Perfect approach for UConn, ND


After winning the ACC tournament, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw dodged discussion of her Irish and Connecticut potentially meeting in the women's Final Four again.

McGraw drolly noted that she didn't think the selection committee would have Notre Dame and UConn meeting in the first round; thus, she wasn't going to focus on the Huskies.

Of course, the two undefeated teams in this year's NCAA women's tournament are in opposite halves of the bracket, with the potential for an epic national championship game April 8 in Nashville, Tenn.

There have been seven undefeated champions in women's basketball in the NCAA era, which began in the 1981-82 season. Four of them were UConn teams: 1995, 2002, 2009 and 2010. The others were Texas (1986), Tennessee (1998) and Baylor (2012).

Interestingly enough, though, the only other time there were two unbeaten teams entering NCAA women's tournament play, they actually did meet in the opening round.

Retroactively, the NCAA should apologize to the 1998 Liberty squad, a 28-0 team that deserved better than being first-round fodder for 33-0 Tennessee in Knoxville. It seemed "cute" at the time to match up an undefeated David and an undefeated Goliath.

But with UConn at 34-0 and Notre Dame at 32-0, we have two Goliaths ... although one with considerably more national championships than the other. The Huskies, who've been ranked No. 1 all this season, won their eighth NCAA crown last year in New Orleans, tying them with Tennessee for the most all time. This despite UConn being 1-3 last season against Notre Dame. The Huskies won the 2013 meeting between the two that mattered most: the national semifinal. UConn has been to the women's Final Four 14 times and is 8-0 in championship-game appearances.

"It does put pressure on you -- but I think a good kind of pressure," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said of how his teams each season deal with the program's prodigious history. "[The past players] all follow it, and connect with the players today, who know what's been done before them."

Notre Dame has one NCAA title -- 2001 -- in five trips to the Final Four. Those include the past three seasons, in which the Irish have done just about everything except win the NCAA title.

In 2011, they became the first program to beat both Tennessee and UConn in the same NCAA tournament, then fell to Texas A&M in the championship game. In 2012, Notre Dame beat UConn for a second year in a row in the national semifinals but lost the title game to Baylor. Last year, the Irish defeated the Huskies twice in the regular season and again in the Big East tournament final. Then everything clicked for UConn super freshman Breanna Stewart -- a 6-foot-4 study in versatility -- in the NCAA tournament, and she and the Huskies defeated the Irish at the Final Four.

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