Writers' Roundtable: Ways to beat UConn and more from the tourney
One way to knock off UConn is to get the Huskies into foul trouble
Louisville has exceeded expectations during this tournament
Has anyone been more impressive than Angel McCoughtry or Jayne Appel?
Can anyone beat UConn? How?
Kelli Anderson: The Huskies may have three All-Americas to every other Final Four team's one, but they are not invincible. The team that takes them out will have to have a brilliant game plan and a lot of luck. Among the other must-haves:
Stanford's biggest concern is its backcourt, which has had trouble with pressure in the past. Connecticut's one potential weak spot is a lack of overall team depth, so here's an idea: Get all of the Big Three into foul trouble. It would be a first -- as a team the Huskies average just over 12 fouls a game -- but doing something no team has done yet is what it's going to take to beat the Huskies.
Andrew Lawrence: So far, 33 teams have tried and all have failed. Two of them, Oklahoma and Louisville, reached the Final Four but never got close to the Huskies in any of their regular-season matchups. The Sooners lost by 28 in Storrs on Nov. 30, while the Cardinals lost by 28 (also in Storrs) on Jan. 26 and then were blown out by 39 in the Big East tournament final.
That leaves Stanford, which boasts a phenomenal center in junior Jayne Appel but won't have deadeye shooting guard JJ Hones -- who tore her left ACL on Nov. 23 -- to relieve pressure from the post. The team that has the best chance of beating the Huskies has to be able to get balanced scoring from their starting five and some solid contributions off bench, which brings us back to Oklahoma. The Sooners counter UConn's Big Three of Renee Montgomery, Maya Moore and Tina Charles with a big three of their own in Courtney Paris, Danielle Robinson and Whitney Hand, and boast one of the country's top sixth women in junior Nyeshia Stevenson. If they can stop Connecticut from going on one of their mammoth second-half opening runs, I'd say they've got a shot. A slim one, but a shot nonetheless.
Tracy Schultz: Sure they can. The first thing is that they have to believe that, and all three of those teams joining them in the Final Four have that covered. Connecticut hasn't looked as dominant lately as it did during the regular season or Big East Tournament: one blueprint to follow came from Arizona State, which did a good job of disrupting their offense in the regional final (unfortunately for the Sun Devils, they just couldn't capitalize on the turnovers they caused).
It may sound basic, but if you can force UConn into turnovers and convert those turnovers to points, you're really going to help yourself. You also have to limit their second chances, so rebounding is a huge factor. Tina Charles made that tough for ASU, but she struggled against Cal. If you can get inside early and have success, you can frustrate her and take her out of the mix. Then, you just have to hope the next one doesn't come in and hurt you.
Which players have stood out to you so far this tournament?
Kelli Anderson: Baylor's Kelli Griffin was spectacular in the Bears' second-round 60-58 win over South Dakota State. The sophomore guard averages fewer than seven points a game but in this nail biter she scored 21, including the game-winning bucket from outside the lane with half a second remaining.
Another player I'm sorry to see exit is Arizona State's senior do-it-all Briann January, the two-time Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Asked to take over the point guard role after the Sun Devils' top scorer, Dymond Simon, went out with a knee injury in a game against Stanford in early March, January overcame foul trouble and a sprained ankle to make 11 points and six assists in a come-from-behind win over Florida State in the second round, and she blistered Texas A&M in the Sweet 16, scoring a game-high 22 points on 8 for 10 shooting in 25 minutes. Alas, neither her 12 points nor the 18 of teammate of Danielle Orsillo -- nor the waves of Sun Devil subs coming in every few minutes -- was enough to hold off Connecticut in the Trenton Regional Final.
Andrew Lawrence: Everybody talks about Maya Moore but, for my money, Renee Montgomery is who makes Connecticut's seven-second offense go. Her game reminds me a lot of former Illini guard Luther Head: she's a whiz with the ball and impossible to defend when the Huskies are on the break because she's such a good shooter (she's not only got Head's three-point ability but also his knack with the pull-up jumper as well), an unselfish passer and a great all around finisher.
What's more, her rhythm is infectious. When she gets going, the Huskies are unstoppable.