It can be difficult for big tough dudes to admit they’d ever watch women’s college basketball, so let’s keep this between us. UConn and Notre Dame meet Tuesday night (8:30 p.m., ESPN) to decide the NCAA women’s national champion, and I’m here to tell you that if haven’t seen UConn’s Breanna Stewart play, you’re missing out.
Stewart, of course, is a girl. She’s also 6’4”—the size of some centers in the women’s game --and can handle the ball like a guard. She can take her opponent of the dribble all the way to the basket, or stop on a dime and stick a shot in her grill. You can see some of Stewart’s highlights playing for the U.S. national team below.
Stewart averaged 19.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks in her sophomore season to earn AP player of the year honors. She was the MVP of the Final Four last year. While the numbers are impressive, a viewer watching her play is struck by her combination of fluidity and precision. She slows the game down in much the same way as the NBA’s best players do. Dormant for five or six minutes, Stewart will explode for 10 points in a two-minute span and appear as if she isn’t breaking a sweat. She can muscle a smaller opponent in the post on one play and come off a curl and nail a 3-pointer like Ray Allen on the next.
Adding to the reasons to watch Tuesday night’s contest between the undefeated Huskies and Fighting Irish is that the coaches hate each other’s guts. When Stewart received her player of the year award over Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw didn’t clap. McGraw, who was named coach of the year at the event, noted tension in the room and said about the civility of the rivalry, “I think we’re past that point.’’
UConn coach Geno Auriemma chaffed at McGraw for failing to show respect to his player and took some jabs back, saying, “Nobody knows what it’s like being us. Nobody knows what we go through every day. What our players go through every time they win an award. Everybody’s [ticked] off. The worst part is that they act [ticked] off because our guy won an award.”
Should be fun.