Nashville, TN -- The definition of mindset: a particular way of thinking, a fixed state of mind
For the first time in the illustrious history of women's college basketball, something rare and amazing is going to happen: two undefeated teams will be playing for its greatest prize, a national championship.
"Yeah, it was almost ‑‑ it looked to me like, as the season went on, it almost looked like it was inevitable, you know -- like it was supposed to happen," said Geno Auriemma. "And our sport probably doesn't have enough significant moments, you know. I don't know that we have the kind of moments that happen last night at the men's Final Four where you get a 7 and 8 seed playing for the National Championship.
"I don't think we have enough of those moments in our game. So to have the spotlight on Tuesday on two teams that one of them is going to lose for the first time this year, and it's pretty remarkable when you think about how hard that is to do for one team, much less two."
When you ponder that notion, it's a wonderful tribute to the historic achievement of both Notre Dame and UConn.
"It is very exciting," said Jewell Loyd. "Like Coach [McGraw] said earlier, we are definitely making history already going into the tournament both being undefeated, but that is the least of our worries and concerns. We are trying to get the job done and have fun."
Just think about how amazing this feat is for a second.
Women's basketball has already seen the dominant reign of the Lady Techsters of Louisiana Tech, the Tennessee Lady Vols with Pat Summitt at the helms and the UConn Huskies of Rebecca Lobo, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Maya Moore. And never before has something like this happened, where two teams on the quest of perfection meeting for perfection's ultimate prize - and both met at that same destination without one single blemish.
While so many in the basketball community assumed - rightfully so I might add - that UConn would dominate the landscape of women's basketball, not many assumed that the Fighting Irish would put up such a "fight." Notre Dame has been simply flawless, magnificent and brilliant this year in their quest to win their first national title since 2001.
What's unique about their journey towards perfection is that no one could have predicted such a feat. Not with them losing arguably the greatest, and most highly touted player in Skylar Diggins. Who honestly could have foreseen them going 37-0?
The Irish did.
"I just think this team has a certain mental toughness to them," said Notre Dame senior All-American Kayla McBride.
They've never expected to lose a game - that includes tomorrow's epic battle against the formidable Connecticut Huskies.
Even when the aforementioned Diggins left for the WNBA, freshman point guard Lindsay Allen stepped right in from day one, and hasn't missed a beat. She's averaging a team-high 3.9 assists per game and has been the conductor to the Fighting Irish's elite offense.
"You know, coming in the summer, I wasn't really worried about being the next Skylar Diggins or anything like that," said Allen. "I was focused on playing on my game. The upperclassmen obviously knew that I am not Skylar Diggins.
"They knew they had to step up a bit more. There is no question about our balance and how we are real balanced this year. Anybody could have a great night for us."
McGraw and Auriemma trade barbs at pressers
The two unbeaten programs make no attempt to hide their disdain for each other before they face off in Tuesday's national championship game.
What makes this game more exciting is the fact that Notre Dame is the only team in recent memory to beat the Huskies consistently. It takes a special type of mindset to do something that most teams don't do - many wilt under the nostalgia and prestige that is UConn.
"I think there's an intensity factor," said McBride. "I think a lot of people go in playing UConn, they see their jerseys and they've already lost the game. I don't think we're like that. I think we have a certain swag to us, and I think it's like that with any team. And I don't know, I think we already don't like each other, so that adds to it, too."
Now let's talk about the team that's truly the embodiment of supreme mental fortitude. The Huskies, in the past six seasons, have lost a grand total of 11 games. That's just staggering when you look at the recent growth of women's basketball.
What Auriemma has done is unprecedented in how he's been able to win at such a prolific rate - in such a dominant fashion that he usually annihilates opponents. There's not even anything you can really compare it to; they have become the UCLA Bruins of John Wooden.
Ironically, it was the Notre Dame Fighting Irish who ended the reign of Wooden's Bruins. Will "luck" be on the Fighting Irish's side tomorrow night - one can only wonder?
In the meantime, this game is about two titans with Hall of Fame coaches leading their teams to battle; however, it embodies so much more than just a basketball contest - it's about flawless supremacy.
And that's what these two teams have - the "perfect mindset."
For more on the matchup, check out our 2014 Final Four storystream.