By Doug Feinberg
AP Basketball Writer
There’s no doubt that UConn is the overwhelming favorite to win an unprecedented fourth straight national championship and 11th title overall.
In Las Vegas, gamblers can either lay $900 to win $100 if UConn wins, or get 6-1 odds on the field, according to odds at the Westgate Las Vegas sports book.
It’s hard to see UConn losing, as the Huskies have won their last 69 games by double digits, including going 32-0 this season. They’ve trailed just a few times during that streak. Still, as coach Geno Auriemma said, on any given day UConn could not shoot well and his team might have to find another way to win.
With no disrespect intended to their early round opponents, starting with 16-seed Robert Morris, it would take a monumental effort to have a chance to pull off the historic upset. The Huskies have made it to at least the Final Four in eight straight seasons and odds are that won’t end this year..
Here are a few teams that could have a chance to dethrone the three-time champions if the ball bounces the right way and they can get through their part of the bracket. The earliest any of these teams would meet UConn would be in the regional final.
BAYLOR: The Lady Bears wouldn’t see the Huskies until the Final Four and they are the only top seed that hasn’t fallen to UConn this season. Still if the Huskies’ past history plays any role, it’s very rare that a team beats them in the NCAAs when they don’t play in the regular season.
“UConn is the team to beat. UConn is just better,” coach Kim Mulkey said. “But I’ve won a national championship at Baylor when the better team didn’t win. I’ve lost a national championship when the better team didn’t win. I’ve been a part of it long enough to know the highs and lows of this business. Are we talented enough? Yes. Are we experienced? Yes. Do, and will, we play good enough? I don’t know. The other team may have something to do with that. Just go play, and do the best you can.”
NOTRE DAME: No team has had more success over the past decade against the Huskies than Notre Dame. The Irish had a stretch from 2011-2013 when they won seven of the eight meetings, including knocking UConn out of the Final Four in 2011 and 2012.
When the two teams met earlier this season, Notre Dame went shot for shot with the Huskies and only lost by 10 points. The Irish, who hit 13 3-pointers in that game, were missing star forward Brianna Turner, who was out with a shoulder injury.
SOUTH CAROLINA: When these two teams met last month as the top two teams in the country, the Gamecocks lost at home by a dozen points in front of a sold out crowd. Star A’ja Wilson left midway through the second quarter with a leg injury. She returned in the fourth period with the game out of reach. The Gamecocks have the size and talent to compete with UConn, they just need to get consistent outside shooting to have a chance.
SOUTH FLORIDA: Sure, UConn beat them already three times this year, but coach Jose Fernandez’s team led the Huskies at the half of one of those games and were competitive in the other two contests. The Bulls have shown no fear of UConn with star Courtney Williams saying before the American Athletic Conference final that the Huskies were “beatable.”
AP sports writer Tim Dahlberg in Las Vegas contributed to this report.