the Cardinals 72-58 without freshman Breanna Stewart, who was out with an ankle injury. Now, the Huskies are full-strength and Stewart is sizzling in the postseason, averaging 20.3 ppg in the tournament.

Connecticut is the better team, and on Tuesday night the Huskies will show Louisville -- and the nation -- why.

-- Amy Farnum, NCAA.com