Wayne Coffey, USA Today: Conn coach knew from the start Breanna Stewart’s game went beyond numbers
Fingertip to fingertip, arms stretched wide, the greatest women’s player in college basketball has a wingspan of seven feet and an inch, a condor in blue and white. It wasn’t that simple measurement, though, that moved Chris Dailey, Geno Auriemma’s longtime associate head coach at the University of Connecticut, to do what she did four years back.
It was, well, everything else.
Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that you’d see a seven-seed and a four-seed make the Final Four? Just goes to show that the game is growing.
These two met earlier in the season and it was a tale of two halves. Syracuse built a big lead early on with its pressure defense, and then Washington, once it got comfortable against the press, battled back. The Huskies just ran out of time.
Watching the film of that game may help both coaches with tendencies, but it was so early in the season that both teams have matured since then. They are both on such a roll right now, shooting the ball so well.
Remembering they’re STUDENT-athletes: The NCAA Final Four Ranked by Academic Performance
Hartford’s XL Center, one of Connecticut’s two homes, is a familiar birthplace of perfect seasons. It is less familiar as the architect of twins.
Lubbock Christian (34-0) will attempt Monday to complete the third perfect season in NCAA Division II women’s basketball history when it plays Alaska-Anchorage (38-2) in the national championship game in Indianapolis. In its first season of NCAA postseason eligibility after transitioning from NAIA, the Lady Chaps enter the final not only unbeaten but outscoring opponents by nearly 30 points per game.
Yet their bid for perfection has its roots, paradoxically, in a 95-39 loss in an exhibition game against Connecticut in Hartford on Nov. 2.
“It was the best 56-point loss you could ever imagine,” Lubbock Christian coach Steve Gomez joked.
The undefeated Thomas More College women’s basketball team returns to the NCAA Division III championship game with some impressive offensive statistics. The Saints are averaging 92 points per game, shooting 48 percent from the field and have four players with double-figure scoring averages.
But coach Jeff Hans doesn’t know if his team will be able to match those numbers in the title game against Tufts University of Massachusetts that’s set for at 6 p.m. Monday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Thomas More arrived on the big stage Friday.
When the defending Division III national champions walked into their Indianapolis hotel, they were greeted by a banging drumline and waving pom-poms just a short stroll away from the four teams vying for the Division I title.
See, it’s not just Final Four weekend any more. With the Division II and III championships being played here, the Great Eight has turned Indy into title town.
“It’s something these girls will never forget,” Thomas More coach Jeff Hans said following the welcome reception. “To be the first teams to be able to play at the Final Four, to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the (NCAA) championships, that’s something special.”
Now comes the hard part: getting the star-struck players to focus on a potentially perfect weekend.
I’ve got my tickets for Monday… you?