The University of Connecticut’s path to a fifth consecutive NCAA title starts at home in Storrs, Conn., with a matchup against Albany and might include a matchup against No.2 seed Duke or No.3 seed Maryland in order to reach the women’s Final Four in Dallas.
UConn (32-0) is the No. 1 overall seed in the women’s tournament in a bracket that was revealed Monday evening. The other No. 1 seeds are Notre Dame, South Carolina and Baylor. Stanford, Oregon State and Mississippi State join Duke as the No. 2 seeds.
And though the Huskies are certainly the favorite heading into the tournament, there is some intrigue about Connecticut’s chances to win its 12th national championship. This is a young team after the departure last year of stars such as Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck. These Huskies don’t have overwhelming size, which could pose a problem in a matchup with another top seed.
And yet despite the roster turnover, these Huskies have stretched the program’s winning streak to 107 games and have seen a new generation of UConn stars emerge, such as Katie Lou Samuelson, who was 10-for-10 on three-pointers in UConn’s last game, a 100-44 win against South Florida in the American Athletic Conference tournament championship game.
A win in the April 2 title game would be win No. 113.
So who poses the biggest threat to UConn’s dynasty?
It might be Notre Dame, the top seed in the Lexington regional. The Irish recently won their fourth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference title, led by senior guard Lindsay Allen. The Irish might be the only team that can keep up with UConn’s offensive production. Notre Dame opens against No. 16 Robert Morris in South Bend, Ind.
Connecticut has won six consecutive games against Notre Dame, including a 72-61 win in South Bend in December.
“I think when you get to the tournament, there’s a premium with the ability to score points. I think you have to score to advance more times than not,” said former University of Georgia coach Andy Landers, who now works as an analyst for ESPN. “Defense is great, it’s important, but offensive ability at the end of the day will carry you through a tournament. I think Notre Dame has that type of ability.”
Landers said Maryland, who likely expected to be a No. 2 seed, could be the biggest threat to Connecticut of the teams not receiving a No. 1 seed. The Terrapins are in UConn’s regional, which would make for an intriguing Elite Eight matchup should Maryland get past Duke in the Sweet 16.