Commentary

Beating UConn rarely leads to title

Most teams that beat UConn in NCAA tourney don't win NCAA championship

Originally Published: April 4, 2014
By Mechelle Voepel | espnW.com

UConn is in the women's Final Four for the 15th time, and seventh time in a row. The Huskies, who are defending national champions, will be going for their ninth NCAA title.

So if you're another team that wants to win the championship, you must figure out a way to beat UConn, right? Well ... not exactly.

Actually, your best bet is to hope someone else does it for you.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireBrittany Mallory and the Irish beat UConn in the 2012 Final Four, but they fell to Baylor in the title game.

Consider this: Only three of the 11 teams that have defeated UConn in the NCAA tournament over the past 18 seasons actually have gone on to win the national championship that year.

The last team to do it was Notre Dame in 2001. Tennessee is the only other team in that stretch to beat UConn in the NCAA tournament on the way to winning the title. The Lady Vols did it twice: in 1996 and '97.

Why is this? The circumstances have varied year to year. But essentially, it means the follow-up game to beating UConn is very, very hard for teams.

UConn won its first NCAA title in 1995, and the Huskies are now 8-0 in championship games. But let's take a look at what has happened since '95 when UConn has lost in the tournament.

Beat the Huskies, then won the title:

1996: Tennessee beat UConn in the national semifinals, then topped Georgia for the title. This was the first of three consecutive championships for Tennessee.

1997: Tennessee beat UConn in the Elite Eight, which was the Huskies' only loss that season. Tennessee then defeated Notre Dame and Old Dominion for the title.

2001: Notre Dame beat UConn in the national semifinals, then defeated Purdue for the title, the Irish's lone national championship.

Beat the Huskies, but no title:

1998: NC State beat UConn in the Elite Eight, but lost to Louisiana Tech in the national semifinals. It remains the Wolfpack's only appearance in the Women's Final Four.

1999: Iowa State beat UConn in the Sweet 16, then lost in the Elite Eight to Georgia. It's one of Iowa State's signature victories, but the Cyclones have never advanced to the Final Four.

2005: Stanford beat UConn in the Sweet 16, then lost to Michigan State in the Elite Eight. This was Candice Wiggins' freshman season with the Cardinal; she would have another NCAA victory over UConn as a senior.

[+] EnlargeCandice Wiggins
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesCandice Wiggins willed the Cardinal past UConn in the 2008 Final Four. But Candace Parker and Tennessee won the title.

2006: Duke beat UConn in the Elite Eight, then beat LSU in the national semifinals before falling to Maryland in the final. The Blue Devils topped the Huskies in overtime in the regional final in UConn's backyard in Bridgeport, Conn. But they still didn't get a championship.

2007: LSU beat UConn in the Elite Eight, then lost to Rutgers in the national semifinals. This is also the last year that the Huskies did not advance to the women's Final Four. Yeah, it's been a while.

2008: Stanford beat UConn in the national semifinals, then lost to Tennessee in the championship game. Wiggins was a senior this season, and it was the Cardinal's first Final Four appearance since 1997. Knocking off the Huskies was a huge accomplishment -- but Tennessee's Candace Parker still had the last word.

2011: Notre Dame beat UConn in the national semifinals, then lost to Texas A&M in the final. This was Skylar Diggins' "Hello, World" Final Four. But Danielle Adams and the Aggies took home the big prize.

2012: Notre Dame beat UConn in the national semifinals, then lost to Baylor in the final. The Lady Bears had defeated the Huskies during the regular season in Waco, Texas, but they didn't face them in the Final Four in Denver, thanks to the Irish.

So why has it been difficult to bounce back from beating UConn in the NCAA tournament? Certainly, playing the Huskies takes a lot of effort, physically and mentally. Especially in those cases where there has been only one day to recover before the next game, that's a tall order.

But also, UConn has been so successful as a program that any victory against the Huskies has an enormous emotional high attached to do it. Trying to let go of that excitement and then refocusing with just as much intensity for the next game -- even if it's the NCAA final -- clearly isn't very easy to do.

In Nashville, that will be Stanford's challenge. Attempting to hand the Huskies their first loss of this season is a heck of an obstacle to overcome. But even if the Cardinal do pull the upset, their work isn't over. And that next part has proved to be just about as hard.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.