This is where it all begins.
The world of women's college basketball will be focused on Storrs tonight at 9pm on ESPN2 as the Huskies open the 2015 NCAA Tournament on their home court against 16-seed St. Francis of Brooklyn.
St. Francis will be playing against Goliath. They are the Northeast Conference tournament champions after defeating Robert Morris 77-62. The Terriers are coming into the tournament with a 15-18 record and entered the NEC tournament as the No. 5 seed. All signs points to a typical Husky rout.
St. Francis has done a lot of damage in the state of Connecticut in postseason play. They upset No. 4 seed Sacred Heart in Fairfield in the first round of the NEC Tournament. Then they needed double overtime to knock off top-seeded Central Connecticut State in the NEC semifinals in New Britain. Canton, Connecticut native Sarah Benedetti led the Terriers with 29 points in the championship game.
UConn has not played for 12 days since winning the American Conference Tournament against South Florida at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Huskies are focused on winning their third straight national title.
"We are focused on winning so we aren't treating it as a practice; we are treating it as a game because we know that if we were to lose then our season is over," Breanna Stewart said. "We want to win but at the same time we are going to make sure that we are getting better at the things we need to get better at."
UConn is the favorite to cut down the nets in three weeks in Tampa, site of the Final Four this year. They are looking for their third straight national title and their 10th overall, all since 1995. Nate Silver's 538 website has the Huskies as a 74% favorite of winning the title and a 98% chance of advancing to their 8th straight Final Four.
UConn, like all the top 4 seeds, is hosting a sub-regional on their home court. This is a change from previous years in an attempt to get more fans to come to the games. (However, as Geno has ranted about, the 9pm tip-off is more about eyeballs on TV sets rather than fans in the seats.)
The Huskies have not lost at Gampel when hosting an NCAA Tournament game since 1993. Coach Geno Auriemma remembered the atmosphere back 1995 when his team played Virginia at Gampel Pavilion in the regional final.
"I remember in 1995 we played UVA here in regionals and one of their kids told one of our kids that playing here was like playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium for men's basketball, that this was that for women's basketball," Auriemma said. "I don't know if that's the case now but I do know that everybody that plays women's basketball around the country - especially those that are in the NCAA Tournament - when you say Gampel Pavilion, they know exactly what you are talking about. Whether it translates into anything I don't know but it is a pretty special home court."The winner of tonight's game will play the winner of Seton Hall-Rutgers on Monday at 9pm in Storrs in the second round of the Albany Regional.