The Notre Dame and UConn women’s basketball teams have quickly developed a fierce rivalry over the past several years. The two teams have played a ton, mainly because they used to be in the Big East together. Now that they play in different conferences, it is only fitting that the Irish and Huskies are meeting in the national championship game on Tuesday night.
Some are comparing the current UConn-Notre Dame rivalry to the one the Huskies had with Tennessee several years ago. One thing that is fueling that rivalry is the blatant dislike UConn coach Geno Auriemma and Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw have for one another.
“We’ve got two really, really good teams,” Auriemma said earlier this week, via Lori Riley of the Hartford Courant. “Forget the other stuff. The other stuff is such nonsense. Really, that’s nonsense. I could sit here and list 10,000 coaches that don’t interact with each other whose rivalries are intense.
“This is a function of women’s basketball. Sometimes we act like girls, like we’re supposed to go to dinner every night. We’re supposed to play each other, try to beat each other’s brains out, try to win a national championship and compete like hell, Muffet and Geno, and then we’re supposed to get together afterward and go have a bottle of wine. That’s just not going to happen. So stop asking why it doesn’t happen.”
On Saturday, Notre Dame and UConn watched the unveiling of The Associated Press player and coach of the year awards from a small room together at Bridgestone Arena. McGraw admitted it was a tense atmosphere.
“Yeah, I think there was definitely tension in the room,” she said. “I think, for us, we wanted Kayla McBride to win the player of the year award [instead of UConn's Breanna Stewart]. So I think it was a little bit of that. And certainly the rivalry has gone a little away from the civility it was when we were in the league together.”
Stewart took home player of the year and McGraw won coach of the year. The Irish and Huskies have a combined record of 76-0 and are the two best teams in women’s college basketball. The fact that the coaches hate each other makes our jobs easier. This won’t be the last time these two teams meet for a title.