No. 2 Notre Dame women eager to face top-ranked Connecticut
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw figures top-ranked Connecticut will provide the best possible measuring stick for her second-ranked Fighting Irish.
''We need to see where we are. We haven't really played a great game,'' McGraw said Tuesday.
Voters in The Associated Press women's basketball poll moved the Huskies (7-0) ahead of Irish (8-0) on Monday, marking the first time in 11 years a team lost the top ranking without actually losing a game. The Irish say they're not concerned.
''Rankings really don't matter, it's really about the best team wins,'' Irish guard Marina Mabrey said.
McGraw said two months ago that this season should be more open in women's basketball because the Huskies looked more vulnerable. UConn eked out a 78-76 win over Florida State to open the season, but since then have had little trouble.
Notre Dame has outscored opponents 85.8 to 54 on average so far this season, while the Huskies have outscored opponents 81 to 56.9. The Huskies have the more impressive victories with four over Top 25 opponents, while the Irish have one.
The Irish will have the crowd behind them Wednesday night, which UConn coach Geno Auriemma said will be a challenge.
''We're going to have to match that. They're deep, have a lot of players. We're not so (deep) right now,'' he said.
Auriemma said he was looking forward to preparing his team to face the Irish.
''That's still one of my favorite things to do,'' he said.
The rivalry has grown into the best in women's college basketball, although it's been a bit one-sided the past four seasons. The Huskies have won five straight, dating back to beating the Irish 83-65 in an NCAA Tournament semifinal in 2013. Before that, the Irish had won seven of eight.
The difference this time around is the Huskies won't have Breanna Stewart, who led them to four consecutive national championships.
''They don't have a great player,'' McGraw said. ''They don't have that one player like Stewart that can just take over the entire game. I think they have balance - probably more balance than they've ever had. You have to guard everybody.''
McGraw contends the pressure is on the Huskies, who have won 82 straight.
''They've got to keep that going, with however many games they've won in a row,'' McGraw said. ''They're No. 1 now, so it's a little bit like it was in the past.''
McGraw said trying to regain the top ranking won't be a motivating factor for the Irish.
''I don't think we're going out to prove a point in that way,'' McGraw said. ''But I think we're certainly looking at it as a great test for us to see who is No. 1.''