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Archive for Sunday, March 27, 2005

Huskies facing major challenge

No. 3 UConn has to get past No. 2 Stanford

March 27, 2005

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— Connecticut has run into some major hazards on the road to its five national championships: Close calls, determined opponents and usually, somewhere along the line, Tennessee.

But a game against the nation's No. 1-ranked team in the regional semifinals? No, the Huskies haven't seen anything like this since they burst onto the national scene with their first NCAA title in 1995.

To get to the next step in its bid to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive championship, third-seeded Connecticut (25-7) has to beat second-seeded Stanford today in the semifinals of the Kansas City Regional. It's a matchup of two power-packed programs steeped in tradition.

Neither would look out of place at the Final Four.

"As we were coming out here, we were thinking that each and every year, these two (regional) games are probably the most difficult games that you need to win," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.

"And certainly this year when you think about the level of competition that's out here, it's probably more difficult than any other time that we've experienced in the last 10 or 11 years."

The other semifinal has been overshadowed by the UConn-Stanford matchup, but it's a worthy game, too -- top-seeded Michigan State against fifth-seeded Vanderbilt. And if those teams might be flying under the radar a little -- if that's possible for a No. 1 seed -- then so be it.

"We'll fly anywhere to the Final Four," McCallie said. "Under the radar, over the radar, it doesn't matter."

Stanford, which has won two national titles, comes in on the kind of roll that usually propels Connecticut into NCAA play. The Cardinal have the nation's longest winning streak at 22, and they've won those games by an average of 23.5 points.

Philadelphia Regional

Philadelphia -- Now that Pat Summitt has the record for career coaching victories, Tennessee has one less distraction as it chases a seventh national championship.

Though Summitt appreciated the recognition she earned for passing Dean Smith with her 880th career win, the Hall of Fame coach felt it overshadowed how well her Lady Vols were playing.

"It was talked about probably more than I ever had imagined," Summitt said Saturday. "To have that in the past is a good thing. I don't even want to take a chance of any distractions at this point."

The top-seeded Lady Vols (28-4) get their next chance to add to Summitt's record when they play fourth-seeded Texas Tech (24-7) today in the Philadelphia Regional. Second-seeded Ohio State (30-4) plays No. 3 seed Rutgers (27-6) in the other regional semifinal game.

The Philadelphia Regional is the only one with the top four seeds still playing and boasts three Hall of Fame coaches. Besides Summitt, there's Texas Tech's Marsha Sharp and Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer. Ohio State coach Jim Foster is a likely future inductee with 577 career wins and a trip to the 1993 Final Four.

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