NCAA Women's Basketball Championship Preview: It's All About Connecticut
As March Madness heats up, you'd have to be insane to bet against the University of Connecticut women's basketball team. Since an anomalous loss to Stanford back in November, the Huskies have been the most dominant team in the country, outscoring opponents by a monstrous average of 42 points per game (including an 87–62 thrashing of then-top-ranked South Carolina in February).
"What makes them special is that they are the best team on offense and defense," ESPN studio analyst Kara Lawson says of the two-time defending NCAA champions. "They have great balance, multiple players who [can] lead them in scoring, and threats at every single position. Every player on the floor can go for 25 points." That includes Breanna Stewart, last year's national player of the year (and two-time Women's Final Four MVP), and point guard Moriah Jefferson (above), who Lawson says, "has made a big jump from her sophomore to her junior season," thanks to an offensive overhaul. "Early in her career she used to be the one player on their team who was a little bit of a liability on the offensive end of the floor. She was the weak link a little bit, particularly in the half court. But this year she's great. She's always been an elite defender, that's been the strength of her game, her quickness and her motor on the defensive end. But now she's added the offensive component.
A tenth national title for UConn coach Geno Auriemma seems like a formality, but anything can happen in March. The list of potential challengers is short, including the other No. 1 seeds, South Carolina, Maryland, and the team Lawson believes has the best chance—however slim—to pull an upset, Notre Dame, last year's runner-up. "This is what women's college basketball has become." Lawson says. "Instead of who can win the national championship, the question is, who can beat the University of Connecticut?"
The 2015 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship begins Friday, March 20. Four games go off at noon/ET, with regionalized coverage on ESPN2 (and all games available on WatchESPN). Connecticut opens against St. Francis College (NY) on Saturday, March 21 at 9/8c on ESPN2. For the full schedule, head over to espn.com.