Monday, April 6, 2009

Show Me My Opponent - Connecticut Huskies

Event: 2009 Women’s NCAA Basketball National Championship

Date: Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Time: 8:30 p.m. EST
Site: The Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri
Radio: 840 WHAS in Louisville, also available on Sirius Radio

Series History: U of L trails 1-7 all-time, its only win coming back in 1993 (0-2 at home, 1-4 at UConn, 0-1 neutral)

Last Meeting: UConn 75, Louisville 36; March 10 in Hartford, Connecticut
Spread: Louisville plus 16.5

National Rankings: Louisville ended the season ranked 7th in the AP poll, while UConn has remained the No. 1 team in the country in all polls since Week 1

University of Connecticut Huskies
Location - Storrs, CT

Arena- Gampel Pavilion

Head Coach – Geno Auriemma (695-122 and 5 National Championships in 24 seasons at UConn; 6 time Coach of the Year)
Assistants – Chris Daly, Jamelle Elliot, Shea Ralph

Record – 38-0, 16-0

Famous alumni
Moby (musician)
Paige Turco (actress, best known for her role as April O’Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Meg Ryan (actress)
Leigh Montville (legendary sports writer)
Kirk Ferentz (Iowa football coach)

Women basketball alumni
Ashley Battle (Liberty)
Sue Bird (1st overall pick in the 2002 WNBA draft, Storm)
Asjha Jones (Sun)
Rebecca Lobo (former WNBA player and current analyst for ESPN)
Jessica Moore (Sparks)
Shea Ralph (Starzz)
Nykesha Sales (former WNBA player)
Ann Strother (Dream)
Ketia Swainer (Sun)
Dianna Taurasi (Mercury)
Tamika Williams (Sun)

Probable Starters
#23 Maya Moore F
#31 Tina Charles C
# 3 Tiffany Hayes G
#30 Renee Montgomery G
#32 Kalana Green G

The Cards (34-4) upset No. 2 seeded Baylor in the Sweet 16, then No. 1 seeded Maryland in the Elite 8 to march to the Arch, where Sunday night they handled No. 1 seeded Oklahoma. Not to mention they had to play No. 6 seeded LSU on their home floor to advance in the second round. Their reward? A second rematch with the No. 1 overall and undefeated Connecticut Huskies for the National Championship.

So, this team is good. The storyline going into Tuesday night’s game will be how the Huskies destroyed the Cards by an average of 33.5 points in two meetings this season. Player of the Year Maya Moore led the way, averaging 27.5. This may have something to do with all the “experts” at the Worldwide Leader going with the undisputed No. 1 team. But it must be pointed out that both games were in Connecticut, the first at UConn in Storrs, and the second in Hartford, UConn’s second home.

But it may not make any difference where these teams meet. UConn coach Geno Auriemma is a perfect 5-0 in National Title contests. His current squad has beaten everybody on the schedule by double-digits and is coming off two consecutive 83-64 wins to reach the Championship game. Both Moore and guard Renee Montgomery are All-Americans. 6’4 center Tina Charles is arguably the best center in the Big East and had her way with the Cards both outings this season, averaging 19.5 points and 12.5 boards.

But don’t count the Lady Cards out. Under the tutelage of Coach Jeff Walz, who’s become a household name in women’s college hoops since taking over at Louisville, the Cards are playing inspired ball. He’ll call on Deseree Byrd to slow down Montgomery, and look for the Cards to try to pick up the tempo to keep Charles out of the game.

For Louisville to stay competitive, its All American, Angel McCoughtry will have to come out to play both halves. The X-factor in keeping this one close will be Angel’s fellow senior, Candyce Bingham, who’s been a steady hand for the Cards in their historical Final Four run.

Nobody, including top 5 teams Oklahoma and North Carolina, has been able to keep up with the Huskies this season. But the Cards have relished in their role as underdog in the tourney. Coach Walz has been brilliant in implementing strategy to get his girls to where they are today. And who can forget the Biblical story of David slaying Goliath, especially this close to Easter Sunday?

If the Cards can keep it close, or maybe even grab a piece of a lead, it’ll be interesting to see how the mighty Huskies respond. But to the “experts” at ESPN: This is why we play the game. Let's see just one more bit of Madness before the season concludes.

Go Cards.

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