Who will win the women's national championship, the Connecticut Huskies or the Louisville Cardinals?
By Mechelle Voepel
Considering how UConn has played in this tournament -- the depth and focus the Huskies have shown -- it's extremely difficult to go against the No. 1 seed. They defeated Louisville soundly earlier this season in a game in which Huskies freshman Breanna Stewart did not play. They are my pick to win another championship.
But ... if Louisville did pull the upset, it would complete the greatest run in women's NCAA tournament history. The Cardinals are the first No. 5 seed to make the NCAA final. To win a title would mean knocking off two No. 1 seeds in Baylor and UConn, who combined have nine national championships, plus a No. 2 seed in eight-time NCAA champion Tennessee.
The Cardinals already had the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history with their win against the Lady Bears, the overall No. 1 seed. And few expected them to back that up with the win over Tennessee. They led most of the games against Baylor and Tennessee but had to rally from a second-half deficit in the national semifinal against Cal. So they've already done some amazing things.
But it would take one more very amazing thing to get a title.
By Graham Hays
If the Huskies had one fewer offensive asset. If Jeff Walz got to draw up a game plan for a team that wasn't familiar with what happens when he does. If Angel McCoughtry had any eligibility left. If any of those things were in play, maybe I could pick Louisville. But as it is, Walz will get his wish with most of the world picking against his team, just as we all picked against Louisville when it played Baylor.
It will be a shame if this turns into a rout because the one area where this game is in no way, shape or form a mismatch is on the bench. Walz already has assured he's going to get a hefty raise this offseason, lest the school lose him to a deep-pocketed suitor like Ohio State, and he is a perfect foil for Geno Auriemma -- right down to Connecticut's coach playfully digging at him and his self-confidence for wearing "an Italian tablecloth" for a shirt in Sunday's semifinal win against California.
Rare is the case with Auriemma where you could swap coaches without expecting any change in the score, but this qualifies. But unlike Baylor, which had one giant target for Louisville's defense to take away, or Tennessee, which didn't really have any of the game-changing, championship-winning variety, Connecticut has too much offensive depth for the Cardinals to work their defensive magic.
By Kate Fagan
Connecticut. You could see the disparity between the two teams even during their separate semifinal wins Sunday night. It was obvious the UConn-ND matchup was the marquee game. And not just because of who was playing, but because of how well those teams were playing. I just don't see how Louisville can keep up with the way the Huskies are playing right now.
It's unlikely the Cardinals have seen the kind of defense they'll face Tuesday. And I say that knowing they played UConn during the Big East regular season. Something has clicked with the Huskies -- they're playing a different kind of ball than they were in February.
The UConn defense is paced by guard Kelly Faris, who works incredibly hard on the floor. On the inside, center Stefanie Dolson and forward Breanna Stewart have been prowling the paint and collecting blocks.
And on the flip side of the ball, I just don't see how Louisville could possibly have an answer for Stewart, a 6-foot-4 forward. She scored 29 points in UConn's win over Notre Dame and looks ready to keep pouring in buckets. But even if Louisville coach Jeff Walz figured something out to slow Stewart, I imagine UConn forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis would just pick up the scoring slack.
Connecticut wins by double digits.
By Michelle Smith
Connecticut will win. While Louisville has had one of the tournament's great all-time runs to the title game, the Huskies have been the class of this tournament from beginning to Tuesday's end.
Connecticut is getting everything it needs right now. The Huskies play some of the nation's toughest defense, have the perimeter shooting of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the leadership of Kelly Faris and Stefanie Dolson, and suddenly the transcendent play of freshman Breanna Stewart.