ALBANY — The Louisville women’s basketball team will enter Sunday’s noon Elite Eight game as the No. 1 seed.
And, as Cardinals head coach Jeff Walz sees it, as the underdog, too.
“We’re going to be the underdog, and that’s fine,” Walz said Saturday, a day before his team takes on No. 2 UConn in the Albany Regional final at Times Union Center. “We’re OK with that. We know you’ve got to show up and play, and . . . I expect a great, great basketball game.”
Walz has an historic senior class that stacks his starting lineup. ACC Player of the Year Asia Durr along with fellow seniors Arica Carter and Sam Fuehring have the best winning percentage in program history regardless of what happens for the rest of the season.
But Louisville’s opponent is UConn, a program that has appeared in the Final Four in each of the last 11 seasons and is led by legendary head coach Geno Auriemma.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for Geno, his program, the way he does things,” Walz said. “He gets everybody's best shot every night, and it's not very often that they’re not giving their best shot to everybody.”
The Cardinals do have a powerful asset against Huskies: previous win against them earlier this season, earned back in January.
“Obviously, it's important,” Walz said. “It does give you a little bit of a sense of like, OK, if we play our best, we can win this game.”
He added: “But at the same time, it's the next game. We aren't playing at home. What we did back then, we're going to have to play better than that if you want to expect a chance to get to a Final Four.”
Walz admitted that beating out UConn for a shot in the Final Four will be an uphill battle.
“We're predicted as the first 1 seed to get beat by ESPN,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. You have to show up and play.”
Walz stressed the importance of the team working together, especially against this opponent.
“We're not going to win tomorrow by playing 1-on-1,” Walz said. “We try to take pieces and put them into a puzzle that works for us. And, then, if everybody does their job, we're pretty darned good. . . . The great teams are the ones [that] they're holding each other accountable and they don't want to let each other down. I truly believe our seniors are dialed in.”
Above all, the Cardinals are excited for the opportunity to play in the program’s fifth Elite Eight appearance against such an impressive team.
“I’m expecting a great basketball game,” Walz said. “It’s going to be fun.”
Hanna Smith is an intern at The Daily Gazette. Smith is a student at Hudson Valley Community College.