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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stanford/UConn series has staying power

The list of prominent non-conference that have come and gone is a rather distinguished list.

The more dominant the UConn women's basketball team is the more difficult it is to get teams to sign up to play the Huskies. Some of it has to do with the realization that the Huskies are going to win and other times the opposing coach will get their feathers ruffled by outspoken UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

Through it all, however, the one constant is the UConn/Stanford series. This will be the sixth straight regular season that the Huskies and Cardinal will square off and seventh time in the last eight seasons. There are no plans to pull the plug on the series any time in the near future.

"I have never heard anybody say 'oh we have to rethink (the series) after this one,'" Auriemma said. "I think it is just 'hey we enjoy doing it. ' I think it benefits both sides. Things are kind of cyclical, there was a time when we played Stanford and we knew we couldn't beat them. We wanted to play them anyway. Then there was a time when we knew we were as good as them and we wanted to play them. There have been years when we knew we were better than them and it goes back to where we had won 90 in a row and they have beaten us. We recruit a lot of the same players, I think it is good for us, good for women's basketball and I hope it is good for them."

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer relishes the challenges of playing the best teams in the country and has always been that way during her Hall of Fame career. She also seems somewhat immune to Auriemma's caustic barbs that often alienate some other high-profile coaches.

"It might be that we are on the west coast, it is hard to fight with somebody 3,000 miles away," VanDerveer said. "We are not in the same conference, for the most part we don't recruit the same kids. I respect the job that Geno has done. The job that he does that I think benefits women's basketball the most is how he has female assistants and how he doesn't a great job of mentoring them, helping them get other jobs. You guys know him, he can get under people's skin, either I have a thick skin or I am oblivious but I like Geno and I basically say 'I am not fighting with you.' We always get along. I think we respect each other. I don't look for fights with people. I feel like life is too short and I don't have that much tread on my tire to be into individual battles. I am really about us leaders of women's basketball whether it is myself, Geno, (Notre Dame coach) Muffet (McGraw), (Baylor coach) Kim (Mulkey) whoever, we really need to stick together and get women's basketball better, we need more fans in the stands, we need to do things that create more enthusiasm."

Stanford also faces No. 4 Tennessee, No. 10 Texas and No. 11 North Carolina during the non-conference portion of the schedule while UConn has non-league showdowns with No. 2 South Carolina, No. 3 North Carolina and No. 7 Duke.

"That is the goal," Auriemma said. "If you are in the situation we are in and you don't play those games it is kind of disrespectful. You have fans who wants to see you compete against those people. We are always complaining in women's basketball that we don't get the respect that some other sports get, we don't get the recognition that the game deserves but all of a sudden you ask these big-time coaches why aren't you playing the kind of schedule you should be playing? They don't have a really legitimate answer for that. When you are at the level that Stanford is at, that Connecticut is at, you have to play that kind of schedule. You owe it to your players when you recruit them. You can't receive high-level players, you can't recruit high school all-americans and then say we are afraid to play so and so, so and so and so and so. Why don't you tell them that ahead of time and then they probably wouldn't go there."

Both Auriemma and VanDerveer know that national championships are not determined in November. Stanford and UConn have both reached the Final Four the same season that they lost a regular-season game in this season.

"Playing really good teams is good for the staff, it is good for our players," VanDerveer said. "They have great players and have a great team. They are a very well coached team and it just helps you get better. If you play a team, you win by 30 or 35 and kids don't box out it is hard to get their attention. If you don't box out against UConn they are going to get an O (offensive) board."

The live blog for tonight's UConn/Stanford game is now active so feel free to check it out.



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