Will Huskies reach hallowed ground vs.Orange?
As the old saying goes, three things are certain in life: death, taxes and UConn in an NCAA tournament setting.
Tonight in Indianapolis, the Huskies aim to become the first women’s team to win four consecutive Division I titles. Only John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty, with seven straight from 1967-73, has accomplished such a feat on the men’s side.
Connecticut’s nemesis for the evening couldn’t care less about the storybook tale being authored in Storrs. Instead, second-seeded Syracuse simply wants to continue its torrid pace from beyond the arc and put Geno Aureimma’s players in an unfamiliar situation entering the fourth quarter.
Oddsmakers aren’t too keen on the Orange’s chances. According to online sports book Bovada.lv, the Huskies are 26-point favorites at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The over/under total rests at 142.
In Sunday’s Final Four tilt against Oregon State, UConn registered another rout despite a quiet first half from Breanna Stewart. The three-time player of the year scored 14 of her 16 points after intermission, but received plenty of help from her friends. Morgan Tuck paced the squad with 21 points, while Moriah Jefferson and Kia Nurse combined for 19.
Stewart promises to once again be the focal point of the Huskies’ efforts beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET. Syracuse, however, has a real knack for putting the clamps on the opposition’s standout performer. Two nights ago, Quentin Hillsman’s crew held Washington sensation Kelsey Plum to 5-of-18 shooting. It’s a relentless defense that ranks second in the nation with 12.7 steals per contest.
As evidenced by that 80-51 weekend win over the Beavers, though, UConn deploys numerous threats. If Stewart experiences more trouble in the early going, Tuck represents a great secondary option. No one runs the point as smoothly as Jefferson, either, and Napheesa Collier and Gabby Williams continue to blossom before our very eyes.
How can the class of the ACC stick around, then? The marksmanship obviously must be as deadly as ever. Syracuse averages nearly 10 treys a contest, with Brianna Blair (14 attempts vs. UW) doing the bulk of the launching.
The Orange possess absolutely no qualms about shooting in volume. Those looks, however, need to be of the quality variety against a disciplined Connecticut D. Through the years, Auriemma has developed a reputation as an absolute savant when it comes to instilling specific principles in the halfcourt. This group boasts various pupils who function as extensions of his staff.
Stewart and her fellow seniors have won 74 straight games, never losing in the tourney. Syracuse last toppled the Huskies in 1996. Auriemma literally doesn’t know how to lose in this spot, and he’ll pass Wooden for the most national championships in the history of college hoops with a virtuoso showing in Indy.
TUESDAY NCAA FREE PICK: UCONN -26