The Syracuse Orange and Connecticut Huskies go at it for the NCAA Women's Basketball National Championship. Before they do, we asked Aman Kidwai over at The UConn Blog some questions so we can understand the monster that is UConn a little more before we meet.
Where does this season rank in the annals of UConn women's basketball so far?
It's always hard to compare teams, and with five other undefeated seasons along with other great years with *gasp* losses that still had amazing players and ended with titles it is especially hard
. For example, beating Notre Dame in the 2013 Final Four after losing to them twice in the regular season and once in the Big East Tournament was pretty special, but there are too many contenders for a season like that to even make the top five probably.
Given the history being made by the potential for a fourth straight and the greatness of upperclassmen besides just Breanna Stewart, I'd probably put this season second behind the 1995 season which gave UConn its first title and got this whole thing started.
I would also be the first to admit that I lack perspective here having not followed so closely during the late-90s and early-2000s. The Sue Bird/Diana Taurasi team in 2002 was amazing. The 2009-2010 teams went back-to-back seasons undefeated with titles, so that's pretty great. What helps make this year's team stand out is the greatness beyond one or two standout stars- the Huskies might have the top three players picked in the upcoming WNBA Draft and has Team Canada's best player, Kia Nurse, as a role player at the moment.
Obviously we know Breanna Stewart but who are the other stars on this squad that SU will have to concern themselves with?
I've been saying that Moriah Jefferson is one of the most exciting basketball players I have ever seen, male or female. She's also severely underrated, as much as the clear-cut second best player in the country can be, due to the shadow of Stewart. Jefferson is an absolute whirlwind on the court and an intense defender. She can also drive and create or score seemingly at will.
Some games Jefferson is content to facilitate and play lockdown defense but with a key injury to a starter I think she'll be pretty assertive as a scorer in what will be her final college game.
Morgan Tuck would be the other one to watch out for. She's the third-best player on this team, but also probably in the country with how good she has been shooting lately. She's extremely proficient in the low post and also has good passing skills to boot.
You are lucky to not be facing Katie Lou Samuelson, who broke a bone in her foot in the Final Four game against Oregon State. You are unlucky that UConn has some really talented players behind her who will be ready to step up.
Do you think there's bad blood between the programs over Syracuse's apparent snub for Breanna Stewart's homecoming game?
I don't think so. UConn was obviously trying to do a solid for its best player by giving her a chance to play in the arena she grew up going to all the time, but sometimes things just don't work out. Stewart seemed a little miffed by it, but I don't think Geno harbors any resentment towards Hillman or anything like that.
What has to happen for Syracuse to pull off this monumental upset?
They'd have to shoot like 90% from three-point range and get Stewart and Tuck into foul trouble. UConn was primarily using a seven-woman rotation before Samuelson went down with an injury, so if you can test their depth it could pay off.
How do you think it all goes down?
I don't think there will be any surprises tomorrow. The Huskies should win big. Barring a series of Orange miracles, they will.