STORRS, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut is looking at this NCAA tournament as a chance for redemption.
The third-ranked Huskies, who lost both the Big East regular-season and tournament titles to Notre Dame, received the top seed in the Bridgeport Regional and will face 16th-seeded Idaho (17-15) from the Western Athletic Conference in the first round on Saturday.
The Huskies are again on the same side of the bracket with Notre Dame, setting up a possible third straight meeting in the national semifinals. The Irish have won the previous two and have beaten UConn seven of the last eight times the two teams have played, including all three meetings this season.
“I’m sure they want to play us just as much as we want to play them,” said forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn’s leading scorer at 17.4 points per game. “They are trying to prove that they are the top team and we’re trying to prove that we can beat them.”
The Huskies (29-4), who are making their 25th consecutive tournament appearance, are looking for a record sixth consecutive trip to the Final Four and an eighth national title. But coach Geno Auriemma said he feels UConn can’t be considered a favorite.
“I think any time you’re not the number-one No. 1 seed, you’re an underdog, given the success that Notre Dame and Baylor have had,” he said.
UConn will host the first two rounds at Gampel Pavilion, and is looking at a second-round matchup with either No. 8 seed Vanderbilt (20-11) or St. Joseph’s (23-8). Should the Huskies advance, they would play the next two rounds about 80 miles from campus in Bridgeport.
The second seed in the Bridgeport Regional is Kentucky, a team UConn beat in last year’s regional final.
Connecticut’s only other loss this season was to top-ranked Baylor, a team it would not face again until the national championship game. The Huskies beat eight other Top-25 teams this season.
“There’s still a gap there, obviously,” Auriemma said. “If you look at the scores of our games against all the teams that won their conference tournaments this year, there’s still a gap.”
Connecticut hasn’t lost a first-round matchup since falling to Louisville in 1993, and Idaho is not expected to pose much of a threat. The Vandals, making their second tournament appearance and their first since 1985, upset top-seeded Seattle 67-64 in the WAC title game.
Idaho likes to shoot the long ball, ranking in the top 10 nationally in both 3-pointers made (258) and attempts (793). Freshman Christina Salvatore puts up 8.3 per game, hitting 33.0 percent, while junior Alyssa Charlston leads the team with 13.7 points per contest.
The Huskies and Vandals have never played each other.