BYU's approach against UConn women ... on any given night
Lincoln, Neb. - It is romantic, if nothing else, to entertain the possibility. They still talk Lake Placid and David Tyree. Upsets happen. And say this much for the women of Brigham Young: They have ancestry that suggests they should believe.
Take, for instance, forward Morgan Bailey, niece of former North Carolina State forward Thurl Bailey, a member of the late Jim Valvano's miracle team that won the 1983 national championship.
Then there's head coach Jeff Judkins. He was an assistant men's coach under Rick Majerus at Utah when the Utes upset Arizona to reach the 1998 Final Four and then beat North Carolina before losing in the title game to Kentucky.
"I just have to get my team to come out and play their game and not worry," Judkins said Friday, before preparing his 12th-seeded team for the regional semifinals against No. 1 UConn (4:30 p.m., ESPN). "I think this is what basketball is all about. Basketball is a crazy game that way. Anybody on any given night, a team can be off, foul trouble, injury, some team can be really on, so you just don't know."
Off the podium, Judkins was even discussing UConn's weaknesses: "a thin bench and they haven't been in any close games," he said.
Not that Judkins isn't a realist. He knows the Cougars (28-6) are playing the Gatsbys today. It's just that it's not anywhere in Judkins' program to be intimidated. He was a Celtic with Larry Bird. He coached under Majerus. This is his ninth 20-win season at BYU.
"First of all, nobody thought we'd be here or we wouldn't have been (seeded) 12th," Judkins said. "We beat a really good North Carolina State team and then we turn around and play Nebraska. Would I want to play UConn now? No. I'd rather play them for the championship game and know we got to the Final Four, but everybody knows that you have to go through UConn to win a championship right now in women's basketball. You play them now or you play them in the championship, you're gonna have to eventually meet them."
UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who has a great relationship with Judkins, even offered some thoughts about how he'd eliminate the Huskies.
"I would try to get the coach to act like a dummy and get thrown out," Auriemma said. "There are weaknesses that every team has. There are things that every team does that you can take advantage of. We are certainly no different from any other team in that aspect. The key is in every game can you take advantage of those weaknesses and can you sustain that for 40 minutes?
"What team can make the adjustment quicker? Our team and our staff, we all know what our weaknesses are, but my job is to make sure the other teams don't know what they are. But, I am sure Jeff and Doug (Bruno of DePaul) and Gary Blair (of Texas A&M) are all worried about the weaknesses on their own team like we all are."
BYU features, among others, 6-foot-7 center Jennifer Hamson, a senior averaging 18 points and 11.5 rebounds. Auriemma said he's impressed with her mobility, among other attributes.
"(UConn) might do a couple of things. Things a lot of teams try to do is push me out and get me far away from the block," Hamson said. "Other teams will double team; they will front me and have someone play behind as well. People have played me that way before so I'm just excited to see what they're going to do and just be ready for it."
The Huskies, meanwhile, were plenty loose during their practice time at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
"We always say you don't look at what's on the front of their jersey or what their ranking is. Going out there, it's the tournament," UConn senior Stefanie Dolson said. "Every team is going to play their best and you know that if you lose, you go home, so we don't look at what they're ranked or what their season was like. We just go out there and play as hard as we can and focus on our game and not the team we're playing."