Earlier this season, the mighty, three-time defending national champion Connecticut Huskies women's basketball team traveled to sleepy Hamilton, NY to play a road game against the Colgate Raiders. It was an uncharacteristic move for the sport's top team to purposefully play in a gym that maxed out at 1,750 people. The point behind the trip is why it made sense. The team's star, Breanna Stewart, grew up in Syracuse and the game was a kind-of homecoming for her in her final season.
Now this is when you ask, "Well, why did UConn play Syracuse in the Dome? That would have made a lot more sense."
And this is when we say, "Well, it's kinda complicated."
See, UConn tried to do just that. They asked Syracuse if they would like to host the Huskies for a non-conference tilt and SU said no. The reasons seem to differ, depending on who you ask. Quentin Hillsman said the game didn't fit the schedule, which had already been finalized. Coach Q said Syracuse schedules two years out and the request came in too late, a claim others have called into question. Some also questioned whether SU ducked the game altogether because they didn't want to get beat at home in front of a crowd rooting for the other team.
We were certainly split when it happened. On one hand it could have brought a spotlight and revenue to a basketball program that needed both. On the other hand, it almost certainly would have been a scheduled loss.
While everyone's (mostly) said the right things, that it ultimately doesn't matter and that all parties have moved on, there may still be some lingering resentment on the part of Stewart that she didn't get a "homecoming game."
"I think so," Tuck said. "I know Stewie wanted to play at Syracuse. That’s the hometown team she grew up watching. It did kind of suck that she wasn’t able to do that, and I think she’s going to take that as motivation (Tuesday night).""I did assume," [Stewart] said. "I did assume that I was going to get that. It would have been really nice to play at home, in the Dome, it’s five minutes away from my house. But when it didn’t happen, there’s not a lot you can do about that. It sucked. It sucked that I couldn’t go, but Colgate was a great second option."
Regular Breanna Stewart is scary enough. Motivated Breanna Stewart sounds downright frightening.
Regardless, the Orange have a mountain to climb on Tuesday. If UConn wins by 30 points, no one will bat an eye. Coach Q certainly isn't thinking about losing with dingnity, however. He wants to win and do the players. I couldn't tell you how they plan to make that happen but they don't really have a choice now.
There's nowhere to run or hide. Syracuse has to play UConn now. Make the most of it.