The hype leading into this game is monumental.
Last week, coach Geno Auriemma said that his UConn Huskies (#1 AP/ #1 ESPN) had two exhibition games, the Holy Cross game, and then was playing the National Championship, which would be today's game against Baylor (#2 AP/ #2 ESPN) at 6:00 PM on ESPN2.
Ignore Geno’s hyperbole for a moment, but let’s take a look at this game for what it is worth.
- Baylor and UConn are the cream of the crop this season. This game is the best that our sport has to offer and is going to be on full display for all to see. ESPN is offering 24 hours of NCAA College basketball, and handpicked this as the only women’s game to be part of the College Tip-Off Marathon.
- These two teams feature perhaps the 2 most dynamic players in the country for opposite reasons. Brittney Griner is a force on the defensive end. As a sophomore she is 2nd in Baylor history in blocks, sitting at 235 blocks. She is only trailing Danielle Wilson with 249. Maya Moore is as dynamic of an offensive player that the game has ever seen. She can drive, pull up, shoot the 3, post up, and score off of put-backs. Watching these two go after each other is worth the price of admission or at least your cable subscription this month.
- This is a rematch from the National Semi-Final in last year’s Final Four. UConn won that match 70-50, and the 20 point margin was a little deceiving as the lead was extended in mop up time.
- UConn has been involved in 14 previous #1 vs. #2 contests. They have a 12-2 record in these contests, 9-1 while being the top ranked team. UConn knows how to win on the national stage.
What They're Saying
He Said: "Tuesday is a game that we play because that’s what Connecticut does and that’s why they [UConn Players] came here." - Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma on how his team is approaching this contest vs. Baylor so early in the season.
She Said: "I think it’s awesome. I can’t imagine why anybody would think that something so positive would be a negative for women’s basketball. I don’t know that we go into the game and have to mention the streak. We are not going into the game to be the team that broke Connecticut’s streak. We are going to play the defending National Champions, a team that has had numerous great players come through their program, a team that beat us at the Final Four. The streak is way on down the line." - Baylor University coach Kim Mulkey on Baylor’s approach of the streak
Players to Watch:
Kimetria Hayden/ Melissa Jones: Brittney Griner will have an impact on this game on the defensive end. In order to be effective on the offensive end someone needs to get her the ball. Baylor’s guards have to be effective at getting their center the ball but also knocking down shots of their own to keep UConn’s defense honest. Kelli Griffin's departure from Baylor might be felt most here. She was never going to wow you offensively but she was experienced in getting Griner the ball where she could do something with it.
Maya Moore: I know, I know. You are going to say "obvious". But it’s not for the reason you think. Maya has to play within herself. Geno Auriemma was quoted as saying, "This is the first time she'll be in a scenario where everything depends on her, and you don't know how people will react to that. Now everything we do depends on her. It's a whole new world, but one she is embracing. I just hope she doesn't try to be Maya Moore, Sue Bird, Tina Charles and Diana Taurasi all in one. I want her to be herself and see what happens."
Maya has to play within herself and within the team. For the first time since perhaps her freshman year, it is her show but Maya can’t try to win this on her own. She is better when her teammates are better and she makes them better.