It makes sense that these two teams are meeting in Mile High City to determine the winner of the national championship. Frankly most analysts picked this to be the final game of the college basketball season before anyone played a single minute and they ranked these two teams #1 and #2 at the time as well.
These two teams played each other earlier in the season at Waco, TX and Baylor came out on top 94-81. But that was 4 months ago, and both of these teams have changed since then. Baylor is currently 39-0 and Notre Dame will try to prevent history tonight.
A quick preview of the game after the jump
If the game from November 20th is any reference it should be said that Baylor dominated the Irish early, and Notre Dame came back in the second half to go neck and neck in the last 20 minutes. While the Irish got every shot they wanted on offense in the second half, they failed to stop Brittney Griner and the Bears all game on the defensive end. Griner finished the game with 32 points (on 14-18 shooting), 14 rebounds and 5 blocks. ND's star guards Skylar Diggins and Natalie Novosel combined for 55 points but Devereaux Peters was in foul trouble most of the match and the Irish did not get much contribution from anyone else during the game.
This game will simply come down to who can score more points. While ND is more talented on the offensive end, they also do not have an answer for Griner as both Peters and Natalie Achonwa lack the size to really challenge the towering Griner who stands 6'8" and can shoot over (and block) anyone with her 11' + reach.
The X Factor of the game for the Irish will be Natalie Achonwa who had 0 points in 12 minutes at the last meeting. Achonwa has since improved immensely and has shown great hands and touch around the basket and in the paint. She does have the ability to play in both the high and low post and the Irish will need to get a big contribution from the sophomore from Ontario to win this game. Also worth noting is that coach Muffet McGraw significantly shortened the rotation during the Final Four game and Achonwa was the only player to play off the bench.
The matchup to watch will be the point guard battle between Notre Dame's Diggins and Baylor's Odyssey Sims. As mentioned earlier Diggins put up 27 points during the last matchup between these two schools, but Sims seemingly outplayed the All American putting up 25 points of her own in addition to 6 assists and 6 steals. Diggins no doubt will want to get the better of the matchup and Sims believes she's just as good a player so look for this battle to be heated from the opening tip.
Tip off is scheduled for 8:30pm and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN/ESPN3