The top-seeded UConn Huskies will be playing 2-seed Texas tonight at Webster Bank Arena in the Bridgeport Regional Final. The winner goes on to Indianapolis to face the winner of Baylor and Oregon State.
UConn and Texas met last year in the Sweet 16, a 105-54 UConn win. Players on this year's team scored 91 of the Huskies' 105 points in that game.
Despite all the upsets across the women's basketball bracket this year, the Bridgeport region has gone mostly chalk. Texas is hoping it can add to the madness with an upset over the heavily-favored Goliath.
The Huskies have, once again, launched a national conversation about their dominance after destroying a very solid Mississippi State team in the Sweet 16. People who don't watch or care about women's basketball complain that UConn's excellence is detrimental to the game.
The timing is a bit weird, as the Huskies have been cruising through a very competitive schedule which included all of last year's Final Four teams as well as a slew of other highly-ranked teams- the season started with a home date at No. 5 Ohio State which UConn won by 46 points.
Very intelligent folks around the sports world, such as SNY's Kerith Burke, ESPN's Jemele Hill and Jay Bilas, among others, have spoken out against the ridonculous "bad for the game" hysteria. Breanna Stewart and Geno Auriemma have responded as well.
The short version is that UConn women's basketball is really good for the game. The sport's popularity is rising. Geno and the Huskies may have a recruiting advantage, but they earned it, and there are still plenty of good players to go around. There may not be parity at the very top, but below No. 1 there absolutely is. As recently as five years ago UConn was sharing the top tier with the likes of Baylor, Duke, Stanford, and Notre Dame. UConn's recent dominance is a wake-up call to other teams to step their freaking game up.
This team and its players are inspiring generations of young girls across the country to pick up the sport- or any sport for that matter. Geno has an open door policy for high school coaches, who are welcome to check out a practice and learn about what goes into greatness.
What exactly about any of this is bad for women's basketball? That a bunch of people who never watch anyway don't want to?
Average sports fans don't have to enjoy UConn's dominance. But they damn well better respect it.
Nobody complained about the Yankees' dominance in the 1920s and 30s. I'm pretty sure nobody thought UCLA was bad for men's college basketball in the 60s and 70s.
It really is a shame that this is the conversation on the forefront as this team makes an unprecedented run through NCAA competition. It feels almost lost among all this commotion how insanely good this team is.
The only apt comparison for Breanna Stewart as a player is Kevin Durant. She is paired with one of the most exciting basketball players I have ever seen, male or female, in Moriah Jefferson. On top of that, the Huskies have the remarkably reliable Morgan Tuck holding it down in the low post. Despite being superstars, those three give 110% every time they step on the court.
Let's not forget the supporting cast either. Kia Nurse and Katie Lou Samuelson are incredible players who will ensure that the future of the program remains bright. Gabby Williams, Saniya Chong, and Napheesa Collier have all had their moments as well. This team is much more than its superstars. We might be discussing that a bit more if we didn't have to constantly defend the competitive balance of the sport because one team is doing so well.
Texas must be enjoying this discussion, hoping that it provides a distraction or maybe has the collective spirit of the country behind the underdog Longhorns. But I doubt Geno will let his team be swayed by the questions and remarks of the ignorant. If they can keep their focus up through the AAC slate and early rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Huskies should be motivated given everything that is on the line tonight.
The Longhorns enter the game after a 72-64 win over 3-seed UCLA in their regional semifinal. After ending the regular season ranked 7th in the country in the AP and Coaches Poll, they made easy work of their first two opponents before their tilt with the Bruins. Sophomore guard Brooke McCarty (11.7 ppg) and senior center Imani Boyette (11.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg) are their leading producers. Standing 6-foot-7, Boyette may present a challenge for the Huskies down low.
The game will be televised on ESPN, with Doris Burke and Dave O'Brien on the call with Holly Rowe on the sidelines. A win would put UConn in its ninth consecutive Final Four, 17th overall.