Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Quite a night at KFC Yum! Center

I had a hunch that this was not going to be your run of the mill pre-game ceremony honoring the Louisville seniors at the KFC Yum! Center.

Seeing members of the tribe that Louisville All-American candidate Shoni Schimmel was raised on before the game only drove home that point.

I also was struck by the classy move of UConn coach Geno Auriemma keeping his players on the bench when the Louisville players were being honored which is something that few very teams have done when UConn holds it own ceremony to honor the graduating seniors.

"We play them for four years, we compete against them and their coaching staffs," Auriemma said. "They are honoring their seniors and so are we. I think it is something that we have always done and something we will always do. I think it is important to compete really hard against your competition but at the same time but when it is time to recognize them and it is time to honor them, we need to be there. I know a lot of teams don't like it, they go off the court and do their own thing but I want my kids to be out there and I want them to see it. By the same token, some schools don't do a great job on Senior Night and I feel bad for those kids. These guys did a great job on Senior Night.

"I don't know the name of the tribe that Shoni comes from but they were all on the court, that is the most people I have ever seen on the court on Senior Night and I saw everybody come out, I thought 'you just don't ever see this on Senior Night.' I thought it was really cool so I am glad I stayed out and saw it."

So were his players.

"All their seniors really deserved  that and it was great to have such good fan support here with them," UConn sophomore forward Breanna Stewart said.

After the game the Louisville players signed autographs until the last fan left the building serving as a capper on a memorable night at the arena.

"I'm not sure (Shoni) had anticipated that it would get to this point," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "I know our run last year in the NCAA tournament had a big impact. She and Jude were on the speaking circuit all last summer, going from reservation to reservation, speaking and sharing their story, giving hope to a lot of kids. This entire year I've tried to tell people that. We played at Oklahoma and we probably got close to 2,000 Native Americans come and watch that game. We played at Memphis the other day and, I think, set their attendance record since they renovated their arena. And three-fourths of them were Native Americans. Every place we go, there's a big following for (Shoni and Jude). What we're doing now is just not the basketball part of it. It's signing autographs afterwards. Our entire team does a great job of making sure they give back."

There's still plenty of basketball yet to be played before the NCAA pairings come out but in Auriemma's opinion, there's no way the Huskies should be placed in the Louisville bracket as the No. 1 seed with host Louisville being the second seed.

When he was asked about the possibility of the NCAA selection committee doing just that, Auriemma deadpanned "I think they would have spent a week at the Bourbon bar here."

On a serious note, Auriemma thinks Louisville has earned a No. 1 seed.
"I think they're a number one seed," Auriemma said. "They've done everything they were supposed to do; they don't have any bad losses. Usually, that's what hurts you in the NCAA tournament if you have a bad loss or two or three, then you're in trouble. They don't have any bad losses. It's not like they just got good this year and they don't have the respect that someone else would have, for the last four or five years they've been in two final fours and played in two national championship games so anybody that's by any measure, there's a reason you gave them the bid. You know they're going to fill up the building and play great, and be a top seed; so now reward them because they've earned it. That's not to say that there isn't anyone else who deserves a number one seed, but I don't know anyone who deserves it more than they do."

Walz made it seem as if he expects UConn to be on the top line in the Louisville region when the pairings are released on Mar, 17.

"I'm not so concerned about the No. 1 seed," Walz said. "We are going to have to do our job, and get to the conference championship and hopefully beat them. It's going to come down to whatever the NCAA decides. As coaches, years ago, we were the ones who voted on the geography over the true seeding in the NCAA tournament. When you look at it, and I know my geography is OK, but I don't think people are going to drive from Storrs (Connecticut) to Louisville, instead of going to Storrs to Lincoln.

"I still think we're fighting for a No. 1 seed, but if we don't I think we're an awfully high two. Would UConn come here? I don't know. If the NCAA sticks to what it's done in the past, then there's a good chance that they'll come here. If we have to play them a fourth time to go to the Final Four then I'd rather play them here. But at the same time if you're trying to make it a true tournament then they should be going to Lincoln."


Anonymous Joe said...

I sure hope that the seeding committee puts UConn and Louisville in different regions. It would be a shame to face a team for the fourth time in a season before the Final Four! Definitely would be quite unfair to the two schools.

It would be even worse than in 2011, when Baylor and Texas A&M had already played three times yet were on the same side of the bracket, and Notre Dame and UConn had already played three times yet were on the same side of the bracket.

So even though Baylor was 3-1 vs A&M and UConn was 3-1 vs Notre Dame that year, it was A&M vs Notre Dame in the final.

1:13 PM 

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