Monday, April 5, 2004
Updated: April 6, 3:14 AM ET
Updated: April 6, 3:14 AM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- What will decide Tuesday's national championship between Connecticut and Tennessee? ESPN.com asked the experts to share their opinion:
Nancy Lieberman, ESPN analyst
No one will have a bigger impact on this game than Diana Taurasi. She rises to the occasion in big games, and always seems to come through against Tennessee, a team she has never scored fewer than 12 points against. Even if everyone else plays well, from UConn's Ann Strother to Tennessee's Shanna Zolman, nobody can do the things Taurasi does. It's like having Michael Jordan on your team. Taurasi is a difference-maker, a winner, and if the game is on the line down the stretch, she can single-handedly win it for you. Not many people have that ability, and I'd categorize her with Jordan, Cynthia Cooper, Wayne Gretzky and Martina Navratilova. To try to counter, Tennessee must bring its A-game. The Lady Vols have been too inconsistent lately. They must push tempo, be aggressive on the boards and hit outside shots. Tennessee must take advantage of its size inside.
Mechelle Voepel, ESPN.com columnist
The post game will be an X-factor; Ashley Robinson and Shyra Ely have to show up or Tennessee can't win -- and they know that. Tennessee senior LaToya Davis can also be a difference-maker if she's able to use her quickness to limit UConn's second chances. She's not super big, but she's quick and a good jumper who can get a hand on the ball, deflect it or slap it away so that her teammates might be able to track down the rebound. Davis gets in there and mixes it up more than people realize, and sometimes those plays can change a game.
Stacey Dales-Schuman, ESPN analyst
Defense. Tennessee did an excellent defensive job on LSU's Seimone Augustus, who shot 7-for-21 Sunday after shooting 66 percent from the field the rest of the tournament. Augustus is at her best coming off screens, just like UConn's Diana Taurasi, but Tennessee switched players on her very effectively, crowded her, and basically had someone glued on Augustus the whole game. Expect more of the same against Taurasi, but keep in mind the Lady Vols haven't had an answer for in the past. Tennessee will continue to vary its defensive looks -- the Lady Vols used different zone sets, traditional man and even a box-and-one Sunday -- and hopes it can be as disruptive as it was in the semifinals, when a second-half zone really prevented LSU from finding its offensive rhythm. Though Tennessee emphasizes rebounding, UConn dominated the glass better than anybody else in the semis, outrebounding Minnesota 36-25 and limiting the tournament's best rebounder to 10 boards below her average. UConn's defense will look to prevent the Lady Vols from penetrating inside.
Ann Meyers, ESPN analyst
Tennessee has to have something on the inside. Shyra Ely and Ashley Robinson need to score. On Sunday, nobody helped out Tasha Butts, who posted a double-double despite not playing her best game. Still, she had to work overtime just to carry the team until the end. LaToya Davis is also playing well and must continue to be a factor. Connecticut, which is playing great defense and has been able to take its opponents out of rhythm, has the edge mentally. The Huskies are the two-time defending champ and already have beaten Tennessee once this year.