Women's Final Four preview: Notre Dame vs. UConn

  • Updated: April 6, 2013 - 11:38 PM

Guard Jewell Loyd has started every game as a freshman for Notre Dame.

Photo: JONATHON GRUENKE • Newport News Daily Press/MCT ,

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish (35-1)

Coach: Muffet McGraw

Conference: Big East (automatic bid)

Region: Norfolk, Va. (No. 1 seed)

Last Final Four: 2012

The skinny: The Irish extended their school-record winning streak to 30 games and are looking to advance to their third consecutive NCAA national championship game (they lost in the 2011 final to Texas A&M and in the 2012 final to Baylor). Notre Dame has defeated UConn in each of the last two national semifinals and swept the Huskies in all three meetings this season in thrilling fashion, winning once in OT and by margins of one and two points in the other games. The Irish’s only loss this season came at home against Baylor. McGraw and Geno Auriemma have coached in all 40 games that Notre Dame and Connecticut have played.

Keep an eye on: Freshman guard Jewell Loyd, a starter from the first game, has averaged 12.5 points per game while logging the second highest number of minutes (31 per game) for the Irish. She is also the team’s most accurate three-point shooter.

The quote: “A shame it has to end, but what a way to go out.” — McGraw on the crumbling of the current Big East, which has three teams in the Final Four.

Connecticut huskies (33-4)

Coach: Geno Auriemma

Conference: Big East (at-large bid)

Region: Bridgeport, Conn. (No. 1 seed)

Last Final Four: 2012

The skinny: The Huskies have reached the national semifinals for a record sixth straight season. UConn broke the record of appearing in five consecutive Final Fours that it shared with Stanford (2008-12) and LSU (2004-08). UConn’s four losses this season have come to Notre Dame (three times) and Baylor. This will be the third women’s Final Four held in New Orleans, and all three have involved UConn teams coached by Auriemma. Connecticut lost in the semifinals in 1991 but won it all in 2004. With an eighth national championship, the Huskies would tie Tennessee for the most in NCAA women’s basketball history. The Huskies have won their four tournament games by an average of 39 points.

Keep an eye on: In six postseason games, freshman Breanna Stewart has averaged more than 17 points and five rebounds, while blocking 14 shots.

The quote: “Each year is different ... special in its own way. This is our last go-around. We want to go out with a bang.” — senior Kelly Faris.

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