With the expected announcement of the breakup of the Big East Conference coming this week, Notre Dame and UConn will need to plan future regular-season meetings after Monday night’s game at the Purcell Pavilion.
The Catholic 7 are expected to secede before next season into a new basketball conference that will retain the Big East name.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh will join the ACC next season. Notre Dame could either spend a year in the new Big East, which is not considered likely, or petition to be immediately included in the ACC a year before schedule.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma will approach the new era positive it will turn out well for the Huskies.
“We went from being a conference without any national respect in 1995 to becoming the best women’s basketball conference in the country – and we did it by adding Conference USA teams,” Auriemma said.
“It bothers me because you lose traditions and you won’t be seeing a lot of people you enjoy spending time with. You won’t have the chance to enjoy those relationships as much as you once did.
“You have to deal with change, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Auriemma said rivalries like Notre Dame will continue in a non-conference format if both schools wish it.
“We can still play all of those guys if we wanted to,’’ Auriemma said. “So that doesn’t change anything.’’
UConn, South Florida, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Louisville, Central Florida, Temple, Southern Methodist, Houston and Memphis are expected to operate under a new banner beginning next season.
With an 18-game conference schedule planned, each team will play home-and-away against it nine rivals.
South Florida coach Jose Fernandez echoed Auriemma’s sentiment last week.
“It’s tough,” Fernandez said. “Women’s basketball is not high on the totem pole when those decisions are made. What we had was unparalleled as a basketball conference for men and women, the best in the country, without a doubt.
“Not only are we losing great teams, we are losing great people, coaches, players and administrators. But it is what it is and you have to move forward.”
Loyd Could Play
One of Notre Dame’s top assets this season is freshman guard Jewel Loyd, a WBCA All-American last season. She sustained a concussion last Tuesday against Syracuse and did not play Saturday at Providence. She will continue to be evaluated today and the Irish say her status will be a game-time decision.
It is expected that Notre Dame senior Skylar Diggins will reprise her role as a first-team All-American this season when the Associated Press announces its team. She will be joined by Baylor’s top duo of Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims and Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike.
But who will get the fifth spot? Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne made the team last year. But she could be pushed this season by UConn’s Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the nation’s top three-point shooter.
And Stefanie Dolson could garner much support for second-team.
“It’s cool to hear that,” Dolson said. “It means the hard work has paid off. It makes me happy. I just wanted to work hard not to allow it make me complacent.
Said Mosqueda-Lewis: “It’s nice to know the changes you’ve work hard to make are being noticed.”
One UConn player not in consideration would be junior Bria Hartley, a WBCA All-American last year as a sophomore. She has had a nightmare season beginning this summer when she injured her ankle playing for USA Basketball in Greece.
Hartley was 0-of-11 from the field (0-of-5 from three) in 32 minutes at South Florida. She also committed five turnovers. Hartley is 4-of-27 from the field (2-of-16) over the last three games.
Free throw discrepancy
One of the big things to watch Monday will be how the game is officiated. Notre Dame has enjoyed an enormous advantage from the free throw line over the last six meetings, of which the Irish have won five.
“Honestly, when you go into a game if you’re a smart player you kind of get a feel for it first,’’ UConn senior Kelly Faris said. “You play aggressively until the refs kind of stop you type of thing. And if they do then you know how they’re going to call the game. At the same time, you’ve got to be smart enough not to be put in a position where you are going to let the refs kind of have to make that call or not make a call. So it’s more on us to just play our game, but you’ve got to be really smart about it. That’s where we’ve talked about mentally we have to keep growing and growing as a team and as individuals.’’
In their last six games, Notre Dame is 104 of 139 from the free throw line and has made 152 field goals. UConn is 64 of 86 from the foul line and has made 161 field goals. That means Notre Dame has scored 40 more points and taken 53 more free throws than UConn in the six games.
How crucial is this: The cumulative score of the six games is Notre Dame 439, UConn 411.
This season alone Notre Dame is 497 of 626 from the free throw line (79.4 percent). That accounts for 22 percent of its 2,272 points; UConn is 340 of 452 from the free throw line (75.2 percent). That accounts for 14 percent of its 2,397 points.
Diggins leads the Irish with 145 free throws. She has made 33 more (119) than UConn’s team leader in attempts, Stefanie Dolson (86). Notre Dame center Natalie Achonwa is also 101 of 126 from the free throw line.
- -- ADVERTISEMENT --
UConn Women Photos
Text AlertsFREE Huskies, breaking news, and/or weather alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
*Or text UCONNFB, UCONNMB, UCONNWBNEWS, WEATHER, NEWS to 37798
*These programs are available on the following carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, Nextel, Boost, Alltel, US Cellular. By clicking Submit you are confirming agreement with the terms and conditions governing this station and these mobile alerts. All submissions must be authorized by the account holder. Contact your carrier for more details.