Hello from snowy St. Louis. Doesn't look good for the Cardinals' home opener down the road, but we've got Cardinals of another sort here at the Scottrade Center.
If you were Coach Walz, what would be your game plan on to try and stop the unstoppable UCONN machine?
If I was Coach Walz, Louisville would have been home several rounds ago, so let's just start by saying I'm not a good proxy for answering that. The best they fared, in the first game in Storrs for a half, was making someone other than Renee and Maya beat them (basically the same thing Stanford did in the Final Four last year). It didn't work, because Tiffany Hayes did beat them, but I think some variation on that is the best you can do against the Huskies. Nobody in the country can completely stop Moore and Montgomery one-on-one, and if Hayes, Greene and Charles are hitting, you simply aren't going to beat Connecticut.
A piece of trivia...Since her 9th grade season at Collins Hill H.S. in suburban Atlanta, her record is 199 and 5. Do you suppose she'll get to 200 before she gets to 6? These numbers don't even account for the 4 national AAU titles she won!
Maya Moore, I assume? It seems like the question is will she get to 300 wins before she gets to loss No. 6. It's amazing that she's been a little overshadowed by Montgomery the last two games. Renee may be the only player around who can keep her out of the spotlight.
What happened to Oklahoma?
A lot of things happened that snowballed in that second-half run for Louisville. Whitney Hand was such a fulcrum for the Sooners, especially on the offensive end, and Becky Burke did a fantastic job taking her out of the game in the second half. Courtney Paris couldn't get consistent position on the block; it seemed like at least a quarter of her touches in the second half were either facing the basket or on the move, and that's not where she's best. And the Sooners couldn't keep up their running game after really coming out of the gates setting the tempo. You look at the halftime lead they had and it seems like a collapse, but I definitely wouldn't describe it as a choke. Louisville just exposed some of the flaws that Oklahoma had and made just enough plays to pull out the win.
If I was coach, I would back off and let Montgomery shoot from outside. I would try to make her play at a faster pace. UConn has great talent, but Montgomery is the one opotential weak link. If she forgets to integrate the others into the game, is playing too fast, and shooting too much, there is an outside chance UConn can struggle for some time. I would try to take away Charles inside, get Moore out of her comfort zone and let her drift as when Montgomery is trying to do too much. If she shoots like last night, it is game over. But if she struggles, then you have the potential of the Stanford game. I have seen about 15 UConn games and one thing I am not seeing in the last few games is the backdoor cuts like the one Maya Moore made last night. So, as weird as it seems let Montgomery shoot from outside and hope she is off and keeps chucking it up.
Hey, nothing else has really worked this year for anyone, so I wouldn't scoff at anything. But that plan scares the heck out of me. I think at this point in her career, Montgomery is too smart to keep forcing shots if for some reason it's not falling for her. Leaving her open just seems a little too much like poking the bear.
This might be premature, but assuming UConn wins tonight, match these Huskies up with the undefeated versions. Who comes out the best of the best?
That's tough to do. The game has grown and evolved so much, even in the short time since the Lobo/Rizzotti team that it's hard to compare it with the last two editions. Like this team, the Bird-Taurasi-Swin team wasn't especially deep, but some of that was because it didn't need to be with the top 5-6 it had.
Louisville has been playing well lately. Can they at least give UConn a game, or will the Huskies blowout yet another team?
That's the $64,000 question. You don't want to dismiss Louisville, but the fact is in its marquee games, Connecticut has beaten Louisville, Stanford, Oklahoma and North Carolina by an average of 28.8 points. Stanford was the closest, and it was down 30 in the second half. On a neutral court, with as well as Burke, Byrd, Hines, Reid, etc. have been playing in support of McCoughtry and Bingham, it could be a better game. How much better remains to be seen.
What's the alternative? Coming into the tournament and in the Big East tournament she was shooting about 35 percent and that was how Nova stayed with UConn for a half. UConn also took off against Arizona St. when she got her third foul. She is the best point guard in the nation, but if she forgets to think like a point guard and forces action, UConn can be mortal. Look at her shooting percentage early in Cal game and she missed 4 of her first 5 last night to help Stanford get a lead. When she thinks pass first, UConn is unbeatable and impossible to defend.
It's a fair point. I think she was shooting better than 35 percent coming into the postseason, but I get what you're saying. You definitely hope Montgomery has an off night if you want to have any chance of beating UConn, so maybe you're right and you go ahead and base your plan around getting that break and working from there. That's just a bigger risk than I'd be willing to take. If you're asking me to pick my means of execution, I'd rather gamble on death by Hayes and Greene again than challenging Montgomery.
Personlly, I think only Maya Moore could start on the Taurasi-Bird-Cash-Jones-Williams team was pretty solid. This year's team is excellent because of Moore and Montgomery and a little because there is more parity.
Montgomery would get on the court somewhere, even it meant playing with Bird, Moore, Taurasi, her and one true post. And as much as Auriemma keeps on her, I think Tina could get a starting run on that team. At her best, she's a game-changer on both ends.
By the way, thanks for the excellent overage of women's basketball. I love all college basketball and it is so hard to find any national coverage. it is great to read your columns and Mechelle Voepel's and Charlie Creme's. I hope I spelled those right. ESPN is the only game in town, but even it has pushed the women back a little.
Thanks, Rich, we appreciate everyone who looks for the content. It's why we get to do what we do.
All right, time to hit the press conferences. Thanks for the questions and enjoy the game tomorrow!