Top offense meets best defense


Advantage: Notre Dame. Both coaches are brilliant. The players are big-game tested and know how to win. That much is a wash. Where UConn typically has a huge advantage is the aura it carries on the court, especially in these types of games. A crisis of confidence is common in teams playing UConn.

The one team that doesn't work against is Notre Dame. Perhaps the greatest intangible legacy Skylar Diggins left in South Bend was instilling the confidence in the entire program that Notre Dame could beat Connecticut. She was part of seven wins over the Huskies in her final three seasons. The key players on this Irish team were part of at least some of those wins. McBride admitted during her news conference on Monday that these two teams don't necessarily like each other, but her team has a swagger when it plays Connecticut. No one else can say that and really mean it. UConn might still win, but it won't be because the Irish didn't think they could.

X factors

1. Breanna Stewart: The modest offensive struggles for UConn lately can be traced right to Stewart's personal slump. In Connecticut's past three games, Stewart has shot just 13-of-34 from the field. The 2013 Final Four was Stewart's breakout into stardom. UConn could use that version of Stewart -- and the one who was a 50 percent shooter during the regular season.

2. Jewell Loyd: The sophomore is the one significant athletic advantage the Irish have in this matchup. Until McBride's terrific game in the national semifinals, Loyd had been Notre Dame's best player in the NCAA tournament. Taking a bit of a backseat to McBride on Sunday, Loyd took just 11 shots. She will have to be more assertive against Hartley, Jefferson and maybe even Stewart.

3. Notre Dame's bigs: The Irish got what they needed out of Reimer and Wright in place of Achonwa against Maryland. Facing Dolson and Stewart is a different challenge. Notre Dame shockingly demolished the Terrapins on the glass with a 50-21 rebounding margin. That won't happen again Tuesday. Achonwa will be severely missed against the Huskies.

Who wins?

Connecticut. Notre Dame is more talented and executes better than every team it plays -- except Connecticut. Achonwa's absence will show up much more Tuesday than it did against Maryland. UConn isn't just bigger than Notre Dame, it is significantly more versatile and experienced along the front line. That will be the difference. UConn's dominance has been more methodical than spectacular this season, and the Huskies will, ultimately, wear down Notre Dame, too.

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