Geno: Not upset UConn won't see Tennessee in NCAAs

BY foxsports • March 28, 2010

Geno Auriemma may be in a small minority of people who didn't want to see his Connecticut Huskies play Pat Summitt's Tennessee Lady Vols in the NCAA tournament.

The bracket had the No. 1 seeds headed for the first game between the rivals since January 2007 in the national semifinal in San Antonio. But Baylor upset Tennessee 77-62 in the Memphis regional semifinal Saturday, while Auriemma's Huskies beat Iowa 74-36 on Sunday to reach the Dayton regional final.

Asked if he was disappointed not to see Tennessee-UConn, Auriemma said, ``Nope.''

Why not?

``I don't worry about teams that aren't playing if we are fortunate enough to win Tuesday, I think it will be a great Final Four,'' Auriemma said.

If it had been Tennessee and UConn, Auriemma said that would've made for a lousy Final Four because it would have been all about the coaches and not the players or the other teams. The UConn-Tennessee series has been the marquee game in women's basketball in recent years, just the kind of rivalry seen as helping grow the sport.

``The game doesn't grow by the same teams playing each other every year,'' Auriemma said.

``If the game happens, then it happens and then Mr. Average Person says, 'That's it, I'm done with women's basketball.' They forget about it. So it doesn't grow the game one bit. Everybody looks forward to it, They watch the game, then they throw it back in the trash. You play who you're supposed to play.''

UConn and Tennessee haven't played since Jan. 6, 2007, when Tennessee won 70-64 at Storrs. UConn leads the series 13-9, though the Lady Vols won the last three.

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MANDATORY VIEWING: Both the Baylor and Duke women had mandatory game watching Sunday afternoon, and not of tape on each other. Both teams planned to settle in front of TVs back at their hotels to watch the Baylor and Duke men play for a trip to the Final Four a day before their game with a trip to San Antonio and the women's Final Four.

The Duke women finished up practice right around the start of the men's game. Their plan was to head back to their hotel and watch.

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey wasn't sure if her Lady Bears would watch together or simply break up to their different rooms.

``Everybody will be watching that game, and I would imagine that if we don't have an organized watching party, they will be in rooms watching it. I know in my room, my kids will be in there, and we will all be pulling for the Bears. We're just happy for them,'' she said.

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SIZE MATTERS: Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer looks back on her team's challenging preseason schedule and is thankful.

It was a March-like schedule in November and December for the top-seeded Cardinal, who will take on third-seeded Xavier on Monday night in the final of the Sacramento Regional for a berth in the Final Four.

Road games at Old Dominion and Rutgers in a two-day span to start the season. Three straight at home against DePaul, Duke and Tennessee. Another trip East to face defending champion Connecticut on Dec. 23 in Hartford, Stanford's lone loss.

All of this, VanDerveer believes will help her team when it matches up with the equally tall Musketeers.

``This is where our preseason really comes into play, where we've played against Tina Charles, where we've played against Kelley Cain,'' VanDerveer said Sunday. ``One thing I think is a little missing from the Pac-10 are the really big bigs. Maybe it's missing all over the country. In the Pac-10, we've played against great guards. ... We don't play game in, game out against bigs like this.''

Xavier's Ta'Shia Phillips is 6-foot-6, while Amber Harris stands 6-5.

VanDerveer also reminded her team Saturday night when discussing how to defend Xavier that they faced another formidable post duo of Ashley Walker and Devanei Hampton in recent seasons at California.

``They're like, 'Well, how are we going to play defense?''' she said. ``'Well, like Cal.'''

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PLEASE COME Y'ALL: The problem with knocking Tennessee out of the Memphis regional now comes Monday night for Baylor, which is why coach Kim Mulkey put out a plea to fans to please come out and watch her Lady Bears play Duke for the regional championship.

A total of 6,577 fans turned out Saturday for the regional semifinals, but the majority wore Tennessee orange. Both Mulkey and Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said they understand those Lady Vols' fans might not want to stick around.

McCallie noted Baylor has a big contingent while calling the Duke fans nice and loud too.

``I certainly hope people will come out. Women's basketball is a special game. Memphis is a great town, a great city, and I hope people will recognize, even if they don't have an affiliation that it is fun to see two teams of this caliber going for something special and the right to be in San Antonio,'' McCallie said.

Mulkey tossed out an enticement to draw out fans in this basketball-crazy town.

``Come see Brittney Griner dunk in pregame warm-up, and we need fans in the stands,'' Mulkey said. ``It is a television game, and you can root for who you want to root for, but please come to the game.''

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BIG NUMBERS: UConn's margin of victory through the first three NCAA tournament games is 148 - yes, a record. Call it hitting stride at the perfect time.

``We came into the postseason, meaning the Big East tournament, feeling we could play and shoot especially better,'' Maya Moore said.

``We had a little of a break after the tournament to rest and practice, and I think that we built since then. We are extremely happy with where we are right now. It's the perfect spot to be in. The shots are going in, the whole team is all getting the ball, everybody's on the same page. We are trying to stay focused and continue this run that we have.''

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AP Sports Writers Rusty Miller in Dayton, Ohio, and Janie McCauley in Sacramento, Calif., contributed to this story.


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