View Count: 167 |  Publish Date: April 06, 2014
Standard set by UConn's Auriemma is hard to match

NASHVILLE -- - At this rate, the only college basketball coach Geno Auriemma will be measured against wont be Pat Summitt, the former Tennessee womens coach whose record of eight NCAA titles he may break this week.
It will be John Wooden, whose UCLA mens teams won 10 national championships in a 12-year span in the 1960s and 70s, including seven in a row. Like Wooden, Auriemma hasnt lost a title game.
Stanford (33-3) tries to bring down his unbeaten and top-ranked Huskies (38-0) at 6 Sunday night in the national semifinals at Bridgestone Arena. Another undefeated team, Notre Dame (36-0), plays Maryland (28-6) in the first game at 3:30.
Coach Tara VanDerveer says both her team and Maryland could forestall a battle of unbeatens in the championship game. UConn won its games by an average of 35 points this season, but she said this isnt going to be a cakewalk.
If were going to be somebodys hors doeuvre, she said, were not going to be swallowed easily.
The Cardinal certainly looked loose when they finished Saturdays practice with a line dance on the court. Theyre not shaking in their boots, VanDerveer said.
Stanford has spoiled UConns parade before. In 2008, the Huskies were 36-1 going into the national semifinals when the Cardinal beat them, 82-73, behind 25 points from All-American Candice Wiggins. VanDerveer has reminded her team of that game.
Until Auriemma arrived in 1985, the same year VanDerveer arrived at Stanford, the UConn women had one winning season in their history.
According to UConn great Rebecca Lobo, one of his first major recruits, players go to Storrs mainly because of Auriemmas expertise and the force of his personality rather than to be part of potential national champions.
Any coach who wants to be great should go watch UConn practice for a week, said Lobo, an ESPN analyst, and see the level of accountability that Coach Auriemma holds his players to every single day in practice.
He routinely lands high school All-Americans these days - Septembers group will include three standout guards, winger Kia Nurse from the Canadian national team and possibly Columbia, S.C., forward Aja Wilson, the top-ranked prospect in the country.
To me its a cop-out to say, He gets all the best players, Lobo said. Look around the country. There are teams that get as many good players as he has, but they dont have the success. Theres a reason for that. A lot of it is his personality and what he sees as setting a standard - of doing your best every day, of not making excuses.
He creates adversity in practice by pitting his players against solid male players and setting up situations like being down by five points with a minute to go. But theyre not playing against just five guys, theyre playing against seven.
Breanna Stewart, a national player of the year candidate, chafed at Auriemmas regimen last year as a freshman. At the end of the season, I understood what he was doing, but we kind of butted heads the majority of the season, she said.
Auriemmas recruiting pitch to Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of Mater Dei-Santa Ana was blunt. Like Stewart, she was a Gatorade National Player of the Year as a high school senior, but when she visited UConn, he said, If you want to come here, great. If you dont, dont.
She committed early, before a recruiting battle could even begin. I wanted to be part of something special, she said.
Womens Final Four
Who: Maryland (28-6) vs. Notre Dame (36-0), 3:30 p.m.; Stanford (33-3) vs. Connecticut (38-0), 6 p.m.
Where: Nashville
TV: ESPNWhat to look for
Maryland-Notre Dame - Maryland is more likely than Stanford to wreck the anticipated matchup of unbeaten teams in Tuesdays final. The Irish lost Natalie Achonwa, their leading rebounder (7.7 per game) and third-leading scorer (14.9), to a torn ACL in their Elite Eight win over Baylor. Notre Dame, in the Final Four for the fourth straight year, will rely on terrific guards Jewell Loyd (18.8 ppg) and Kayla McBride (17.2). The Terps will bank on three-time ACC Player of the Year Alyssa Thomas (19.1) to try to reverse their 87-83 loss to the Irish in January.
Stanford-UConn - The Cardinal backcourt of Amber Orrange and Lili Thompson is going to have to outplay UConn guards Bria Hartley and Moriah Jefferson for Stanford to pull off a huge upset. Chiney Ogwumike has her work cut out for her against 6-5 Stefanie Dolson, 6-4 Breanna Stewart and (off the bench) 6-3 Kiah Stokes, all of whom are excellent shot blockers. The Huskies have a powerful, balanced attack, led by the magnificent Stewart (19.4 ppg). Their only weakness is a thin bench. The Cardinal are much better than they were in November, when the Huskies trounced them. Theyll have to be much, much better.
- Tom FitzGerald
Tom FitzGerald is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @tomgfitzgerald

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Time: 2:52  |  News Code: 395708  |  Site: San Francisco Chronicle
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