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Saturday, April 2, 2011
ESPN analysts split on UConn, Stanford news services

ESPN Game Analyst Doris Burke

Original Final Four: Baylor, Connecticut, Tennessee and Stanford
National champion: Stanford

Reason for Stanford winning national title: "There are a lot of reasons to think Stanford can win it all -- talent, depth, versatility, size and coaching. The athleticism of the Ogwumike sisters [Chiney and Nnemkadi] is hard to match up against, plus Jeanette Pohlen, who has struggled at shooting the ball during the NCAA Championship, is completely comfortable running Stanford's system and has a history of making big shots. Kayla Pedersen is an incredibly smart player who can play at multiple positions and head coach Tara VanDerveer is relentless in her team's preparation. I think this team has all the necessary ingredients to win the national championship."

Thoughts on Connecticut: "Connecticut continues to amaze me and there is no doubt in my mind that this is one of Coach Auriemma's best coaching jobs. This is not a 'vintage' UConn team in terms of talent and offensive weapons, yet the only thing this team has done is win. A six man rotation has been able to avoid foul trouble, tough shooting nights by Maya Moore and a lack of depth in the post and dominant size, yet UConn comes out of the nation's toughest conference undefeated, suffering their only loss on the road to Stanford. It is incredible stuff."

Thoughts on Notre Dame: "The Irish can score the basketball. They have averaged 75.0 points this season and have hit the 90-point mark on eight occasions. On the interior, Devereaux Peters has length and athleticism that must be factored in to your offensive thinking, while Becca Bruszewski gives another dimension with her ability to bang on the boards. Skylar Diggins is as capable and good as any guard in the country and this is a team that can get scoring from different places and in different ways. Finally, the Irish defense has been sterling in the postseason with three of the last four opponents having not reached 60 points and the fourth could muster only 64. Right now Notre Dame is playing great basketball on both ends of the floor."

Thoughts on Texas A&M: "On selection Monday I said, if the two Sydneys [Sydney Colson and Sydney Carter] could make their shots  the Aggies could win. Texas A&M is tough because they are relentless with their pressure, athleticism and speed. Though she struggled mightily against Baylor, Danielle Adams is the kind of offensive weapon that can anchor a team and get it to advance on any particular night."

ESPN Studio Analyst Kara Lawson

Original Final Four: Baylor, Connecticut, Tennessee and Stanford
National champion: Connecticut

Reason for Connecticut winning national title: "Maya Moore is the primary reason for picking Connecticut. She stands out as the player who is the most competitive and she has the physical skills to take over games. Connecticut is at times overly dependent on Moore, but she is that good to carry the burden. Kelly Faris is one of the best individual defenders in the country. UConn has a complete team and at this stage of the season depth is not really an issue because they have smart players."

Thoughts on Notre Dame: "I love Notre Dame's balance and how they fit together as a group. Skylar Diggins' maturation from her freshman to sophomore year has proved to be the biggest factor in the Irish reaching the Final Four. She has developed better poise and game management skills. Becca Bruszewski provides toughness in the paint."

Thoughts on Stanford: "Stanford has tremendous experience and Jeanette Pohlen has had a great year at the point guard spot. The Ogwumike sisters [Chiney and Nnemkadi] give this team added dimensions that you need to win -- relentless attitude, terrific athleticism and rebounding. The foundation for this group is provided by Kayla Pedersen and Stanford's backcourt will have to be ready to handle the defensive pressure of the Aggies."

Thoughts on Texas A&M: "Texas A&M is very invested on the defensive end of the floor and is always in attack mode. It is very difficult to handle the Aggies ball pressure and the way they attack the passing lanes. Sydney Carter was fantastic against Baylor and the size and balance of Stanford's team will be Texas A&M's toughest challenge."

ESPN Game Reporter Rebecca Lobo

Original Final Four: Connecticut, Baylor, Stanford and Tennessee
National champion: Connecticut

Reason for Connecticut winning national title: "Connecticut has won the last two titles and Coach Geno Auriemma has consistently been the best coach in the game. Even though they have fewer pieces this year, he is still the one moving those pieces around. That can be enough."

Thoughts on Notre Dame: "Notre Dame is outstanding and head coach Muffet McGraw and her staff are terrific. Skylar Diggins plays with tremendous poise and does a great job controlling the tempo of her team. They are a very smart team and know how to play the game -- which is different from knowing how to "run plays". If Devereaux Peters plays well and stays out of foul trouble, I will not be surprised to see Notre Dame win the whole thing."

Thoughts on Stanford: "Stanford is a veteran team with championship experience. Head coach Tara VanDerveer is a great coach and her players know the game. They are big, long and athletic. Jeanette Pohlen has really impressed me this year and they have the pieces to win the whole thing. I'm eager to see them face the A&M defense."

Thoughts on Texas A&M: "Texas A&M showed its balance in the win over Baylor. Danielle Adams struggled and Tyra White had a quiet performance, but Sydney Colson and Sydney Carter were both terrific in the backcourt. They play aggressive defense and assistant coach Vic Schaefer puts together great defensive game plans for each game. When Danielle Adams is playing well, she is very difficult to defend because of her size and skill."

ESPN Studio Analyst Carolyn Peck

Original Final Four: Baylor, Connecticut, Tennessee and Stanford
National champion: Stanford

Reason for Stanford winning national title: "I watched Stanford mature from a December loss in Knoxville to now having won 27 straight games. Chiney and Nnemkadi Ogwumike, combined with Kayla Pedersen inside and out, make Stanford a tough matchup for any team. If Jeanette Pohlen shoot the basketball and play like she did in the Elite Eight, Stanford is a team to be reckoned with and will win it all. They are versatile in how they play and head coach Tara VanDerveer has a solid playing rotation with good depth."

Thoughts on Connecticut: "UConn has been remarkably successful and maintained it all with six key players and having a freshman point guard and center. Their success with so many young players, exemplifies Maya Moore as a great player and leader. Connecticut is the team to beat, and so much focus has been on their ability to score but their defense is the key. Kelly Faris is one of the most underrated players of this tournament as she has had the assignment of guarding some of the best offensive threats in the nation."

Thoughts on Notre Dame: "Notre Dame has hit its stride at the right time and sophomore Skylar Diggins has continued to mature in helping to lead the Irish. Devereaux Peters was the missing piece in the post for Notre Dame last year, and her integration back into the lineup with Becca Bruszewski and the addition of freshman Natalie Achonwa all give a strong presence in the paint. Head coach Muffet McGraw prepares her teams to play against multiple defenses and with five scoring threats on the bench at all times they have great scoring ability."

Thoughts on Texas A&M: "Texas A&M worked so hard to get to the Final Four, and has now reached the goal it made two seasons ago. The Aggies look like they belong following the team's execution against Baylor. Head coach Gary Blair has a tremendous staff -- working their offensive and defensive systems behind associate head coaches Vic Schaefer and Kelly Bond. Danielle Adams had a solid NCAA Tournament up to the Baylor game, but in the end helped her team advance. Adaora Elonu and Karla Gilbert give depth to the Texas A&M bigs and combined with the Aggies speed, defense and ability to penetrate the ball will give them continued success."