Connecticut (37-0) vs. Baylor (27-9)
TV / TIME: ESPN / 9:00 p.m.
Most people will be talking about the impact Brittney Griner will have on Sunday. Can she contain Tina Charles, who was just named AP Player of the Year. Will she be able to dominate the paint on both sides of the ball? If you really look deep into the matchup, how the rest of Baylor plays against the undefeated Huskies will determine the outcome. We all know about Griner, who set the NCAA record (for men and women) for most blocks in a single tournament. She practically single-handedly shutdown Fresno State, Georgetown, Tennessee and Duke with 35 total blocks, shattering the previous tournament record of 30 set by Duke’s Alison Bales in 2006.
We know what Griner brings to the table. The hope for the Bears is that Melissa Jones, Morghan Medlock and Kelli Griffin can do enough to contain Maya Moore, Kalana Green and Tiffany Hayes. What makes Connecticut so dominant is that all five of its starters do more than one thing on the floor. They are all capable mid-range shooters. Four of the five are capable ball handlers and they all play excellent defense. Connecticut leads the nation in field goal percentage defense (29.9 percent). But guess who’s No2. You got it. Baylor (32.9 percent). Baylor, not shockingly, leads the Nation in blocks (7.6). But Uconn is no slouch and is 10th in blocks at 5.8 per game. Sufficed to say look for a lot of defense early in the contest.
Whatever happens, this game could mean a serious ratings boon for ESPN. Griner, arguably the biggest name in women's college basketball, squaring off against maybe the greatest team ever. It doesn't get much better than that.
Stanford (35-1) vs. Oklahoma (27-10)
TV / TIME: ESPN / 7:00 p.m.
The Stanford Cardinal has proven they are the second best team in the country. They player Connecticut the closest in an 80-68 loss early this season and haven’t been challenged too much this season, although Xavier nearly upended Stanford in the Elite 8 last week. That tight game notwithstanding, Stanford has great balance on both sides of the ball. Sophomore forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike has emerged has a primetime player for the Cardinal, while 6-4 senior Jayne Appel has been the team’s emotional leader all season. Appel has the ability to impact the game on both sides of the ball. Kayla Pedersen completes a frontline that can call itself the best in the country.
As for the Sooners, it’s been an interesting ride. Oklahoma lost four of its final nine games of the regular season. But they quickly turned it around in the tournament and had a relatively easy time advancing. Three of the Sooners’ four tournament wins came by at least 11 points. Junior guard Danielle Robinson (16.6 ppg) leads three other double-digit scorers. The key has been the play of Amanda Thompson. The undersized senior forward is averaging 13.1 points and 10.6 rebounds. She will need every ounce of strength she has to deal with Stanford’s monster front. Abi Olajuwon (10.7 ppg, 7.3 reb) will need to have a big game.
Stanford needs to be careful not to look past the offensively potent Sooners.