Three wins by a combined four points. Winning every game as the underdog. Sister freaking Jean.
Sure, Loyola-Chicago’s run through the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has been wonderful to experience. It’s full of feel-good moments that’ve fueled the forgotten fans of mid-major conferences everywhere.
But there’s one storyline that some basketball fans aren’t familiar with, one arc that feeds a much more basic motivation.
I speak of the unfiltered, carnal revenge plot of the Connecticut women’s basketball team. It is enthralling, cathartic and, most importantly, entirely entertaining.
UConn forward Gabby Williams said her mind wasn’t on avenging last season’s loss to Mississippi State in the Final Four, even though it’s the only defeat the team has experienced in its last 148 games. After her team’s Elite Eight win last night over 2017 champion South Carolina on Monday, she was asked if a shot at redemption was one of her driving factors.
“‘Redemption?’” she asked. “I don’t know if that’s the word. But I definitely think we have something to prove not only to the world, but to the rest of ourselves as well.”
My head canon says that’s not entirely honest, if only because the actions of the team so far in the tournament say otherwise.
The Huskies won their first-round game by 88 points. They nearly tripled-up St. Francis with a 140-52 win back on March 16. It can’t be described as a game, per se. A game implies some sort of competitive aspect. This more resembled what might happen if you hurled a grenade into the middle of a greenhouse: unflinching, indiscriminate and immediate destruction.
They won their next two matchups by a combined 38 points and took down three-time All-American A’ja Wilson and South Carolina by 29. Wilson did what she’d done her entire career to deter UConn, scoring 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting, but none of it seemed to matter. By the end of the first quarter, Connecticut was up 18.
Now, the Huskies will face Notre Dame in the Final Four. UConn beat the Fighting Irish by nine back in December, and coach Geno Auriemma’s squad hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down yet.
That should make every fan of slow-burning vengeance quiver in anticipation of the potential championship matchup.
Mississippi State still has to get through Louisville in the semifinals. Should that happen, my — and the nation’s — most intimate wish will come true.
Huskies and Bulldogs for the championship. A true dogfight.
To remind those with a short memory, UConn is 147-1 in its previous 148 games. Of course, the Huskies’ one loss came in overtime. Of course, it came on a buzzer-beating jumper in last year’s Final Four. Of course, the shot was nailed by Morgan William, a 5-foot-5 guard nicknamed “Itty-bitty.” Nothing about the upset didn’t fit the narrative perfectly.
For every perfectionist, the singular blemish on the Huskies’ resumé serves as a mug-shaped coffee stain on an otherwise pristine wedding dress. For every downtrodden underdog, it’s the only shimmer of light on a matte black ocean of failure.
Now, nearly a year to the day after William’s shot, the paths of the two teams seem destined to intertwine once again. As a normal person with basic emotion, I need this game to happen. As a fan of sport, I’m willing this to be the case.
And as a staunch advocate of petty revenge, I’m holding my breath in anticipation of a rematch.
Morgan McMullen is the online sports editor at The Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coach Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies have won six of the last nine NCAA Women's Basketball Championships.