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Column: UConn fans should root for the Irish

By Matt Stypulkoski
On March 11, 2014

We've reached the point where any deficit is a talking point, a story or an oddity.
When the UConn women's basketball team fell behind 7-0 in the opening minutes against Louisville Monday night, it was a tweet-worthy moment for the scribes covering the team and a mentionable stat for the TV broadcasters.
Correction: that moment came at 5-0.
Before Monday night, the Huskies hadn't trailed by more than four points the entire season. They trailed 7-3 at UCF on New Year's Day. Guess they must have been a little groggy from the celebrations.
A few more ridiculous stats: Entering Monday, the Huskies had trailed for a "whopping" 31:42 out of 1,200 minutes during the course of the season. They've also never trailed in the second half - their latest deficit came with 1:10 left in the first half against Maryland in November.
So when UConn trailed for a total of 6:25 Monday night, it was noteworthy. Heck, it was near Herculean of the Cardinals to dig that deep of a hole.
And then the Huskies won, for the 37th straight game.
And the Huskies won by double-digits, for the 37th straight game.
Let that sink in for a moment: Between last March 12, when UConn lost to Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament finals, the team has not lost. In the 31 games since they hoisted their eighth national title, the Huskies have trailed for all of 38:07 and never by more than seven points, which didn't come until game No. 31. That includes 10 games against teams in the AP Top 25 this season.
For a little perspective, the men's basketball team found its first deficit of seven of more points in the eighth game of the season against then-No. 15 Florida - they trailed by eight with 5:49 left in the first half and trailed again by seven points in the second half.
Of course, the men and women play in very different games with a very different level of competitive balance, but that doesn't make what the women are doing any less impressive.
They're not just winning games on the road to perfection and a record ninth national title, they're dominating them by an average of 36.7 points per game and making opponents - even good ones, like No. 3 Louisville, then-No. 2 Stanford and then-No. 2 Duke - look like local CYO teams in comparison.
The only remotely close game of the season came at then-No. 9 Baylor, which kept the game within a point at times in the second half.
UConn won that game by 11.
But despite the utter lack of drama this season, there does remain a shred of uncertainty lingering at the end.
By now, the entire country has realized that the Huskies are better than every other team in the country - save perhaps one. Notre Dame, which currently sits undefeated and No. 2 in the nation, remains the final potential stumbling block.
We all know the history. No team has been more successful against UConn in recent years than the Irish. They won three of four meetings last season and managed to derail the Huskies in the Final Four in two straight years before that. If anyone has the mindset needed to knock off the reigning champions, it's Notre Dame.
The most fun part about this season, though, is that the 2013-2014 versions of the Huskies and Irish have exactly zero history. Unlike in seasons past, when a Final Four matchup would be the fourth of the season between the two squads, a potential national championship matchup this season would bring fresh blood.
That's precisely why we have no idea what in the world could happen in that matchup - and uncertainty is fun. That's the allure of sports.
Breanna Stewart could run Notre Dame out of the building, much like last year in New Orleans. The game could come down to the buzzer like it did twice in Connecticut last winter. Or the Huskies could have no answer to the Irish depth and struggle to keep up (though that would seem unlikely).
But the fact that any of those three options are a possibility makes a UConn-Notre Dame matchup mouth-watering.
For a fan base that is used to blowout wins and cakewalking to titles, those close, hard-fought battles only come around once in a while.
And that's exactly why the Husky faithful - as much built up disdain as they may have for the Irish - should be rooting for Notre Dame come the Big Dance.
By that point, if the two squads meet up in the national title game, UConn will have played 39 times. But the chances are they won't have had a single game.
Wouldn't it be nice to see just one?
 


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