ALBANY -- UConn women’s basketball is rarely associated with the term “underdog.” After all, fans and followers of the game not only expect them to win, but to win by a lot.
But now, UConn is the two-seed in the Albany Regional, preparing to face top-seeded Louisville in the Elite Eight. And they’re more than happy to embrace the underdog role.
“Yes, we consider ourselves the underdogs because we’re the number two seed,” Christyn WIlliams said. “We’ve been the underdogs all year, people have underestimated us all year. We’re definitely the underdogs.”
But can UConn really be the underdog? Vegas says no, with SportsBet.com putting the Huskies as 2.5-point favorites. Not only that but ESPN picked Louisville as the first one-seed to lose in the tournament. Cardinals head coach Jeff Walz has noticed.
“We know going into it, we’re going to be the underdog, and that’s fine,” Walz said. “I know we’re the 1 seed, but everybody has got — we’re going to be the first 1 seed to lose. The big talk about why in the world was Louisville a 1 seed and UConn not. So we’re okay with that. We know you’ve got to show up and play tomorrow at noon. I expect a great, great basketball game.”
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma took offense to the notion that a one-seed coming off back-to-back Final Fours think they’re being overlooked and wasn’t afraid to send a jab back at his counterpart.
“I think Jeff is a little too old to be crying that they’re the underdog, you know,” Auriemma fired back. “We’re on a losing streak with them, you know. I mean, if that’s what they need or if that’s what he needs to get his team to that point, then I’m okay with that. I think it’s pretty funny. But I guess you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get your team ready to go.
“But I think we’re sitting on the wrong bench tomorrow, though, if we’re the favorite. They need to change the benches. And I think we’re wearing the wrong uniforms.”
So Louisville is the higher seed. UConn is the Vegas favorite. And both teams are the underdogs, at least according to themselves. And while it’s fun to trade lines, the Huskies know people are doubting them now more than ever after two uncharacteristically close calls in the Round of 32 and Sweet 16.
“We want to play with emotion, not emotional. [Playing] angry and getting revenge is not what we’re after. We have to win a basketball game to advance in the tournament,” Crystal Dangerfield said.
Even if UConn got the one seed and the Cardinals the two, it’s unlikely the situation would be any different. The two teams would still most likely be set to square off on Sunday afternoon with a trip to the Final Four on the line. And both teams know that once the ball goes up, all the talk becomes meaningless and it just comes down to whichever team plays a better 40 minutes of basketball.