LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Maybe it was the magic of the pre-game ceremonies on Senior Night. Maybe it was the lingering magic of shocking Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen last March.
"We know we're capable of beating them," Schimmel said. "If there's any team in the country, I think we're the most capable, because we play them so many times."
Whatever it was, after the Cardinals shot 13-for-44 following a 7-for-9 start and were outrebounded 47-30, these words came out of Schimmel's mouth.
"We're going to get them one time, I promise you that," Schimmel said. "The conference championship game [at Mohegan Sun] or the national championship game, whenever it might be, we're going to get them."
Whatever it was, after the Cardinals followed their 17-point loss at Storrs with a 20-point loss at home, these words came out of Schimmel's mouth.
"I think we're going to get them," Schimmel said. "It's just like Baylor last year, nobody thought we were going to beat them. And, hey, we did that."
On a great night for women's basketball where 22,163 fans jammed KFC Yum! Center and Native Americans from more than 40 states arrived from all parts of our nation as part of the ceremonies to honor Schimmel, I hate to be so blunt about what came out of Schimmel's mouth.
But I will. It's called delusion. Louisville's not beating UConn, not in women's basketball, not this season.
There was a question to be answered in this game and ultimately it had less to do with sharing a regular-season title with UConn if the Cardinals had won. The question went like this: If the Cardinals slip to a No. 2 seed, which may well happen, and if they get a sellout crowd rocking an Elite Eight game can they rattle No. 1 UConn into another Louisville miracle like last March against Brittney Griner?
After spreading the floor, hitting shots, riding the emotion of Senior Night to a 7-0 lead through two minutes — UConn had never trailed by more than four all season — the cold slap-in-the-face fact is the Cardinals were outscored by 27 points over the final 38 and outplayed in virtually every phase.
So the answer is, no, the 2013-2014 Huskies don't have anything to fear in coming back to Louisville for the NCAA Regional.
Asked if the Huskies had left that message, Bria Hartley answered: "I think so. At UConn, you're proud like this when the crowd is all against you. This is where our program shines the most. We rise up. We did tonight."
Asked if she thought there was merit in Schimmel's words that Louisville will get UConn, Kaleena Mosqeuda-Lewis said: "Ehhhhhh, she's my friend now. So I'll probably say no."
KML didn't want to say anything about a potential NCAA rematch here, either. When told that she is being quite diplomatic, KML smiled and said, "I've been interviewed a few times."
And Breanna Stewart?
"I don't want to make any comments," Stewart said after scoring 22 points and pulling in 14 rebounds. "We won the conference championship. If we see them again in the conference tournament, which we might, I'm sure it'll be a difficult game. I'm glad I play on this team."
I admit. After Notre Dame beat UConn for the third successive time last season in the Big East Tournament championship, I didn't think the Huskies could turn it around in a month and win it all. Not only did they, they routed Notre Dame in the Final Four.
This is a different season and this is a different team. This is a great UConn team. We've seen four perfect seasons before and this team has the sweet scent of a fifth. It's a little amazing how some folks think otherwise.
Maybe people are influenced by UConn's injuries and KML's mono. Maybe people think they are vulnerable. Or maybe they see things they want to see. After UConn was the unanimous No. 1 pick in the writers and coaches polls in the preseason, Harold Gutmann of the Durham Herald voted Duke No. 1 after the first week of the season. To his credit he changed his mind before UConn routed Duke by 22 at Cameron Indoor.
After UConn won the national title last spring, Elon coach Charlotte Smith still voted Baylor No. 1. She was not dissuaded by the fact Louisville had beaten Baylor with 16 threes. "I don't know whether the stars aligned for them (Louisville) in the universe," Smith told USA Today. "But I feel that had (Baylor) gotten by Louisville, Baylor would've been national champions.''
Yep, the answer to voting in a poll is in the stars. It's astronomy or astrology.
Now an unnamed coach has voted unbeaten Notre Dame No. 1 in the latest poll. And, hey, going into the game Monday night the RPI had the Irish No. 1 and UConn No. 3.
Geno Auriemma did launch a staunch defense of Louisville as a No. 1 seed. It appears impossible to dislodge UConn, Notre Dame and Stanford at No. 1. That leaves South Carolina, Louisville and maybe Baylor or West Virginia battling for that last No. 1.
"Absolutely, I think (Louisville) is a No. 1 seed," Auriemma said. "They've done everything they were supposed to do. They don't have any bad losses. And it's not like they just got good this year. They've been in two Final Fours and played in two national championship games. They're going to fill the building up. So now reward them. They've earned it. That's not to say there isn't anyone else who deserves it. But I don't know anyone who deserves it more."
Asked how he would feel if UConn was sent to Louisville for the Regional, Auriemma answered, "I would feel [the selection committee] spent most of the night at the bourbon bar here in Kentucky."
And then when asked what it would take to beat his team, Auriemma answered, "Me and Stewie and Bria going up to the bourbon bar and staying up there for the next three or four months."
That second bourbon bar was a joke.
"Any team can play poorly for one night," Auriemma said. "In the NCAA Tournament, if you have one bad night, you lose. The other team has to play great, don't get me wrong."
That's what happened with Baylor and Louisville last year, Auriemma said, especially in the first half with Baylor
Jeff Walz, meanwhile, believes if all is fair UConn should go to Lincoln for the Regional.
"It's going to come down to whatever the NCAA decides," Walz said. "As coaches, years ago, we were the ones who voted on the geography over true seeding … I don't think people are going to drive from Storrs to Louisville, instead of going from Storrs to Lincoln.
"If you're going to make a true NCAA tournament feel and a true bracket, which is what I'm hoping our game can get to, that's what it should be. I still think we're fighting for a No. 1 seed, but if not I think we're an awfully high two. Would UConn come here? I don't know. If the NCAA sticks to what it's done in the past, there's a good chance they'll come here. If we have to play them a fourth time to get to the Final Four, I'd rather play them here. But at the same time if you're trying to make a true tournament, they should be going to Lincoln."
UConn has beaten Louisville 15 times in a row. The last time, the Huskies lost to the Cardinals was 1993. It also was the last time they lost two in a row.
They aren't going to lose one in a row this season.
No words by Shoni Schimmel will change that.
And for those who want to point to an overall strength-of-schedule argument for why Notre Dame should be No. 1?