By Doug Feinberg
NASHVILLE, Tenn.: Muffet McGraw and Geno Auriemma were well aware of the talk. There has been a buzz throughout women’s basketball all season about the potential showdown between their undefeated teams.
Well, the wait is over.
Connecticut (39-0) and Notre Dame (37-0) are set to meet in an unprecedented championship clash tonight.
“I think it’s something that everyone’s looked forward to all year long,” McGraw said. “People were hoping we would end up here. It’s great for the game and I think it’s great we’re both undefeated coming into it. It should be a great matchup for women’s basketball.”
Auriemma agreed that this once in a lifetime matchup — the first time undefeated basketball teams, men or women, have met for the NCAA national crown — could help grow the women’s game.
“An awful lot of people might tune in Tuesday night that wouldn’t normally tune in,” he said. “A game on national television between two great teams, nothing could be better for the sport.”
There’s also so much at stake for both teams.
A victory by UConn over its rival would be the ninth title of Auriemma’s career breaking a tie with Pat Summitt for the most all-time. And if he does it, he’ll accomplish it in Summitt’s backyard.
“I’m not a numbers guy and don’t get caught up in that stuff,” Auriemma said. “Wednesday morning when I wake up, my life doesn’t change one iota. Stewie [Breanna Stewart] says she came to win four national championships, that’s what I think is more significant. For Bria [Hartley] and Stef [Dolson] to win a national championship their senior years. They get ‘X’ amount of chances to do it. God willing, I’ll get more chances down the road.”
While Auriemma deflected the talk on a record title, Dolson is happy to be a part of it.
“It’s amazing,” the 6-foot-5 Connecticut center said. “I mean, obviously it’s something Coach isn’t going to talk about. We don’t really talk about it as a team, it’s just something that we know that we have the chance to help him kind of win that ninth one. ... But if it happens, for all of us, now we have two of the nine. You know we have, like I was talking about that small piece of history. It’s just something we have a chance to kind of add to the legacy of UConn and add to Coach’s legacy. I think that’s something he would be extremely proud of.”
It would also be the fifth unbeaten season for Auriemma and UConn and the first time the Huskies went 40-0. They’d match Baylor as the only team to accomplish that feat.
Notre Dame isn’t concerned about UConn’s program. The Irish are looking for their first since 2001 — the school’s only championship.
They have made the Final Four the past four seasons.