The Connecticut Huskies' win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday added a new wrinkle to one of the best rivalries in women's hoops that could, because of the strong hand of football money, be the last age line added for some time.
By winning Sunday's national semifinal over the Fighting Irish, UConn finally beat Notre Dame after losing the three matchups of the year -- two in the regular season and one in the the Big East tournament final. Notre Dame has held a tight grip on the rivalry over the past two seasons, winning seven of the last nine games (Sunday's loss and a loss to the Huskies in the 2012 Big East tournament final were the two losses). But UConn's dominating win was something the rivalry hadn't seen in quite a while: a blowout. The last game in the series was a 78-57 win for the Huskies at home on Feb. 19, 2011, and the teams have played 10 times since then.
The UConn win mirrored Notre Dame's run to the national championship game (and ultimate runner-up finish to the Texas A&M Aggies), when the Fighting Irish lost three games during the season to UConn before a 72-63 win in the Final Four.
Having played four games against each other each of the last three seasons, few opponents in basketball can claim to be as familiar with each other as Notre Dame and UConn. But Notre Dame is leaving for the ACC next season, so unless the two teams schedule each other for a regular-season matchup out of conference play, the only chance to resume the rivalry would be at some point in the NCAA tournament.
The rivalry would look a lot different next year, anyway. Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins, a two-time first-team All-American and Notre Dame's all-time leading scorer, ended her career in Sunday's semifinal. The South Bend native finished her sensational career with 10 points and eight assists Sunday, shooting a stone-cold 3-of-15 from the floor. For her to end her career with such a poor night from the floor doesn't seem right; for the last title run of her career to come against any team but UConn would've felt strange, too, had it played out that way.
Instead, the Huskies will play Louisville (another Big East team soon moving to the ACC) for the championship Tuesday. UConn's won seven titles, including the 2009 championship they won over the Cardinals. And when both UConn and Notre Dame tip off next season in another run toward the Final Four that seems nearly inevitable for teams as talented as these two, not having to pass through each other to get there will be a shame.