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UConn women open NCAA tourney at home against Idaho

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published March 19. 2013 4:00AM

Storrs - It would not be UConn women's basketball without forsaking the present for the future. Which is why, remaining consistent with the fans' penchant to be preoccupied with future recruits over current players and for buying Final Four tickets in October, we present Selection Monday, 2013:

The talk Monday night at Gampel Pavilion was not about UConn's opening round opponent (Idaho, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., ESPN2) or even which teams would come next. Instead, the focus was two weeks beyond, in what would be the potential fourth game of the season against Notre Dame at the Final Four.

Earlier Monday, UConn coach Geno Auriemma told a gathering at the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce that the Huskies would beat Notre Dame if presented with another opportunity.

"You're either convinced you're going to win or you should hope you lose in the Final Eight," Auriemma said Monday night. "There's nothing I've seen this year that leads me to believe we can't beat every team in the tournament. There's not one game we've played this year against the teams that are arguably the top 12 teams in the country that leads me to believe we're not good enough to win all those games. I believe that with all my heart."

But before a trip to New Orleans and the program's 14th Final Four berth, comes two games in Storrs this weekend and two more in Bridgeport, if UConn gets that far.

Idaho (17-15) begins the journey Saturday before the winner of the No. 8 Vanderbilt (20-11) vs. No. 9 Saint Joseph's (23-8). That game tips at 11:05 Saturday morning.

UConn (29-4) is the top seed in the Bridgeport Region, joining fellow top seeds Baylor (32-1), Notre Dame (31-1) and Stamford (31-2). UConn would meet Notre Dame in the national semifinals at New Orleans Arena.

Among the other notables in Bridgeport Region:

No. 2 Kentucky (27-5) was also the No. 2 seed in UConn's bracket last season in Kingston, R.I. The Wildcats, who lost the Southeastern Conference title game to Texas A&M, feature former Norwich Free Academy great Kastine Evans and former UConn forward Samarie Walker.

No. 4 Maryland gave UConn one of its toughest regular season games, a physical game in Hartford. The Terps (24-7) have one of the best frontlines in the country (forwards Alyssa Thomas and Tianna Hawkins and center Alicia DeVaughn).

No. 6 Delaware (30-3) plays its first two games at home, including a potential second-round game with No. 3 North Carolina. But if the Blue Hens make Bridgeport, Connecticut fans would get to see Elena Delle Donne, who once signed with UConn and left school.

No. 13 Quinnipiac (30-2) is the only other school from the state in the NCAA tournament. Quinnipiac plays Maryland Saturday morning in College Park, Md.

Notre Dame must get past second-seeded Duke in the Norfolk Region while Stanford may play its fourth game of the season against second-seeded California in the Spokane Region. Tennessee is the second seed in the Oklahoma City region with Baylor.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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BRIDGEPORT REGION

At Gampel Pavilion, Storrs

First Round

Saturday's Games

No. 8 Vanderbilt (20-11) vs. No. 9 Saint Joseph's (23-8), 11 a.m. (ESPN2)

No. 1 UConn (29-4) vs. No. 16 Idaho (17-15), 1:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Second Round

Monday's Game

UConn-Idaho winner vs. Vanderbilt-Saint Joseph's winner, 7 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU)

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