The UConn women’s basketball team is back in the Final Four for a 10th-straight season and the 17th time overall. But unlike years past, the Huskies aren’t facing one of the typical contenders like Notre Dame or Baylor. Instead, they drew the Mississippi State Bulldogs who are making their first trip to the Final Four.
With just one previous meeting between the teams, we brought in some help to learn more about UConn’s opponent. I talked to Ethan Lee of For Whom the Cow Bell Tolls, SB Nation’s Mississippi State blog.
You can check out our Q&A with them here.
1. Last year in the Sweet Sixteen, UConn beat Mississippi State by 60. How is this team different and what has changed that will give them a chance to compete with UConn
Oh gosh. I hate thinking about last year's game. It was dismal and still haunts me. If we're being perfectly honest, not much has changed for the Bulldogs from last year to this year. There's been a few changes here and there, such as the addition of Roshunda Johnson, but the roster is very similar from a year ago.
However, I think that's what has made this team so much better than they were a year ago. They were relatively young last season, but they still had one hell of a season (up until that last game, that is). This season, Vic Schaefer has been able to rotate and play pretty much everyone on the roster due to the level of experience that this team has. That depth, along with the stature of players like Chinwe Okorie and Tearia McCowan, is what gives me hope for this game.
2. What were the expectations going into this season?
Expectations were pretty high coming into this year, I think most fans knew that this team would be able to compete for the SEC and make a run to the Elite Eight, or even the Final Four if MSU could avoid UConn. And so far, that's exactly what the Bulldogs have done.
3. Is there a better nickname in women's college basketball than Vic Shaefer's "Secretary of Defense"? What makes his defense so good?
Schaefer's nickname is one of the best among college coaches, if I'm being perfectly honest. It's unique and true and, well, it's incredibly accurate. As for what makes the defense so successful, I think it goes back to the depth that this team has. When you're able to rotate the lineup and create great matchups no matter who the opponent has on the floor, then you'll be able to compete with and grind out wins against just about anyone. Plus, it never hurts to have a player like Dominique Dillingham, who has more or less defined her career based on her defense.
4. How are Miss. St fans feeling about this matchup? Do they think the Bulldogs can pull the upset?
Well, this is an interesting question, mostly because the fanbase is pretty split. We did a roundtable discussion on our site a few days ago and, well, the folks on our staff are pretty much dreading the matchup. And then we posted it on our facebook page. And then folks brought their torches and pitchforks out and tried to run us out of town.
There's a group of MSU fans that refuse to acknowledge the possibility that this team can lose. Anyone that gives an honest opinion isn't a true fan in their minds. Ultimately, yes, there's many fans that believe that "David will beat Goliath again," but many of us are very concerned that this will be the end of our season.
5. If you missed the game and only saw Miss. St won, what would you think happened?
That Victoria Vivians channeled Kobe Bryant and torched UConn for 81 points. Either that, or Vic Schaefer uses the size advantage of Teaira McCowan and Chinwe Okorie to bully UConn down low. Control the boards, force 15-20 turnovers, and have 3-4 players score 20+ points. MSU will have to play a near perfect game to really have a chance to win.
6. What's your prediction for the game?
I'd love to see MSU win. And while this UConn team has seemed relatively vulnerable, I just can't imagine a team that has won over 150 games in the past four seasons losing tomorrow. I've got UConn winning 87-70, unfortunately.
Time: 9:30 pm EST
TV: ESPN 2
Radio: WTIC 1080 AM