Teams: No. 8 Syracuse Orange (22-10, 11-5) vs. No. 1 UConn Huskies (33-0, 16-0)
Day & Time: Monday, March 20, 6:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn.
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, Sirius 93/XM 193
UConn Blog: The UConn Blog (obviously)
Rivalry: 38-12, Connecitcut
Current Streak: 24, Huskies
First Meeting: Syracuse actually won the first seven games in this series, which should make that 38-12 disadvantage even more jarring. Game one was a 73-68 victory for the Orange women at home in the old Big East days (1980).
Last Meeting: The Orange lost to UConn, 82-51 in last spring’s national title game. Connecticut led pretty much the whole way, but Syracuse battled back at various points, pushing UConn through the third until SU was officially buried in the fourth. As you probably assumed, the Orange women lived and died by the three ball. A breakthrough third quarter was the only period where things were really falling for them beyond the arc.
Head Coaches: SU: Quentin Hillsman (11th Year, 241-126); Connecticut: Geno Auriemma (32nd Year, 988-134)
Head Coach Bio: Auriemma moved from Italy to the U.S. when he was seven, and he’s been here ever since. He was an assistant with the St. Joseph’s women’s team, Bishop Kendrick High School (Penn.) and Virginia, before taking over the UConn women’s basketball job in 1985.
After three seasons of middling basketball, UConn won 24 games in 1988-89, the first of 29 straight seasons (and counting) of NCAA Tournament berths. Auriemma’s team made their first Final Four in 1991, and won their first championship in 1995. He’s won 11 national titles, 22 conference tournament championships and three Olympic gold medals.
Among his many accolades, perhaps the most impressive is the current 108-game winning streak for the UConn women’s team. The Huskies have only lost one game since the start of the 2013-14 season.
Last Year: UConn went 38-0 and beat Syracuse in the national title game (we discussed above). It was their fourth straight championship.
Last Game: The Huskies ran through Albany, 116-55 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They were up a ton after one quarter and everything just rolled downhill from there.
"Fear Me, I've Killed Hundreds of Timelords": Pick your poison with this team. Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier both score more than 20 points per game, and either could potentially beat the Orange on their own. Samuelson’s one of the country’s top three-point shooters, and Collier averages 20 points and nearly nine boards per game. Either getting hot from the field could end any slim chance Syracuse has to begin with.
If Syracuse Wins: It automatically ranks among the most stunning upsets in NCAA Tournament (men’s or women’s) history. The Orange march on to the Sweet 16 with a pretty realistic shot to get back to the Final Four, and who knows after that.
If Syracuse Loses: It’s not a surprising result, and honestly, there’s nothing shameful about it at all. Sure, we’d prefer to win, but a loss would not mean this season was a failure. More than anything, it would be a bummer for these seniors, who accomplished a whole hell of a lot in their careers and were unfortunately set to face UConn in round two here.
Fun Fact No. 1: Syracuse has beaten a No. 1-ranked UConn women’s team before. On January 2, 1996, the Huskies showed up at Manley Field House to face a 5-4 Orangewomen squad, and expected to win yet another game going away. They left with a 62-59 defeat -- one of the sport’s largest upsets to that point. That was also the last time SU beat Connecticut.
Fun Fact No. 2: UConn hasn’t lost before the Sweet 16 since 1993. That’s not fun. Just proof (I guess?) that it has happened before.