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Jeff Eisenberg

Women's final preview: Stanford upset or UConn coronation?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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The Dagger previews the women's national title game between UConn and Stanford:

No. 1 UConn (38-0) vs. No. 1 Stanford (36-1)

Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. EDT, Alamo Dome (San Antonio)

How they got here:

UConn d. Southern 95-39, d. Temple 90-36, d. Iowa State 74-36, d. Florida State 90-50, d. Baylor 70-50

Stanford d. UC Riverside 79-47, d. Iowa 96-67, d. Georgia 73-36, d. Xavier 55-53, d. Oklahoma 73-66

Last title game appearances:

UConn: 2009 (Defeated Louisville, 76-54)

Stanford: 2008 (Lost to Tennessee, 64-48)

Three keys to the game:

1. Jayne Appel's health: Hobbled by a lingering ankle injury that has prevented her from practicing and limited her movement during games, Appel had been averaging just 11 points and 4 rebounds during NCAA tournament play before putting up 13 and 10 on Sunday. Nnemkadi Ogwumike has picked up the slack with back-to-back monster games, but the Cardinal need Appel to be a big offensive weapon without becoming a defensive liability against UConn.

2. Stanford's three-point shooting: The Cardinal shot the lights out from the perimeter in blowout wins over Iowa and Georgia, but they've gone 5 of 33 from 3-point range in two subsequent games. If Stanford's streaky outside shooters don't reverse that trend and start knocking down jumpers efficiently enough to punish opposing teams for collapsing on Appel and Nnemkadi, the Cardinal are going to struggle to score against UConn.

3. UConn's perimeter athleticism: The UConn backcourt poses problems for every team, but Stanford's lack of lateral quickness makes it an especially big concern. Rosalyn Gold-Onwude is an elite defender and will surely see the bulk of the assignment against Maya Moore, though Jeanette Pohlen is another candidate.

Prediction:

Stanford's lone loss this season came by 12 to UConn back in December, but the Cardinal do have the last victory against the Huskies in the Final Four back in 2008. If Stanford is going to spring the upset again Tuesday night, it will need to play above its means in several categories, most notably outside shooting percentage. Ultimately, though, UConn is good enough to survive either a surprisingly poor shooting night from its shooters or a surprisingly good one from Stanford's. Give me UConn, 78-65.

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