CARDS VS HUSKIES ON DEC. 19th AT MOHEGAN SUN
(NOTE: FRIDAYS WITH DARYL will have to wait until next week, as I got a text message this morning from her -- outlining her "sunup to past sundown" work day Thursday and the same for today. The good thing about Cardinal Couple is that we cover for each other when things come up. So, I head to the plate as a pinch-hitter this morning to bring you the Friday write-up. As fate would have it, we have women's basketball news this Friday -- a rarity in late May. Batter up !)
GENO AND JEFF: ROUND 19
Jeff Walz and Geno Auriemma have faced each other 18 times since Jeff Walz took over the Cardinals program in the 2007-08 season. They renew the rivalry for the 2021-22 season after the game was cancelled in 2020-21 because of the pandemic. Geno is one of the few active college women's basketball coaches out there in NCAA DI women's hoops that has a winning record over Walz. Why ruin a perfectly good Friday by re-hashing the entire series, let's just say that the Cards and Huskies are 1-1 in the last two meetings.
The two will square off again in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Showcase this year at the Mohegan Sun Arena, in Uncasville CT. on Dec. 19th. The matchup is one of two games that day in the facility -- Baylor (minus Mulkey) will face Michigan, who is headed up by Kim Barnes Arico.
Walz speaks of the event:
"We are extremely excited to play UConn in the 2021 Women's Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena. Our experience at Mohegan Sun last year was first class and it's an honor to participate in this Hall of Fame event. After being unable to play UConn last season as we had hoped, we are thrilled we are able to continue our rivalry."
As you may remember, Doug Bruno gallantly offered his DePaul Blue Demon as a replacement for UConn against the Cards last year and the Cards looked most impressive in a record-setting 116-75 win in just their third game of the season. I hope "Dougie" at least got a Jerry Garcia tie out of the sacrifice.
So, let's take a look ahead at the match-up and the possibilities that might exist. On the Cards side, they'll be in their first "AD" (after Dana) season and one would expect they'd already have a few games already under their belt before this match-up. They add a strong nucleus of Payton Verhulst, Sydni Schetnan, Emily Engstler and Chelsie Hall to a squad that'll have Kianna Smith, Liz Dixon, Hailey Van Lith, Ahlana Smith, Olivia Cochran, Kasa Robinson. Norika Konno, Merissah Russell and Ramani Parker returning. A squad that went 26-4 (14-2 in the ACC) before running into eventual champion Stanford in the "Great Eight" of the NCAA Tournament
Over on the Huskies side of the court, Geno brings in frosh standouts Saylor Poffenbarger, Carolina Ducharme, Azzi Fudd and Amarie DeBerr -- along with grad-transfer Dora Juhasz to join a lineup that returns Aaliyah Edwards, Paige Bueckers, Christyn Williams, Olivia Nelson-Odoba, Aubrey Griffin, Evina Westbrook and more. The Huskies went 28-2 in the 2020-21 season, before getting upset by Arizona in the NCAA Final Four.
What say you, Geno?
"We're always excited to have the opportunity to play at Mohegan Sun. The Basketball Hall of Fame has put together another exciting Women's Showcase this season. Our fans didn't have the opportunity to see this team in person last season, so I think it will a great experience for them and the players."
It's noticeable that Geno didn't mention who the Huskies were playing. The first salvo has been fired across the bow...
We'll give Geno a little leeway, though, he has been busy blasting the transfer portal.
Obviously, it is way too early to predict just where the Cards and Huskies will be ranked when the game comes around. It's also a Sunday game in the middle of college bowl season and pro football, so it'll be interesting to see what time it is played and which network will pick up the double-header. No info on tickets yet, but, we have about six months yet -- so let's let the cake bake a bit first before we get the folks and plates out, right?
Nevertheless, it's another sign that things are slowly starting to return to pre-COVID normalcy in women's college basketball. Let's hope the trajectory stays uplifting and promising.
Have a fun Friday!