I don’t know about how everyone else feels, but I am really pumped up for Saturday’s UConn-Notre Dame I at sold-out Gampel Pavilion. The game is on CBS, as in Walter Cronkite, so it should be a little easier to find than ESPNU or the Pac-12 Network.
Every season brings new dynamics to rivalries as players come and go. The Irish, who lost the last two national championship games to Texas A&M and Baylor – after beating some Big East team in the semifinals both times – is a truly different team without Natalie Novosel, Dev Peters and Brittany Mallory.
Big East Player of the Year Skylar Diggins is back. So is UConn nemesis Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa, who played this summer for Canada’s Olympic team. But ND also has talented freshman, namely Jewell Loyd. And think about this: Notre Dame scored 128 points against St. Francis (Pa.) Monday while the Huskies were celebrating New Year’s Eve in Oregon.
After beating the Ducks, here’s what Geno Auriemma had to say about the Irish.
“Natalie (Achonwa) got a lot of experience playing in the Olympics (for Canada). She is a lot better than she was two years ago and it better than she was last year,” Auriemma said. “And Jewell has made a huge difference. She is one of the best freshmen in the country, and has added an awful lot because Notre Dame did lose a lot.
“Everybody knew that McBride was a great player in high school and she was great during their run [to the Final Four]. They have a lot of pieces in place. Their depth is going to depend on how well their freshmen keep improving but I am not surprised.”
The Huskies flew home on commercially after Monday’s game – Eugene to San Francisco, San Francisco to Washington, Washington to Hartford. They celebrated New Year’s by wearing flashy 2013 glasses on the Eugene to San Francisco leg.
Then they took some time off to rest.
“Wednesday [is the day] we will probably get back to our normal routine for game days. Then Thursday the real work will start. We’ll spend two days on the court getting ready [for the Irish].”
I can’t wait. It’s going to be a lot of fun.