It wasn’t the all-out classic that Monday in Bridgeport was, but UConn took down another No. 1 seed on Friday night, dethroning defending national champion Stanford, 63-58.
Paige Bueckers led UConn with 14 points on a night when two of the best teams in America combined to shoot 9-for-37 on three-pointers. It was a defensive struggle, sure, but there were also a lot of plain old misses, which happens sometimes in big games and doesn’t do anything to diminish the drama when the final minute is close and action-packed. That’s what it was as Stanford grinded and grinded, but never got closer than two points.
The Huskies will face South Carolina on Sunday night for the title, after the Gamecocks handled Louisville, 72-59, in the first semifinal in Minneapolis.
In 2011, Texas A&M was seeded second in the Dallas Region, beat No. 1 Baylor in the Elite Eight, then beat Stanford in the semifinals, but won the title with a win over a No. 2 seed, Notre Dame.
Seven years before that, second-seeded Maryland beat top seeds North Carolina and Duke to win it all (hello, boys), but the Terrapins’ regional final in Albuquerque was a win over No. 5 Utah, as top seed Ohio State got knocked out by Boston College in the second round.
The last time a team pulled off what UConn is going to try? It was 2005, when Baylor was seeded second in the Tempe Regional, beat North Carolina in the Elite Eight, then went to Indianapolis and swept LSU and Michigan State.
Only two other teams ever have done the trifecta, and it happened in back-to-back years with Tennessee winning the title in 1987, then getting knocked off by Louisiana Tech in the following year’s semifinals.
That makes it the rare accomplishment that Geno Auriemma hasn’t had as a coach, while Pat Summitt did it with Tennessee and Kim Mulkey with Baylor. Of course, it’s because UConn is almost always a No. 1 seed, but that doesn’t change that it’s a rare occasion for there to be something that the winningest coach in the history of the sport hasn’t done.
So, no matter what happens on Sunday, it’ll be unprecedented, because either the Huskies will pull off the hat trick of beating No. 1 seeds, or Auriemma will lose for the first time in a national championship game, since he’s 11-0 when it’s all on the line.