TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — UConn’s Geno Auriemma could win his 10th championship and tie the record by former UCLA men’s coach Jon Wooden with a win Tuesday night over Notre Dame.
That’s only one of the stories that could unfold in the women’s basketball national championship game. Here are a few others:
MS. OUTSTANDING: Breanna Stewart is already one of five players to earn most outstanding player of the Final Four honors twice in her career. UConn’s star junior would join UCLA men’s great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar if she wins another. He’s the only player in college basketball history to earn the award three times. “She’s as good as anyone I’ve ever coached when the big moments come,” Auriemma said.
IRISH EYES ARE SMILING: While UConn is looking for its 10th championship, Notre Dame is trying for its second. The Irish won their lone title in 2001. They’ve been to the championship game in four of the past five seasons now, but fell short each time.
NINE FOR NINE: Auriemma has a perfect record with the title on the line, winning all nine of UConn’s trips to the national championship. “This isn’t something that’s going to last forever,” he said. “Not going to win every single championship game that we’re in. If we’re in some more, but up to this point, it’s something that’s really hard to explain. And I’m just incredibly grateful.”
THREE-PEAT: With a victory by UConn, it would be the third time in NCAA history that a team won three straight titles. Tennessee did it from 1996-98 and the Huskies from 2002-04. “I know when we’re in the moment we try not to think about that, just because you just want to focus on the moment,” UConn redshirt sophomore Morgan Tuck said. “But when you do sit back and think about it you want to be part of history and you want your mark on the UConn program. And I think being a part of a group that’s potentially going to win three in a row that’s just something really special.”
STELLAR FRESHMAN: Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner had a shoulder injury and missed the game between the schools in early December, a contest UConn won by 18 points. She’s made a major impact for the Irish since returning. “She’s our leading rebounder and one of our top three scorers,” coach Muffet McGraw said. “So I think she makes a difference in our team at the defensive end, with her rebounding, her presence of shot blocking and the way she can run the floor. I think that we are a much better team with her on the floor.”
MIRROR, MIRROR: Auriemma believes the Irish have won so many games against the Huskies over the past few seasons because the programs are so similar. Since the start of the 2010-11 season, nine of the 14 games have been decided by single digits, including three that have gone to overtime. Notre Dame has won seven of the last 11 meetings for these old Big East foes. “They’re a lot like us. And I think that’s why they have had success against us. They have a lot of the same qualities that we have as a team and as a program,” he said. “So we give them problems like other teams in the country don’t and they give us problems like other teams in the country don’t.”
CROWN JEWELL: Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd has been the Irish’s star all season long. She’s already one of the top scorers in school history and one of the best players in the country. “I watch her play and I think there’s something about her that’s different than any other woman playing college basketball,” Auriemma said. “It’s just something, she has just something. Not very many players playing men’s or women’s basketball have that. … She knows what she can do, when she touches the ball she knows she can do anything with it. And she does it in a way that’s very classy. I just admire everything about her.”
Freelance writer Rich Elliott contributed to this story
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