Geno Auriemma in the NCAA regional final against Florida State (AP)
April 1, 2010
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Former President George W. Bush called Baylor coach Kim Mulkey on her cell phone Wednesday while she spoke with reporters about playing mighty Connecticut in the Final Four.
Bush was told to call back.
Even in a phone face-off, the Huskies can't be beat.
"The thing that you gotta remember, guys, is I don't care how good UConn is," Mulkey said before her phone rang. "One day they will lose."
Few expect that day to come anytime soon.
The Huskies are entering the Final Four on a roll. An unprecedented 76-game winning streak. No margin of victory closer than 12 points. With two victories in the Alamodome starting Sunday against Baylor, the Huskies will notch the first back-to-back undefeated seasons in history.
Connecticut (37-0) crushed Florida State by 40 points Tuesday to make the national semifinals. Stanford (35-1) needed a stunning finish in the last 4.4 seconds against Xavier to get here.
"They've made just some tremendous statements," Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said. "We're getting there different ways. But we're all there."
Here for the second straight season are Stanford, Connecticut and Oklahoma, which also made the Final Four in St. Louis a year ago. The lone newcomer is Baylor, making its first Final Four appearance since winning the national title in 2005.
Beating Connecticut in the semifinals may be even a bigger feat.
"Somebody's gotta beat Connecticut," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. "Somebody has got to stop the madness at some point."
Mulkey said she knows it's a monumental task: take down the Huskies, who haven't lost since 2008 and whom Mulkey called the most heavily favored Final Four team she's ever seen. Connecticut has ripped through the tournament, winning its four previous games by an average of 47 points.
What Baylor (27-9) has going for it is Brittney Griner, the dunking 6-foot-8 freshman phenom whose ability is unlike any other player in the country. Already Griner has set an NCAA tournament record with 35 blocks in four games.
Baylor also isn't intimidated. Mulkey likened it to watching others play against her at Louisiana Tech in the 1980s, when Mulkey was a guard on a Connecticut-like team that went 130-6 and won two national titles over four seasons.
"We understand the challenge. We understand that we're not supposed to win," Mulkey said. "We understand 37 other teams haven't won. We understand the win streak. But we still have to play."
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said he doesn't see the Huskies crushing the tournament field so far as a sign of weak competition, but rather his team playing well.
Even more so than usual.
"We're celebrating everything every day," Auriemma said. "And maybe that's why we are able to keep doing it, because we're not obsessed with what's next. I want them to celebrate, because it's going to end. It's going to end Sunday or it's going to end Tuesday. It's going to end."
Oklahoma (27-10) and Stanford - which will play in Sunday's other semifinal - have already faced Connecticut this season. The Cardinal lost by 12 in Hartford, Conn., while the Sooners lost by 16 at home in February.
Stanford was the last team to beat Connecticut, ousting the Huskies in the 2008 national semifinals.
"There's no substitute for being on the floor with your foe," Coale said. "There's maybe a mystique that can be dismantled."
If it's a mystique with Connecticut, Auriemma will be careful this week about describing it.
Auriemma said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins - whose Mountaineers are in the men's Final Four - left a nasty voice mail earlier this season when Huggins thought Auriemma told the press that Connecticut was the best team in college basketball.
Huggins challenged him to a game before Auriemma told him he never said that.
"I guess he was tired of fighting with his team. He wants to fight with me now," Auriemma said. "So we had a big laugh about that."