Still, as much as Walz is known for his tough love, players say he's a pretty good cheerleader too. And he's got the Cardinals believing that they can pull off the improbable if they play to their potential. "If we can find a way to play a better basketball game for 40 minutes," he said, "well, then we win."
Indeed, Connecticut throttled Louisville by 39 in the Big East tournament championship on March 10. But the Huskies caught a Cardinals team that had just played 290 minutes of close basketball in a two-day span -- a gauntlet that began with a double-overtime quarterfinal victory over Rutgers. Louisville was running on fumes by the time it reached the final, but no one in its locker room is using fatigue as a crutch. "We were so tired," McCoughtry said. "We would never use that an excuse, but after the double overtime players were tired. I didn't have a lot of lift on my shot [against UConn]." With a day to rest, she continued, "I'm hoping it'll be a lot different this time."
Certainly at 38-0, UConn is about the closest thing there is in sports to a lock. (All four teams who have entered the national-championship game undefeated have gone on to win the game.) But much the same was said of the Huskies in 1997, when they were 33-0, until they ran into Tennessee in the Elite Eight. It could happen -- anything could happen -- and the Cardinals, who weren't even supposed to be here in the first place, are already living out a fantasy.
McCoughtry, for one, believes she knows how it ends. "I've actually had a dream about [winning it all]," she said, "putting on the hat, running up and down the court. Hopefully my dream can come true."