After rolling over Albany in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the UConn women’s basketball team advanced to the second round where they will have a rematch of last season’s national title game against the Syracuse Orange.
The Orange were simply no match for the Breanna Stewart-led Huskies, who came away with an 83-51 victory to clinch their fourth-straight national championship.
Let's check in with Otto the Orange... pic.twitter.com/kYgC1WrO61— Dan Madigan (@dmad1433) April 6, 2016
While the stakes aren’t nearly as high as last season, the odds are still stacked against Syracuse. In the 50-game series between the teams, UConn holds a 38-12 advantage and has won 24 straight. When they met last year, it was the first time Syracuse had even made it to the Sweet 16. Geno and the Huskies have been there every year since 1994.
Time: 6:30 pm
TV: ESPN 2 | Eric Frede (Play-by-play), Dan Hughes (Color)
Radio: WTIC 1080 AM | Bob Joyce (Play-by-play), Debbie Fisk (Color)
In order to learn more about the Orange, we exchanged pleasantries with John Cassillo of NunesMagician.com, SB Nation’s Syracuse blog.
You can read our Q&A with them here.
1. This is a rematch of last year's championship game. What's different with this team compared to last? Would you say this year was a step forward or step back for the program?
The lineup's pretty similar to last year's, just sans Brianna Butler. So we're still guard-heavy, and when we win, it's because we're forcing turnovers and shooting well from three. This year's been a bit of a step back because Syracuse's three-point shooting has dipped, we're not creating as many turnovers and overall shot selection has been more about quantity than quality. At the same time, Alexis Peterson and Brittney Sykes have really stepped up as a scary 1-2 combo at the guard positions to make up for Butler's absence.
2. What was your reaction to not only being put in UConn's region but getting the 8-seed next to the Huskies?
It felt like a punishment, honestly. Obviously if you have any shot of competing for a national championship in women's basketball, you're going through UConn eventually. But for a team that went 11-5 in the ACC, notched a few quality wins and was right outside the top-30 in RPI -- it didn't make much sense to be an eight-seed (nevermind facing UConn in round two). Seems like an unfortunate (likely) end to some great careers on the SU side.
3. Can you give us some insight into the feelings that come with having to go play UConn?
Just kind of sucks. The disparity between UConn and everyone else is more overwhelming than anything you'll find in the men's game. There's just a sense of dread that even if you play your best game, it won't matter all that much. For fans last season, beating Washington in the Final Four felt like a pretty big accomplishment, because we knew what was coming next, and what that likely outcome was. There's no clear-cut way to beat your program at this point, and that's not something sports fans can really wrap their heads around.
4. Does Quentin Hillsman have any on-going feud with a US city like your men's coach? If not, do you have any cities in mind that have the potential for one?
He does not, sadly. Though Q is an outspoken guy, he's more of a motivator than a detractor like Jim Boeheim. Perhaps Storrs is one he could spark something with, though admittedly, that probably requires some more competition on our part. If the Greensboro thing stretches into next season (very well could), maybe Q just hops onto that.
5. Has Otto the Orange recovered from his championship game malaise?
Otto's taken in plenty of fluids since that day and appears completely re-hydrated. Most importantly, he has arms again. You usually need those.
6. How do you feel about the direction of the program? Obviously getting to the national championship last year is huge, but do you believe Quentin can get the program to elite status where they compete with the likes of UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Baylor and Stanford both on and off the court?
I think we're trending upward. How things go after this senior class leaves will be key to this program going forward. We had limited success before they arrived, and a lot in their four years. If we can continue winning and competing in the ACC without them, that's a very good sign. Fan support needs to improve if they're going to jump up from women's basketball's middle class. Can't constantly have crowds under 1,000 and expect to keep attracting top talent.
7. If you slept through the game and woke up to find Syracuse won, what do you think happened for the upset?
They had to have shot the lights out from three and managed to get UConn's forwards into some foul trouble. That's the only way this gets done. Syracuse isn't going to out-muscle Napheesa Collier or Gabby Williams on the inside. And Katie Lou Samuelson's too efficient of a shooter from outside to think that volume scoring is going to work to keep up with the Huskies. The Orange women really have to play a perfect game (or close to it) if they have a chance here.
8. What do you actually expect to happen?
Perhaps Syracuse starts hot from the floor (they did vs. Iowa State) and makes this one interesting for a half. But threes can't fall forever, and once SU starts missing, that should give UConn everything it needs to generate transition buckets (deadly for anyone, obviously, but especially a team going against the Huskies). The season ends on a sour note for the Orange, with UConn winning 95-78.