Stewart has leading role in star-studded women's Final Four
INDIANAPOLIS >> Breanna Stewart's legacy to women's college basketball has already been etched in stone.
With two more wins, the latest and perhaps greatest star from Connecticut could claim another title: The greatest player ever.
After winning the last two national player of the year awards, being named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament the last three seasons, the 6-foot-4 senior who has turned double-doubles into part of her game-day routine has a chance to do something even more special — win her fourth national championship.
"What Breanna Stewart has done during her four years at Connecticut and what she's especially done in the NCAA Tournament, the way she's competed, the way she's played in the Final Four, that's never been done," coach Geno Auriemma said. "Does that make her the greatest player ever in the history of college basketball? You know what, that question is going to be answered 10, 15, 20 years from now."
Auriemma has gotten a firsthand view of some of the best to play the sport. That may explain why he doesn't separate them.
But if the Huskies extend their winning streaks, which currently stand at 73 games overall and a record 22 straight in the NCAA Tournament, in Indianapolis, those who have mostly watched Stewart from afar will be hard-pressed to find anyone who has ever played the game better.
The quest continues Sunday night when the Huskies face Oregon State, which is making its first Final Four appearance.
"I would certainly have her at the top of any argument that I was a part of," said Washington coach Mike Neighbors, whose team faces Syracuse in the second national semifinal Sunday. "If they are able to complete a historic four-year run, it would be hard to debate that she's not."
Of course, Stewart isn't the only UConn player bringing star power to the Circle City this weekend.
She's joined by guard Moriah Jefferson, who like Stewart was named a first-team All-American earlier this week, and redshirt junior Morgan Tuck, who Auriemma called UConn's most consistent player.
But all the game plans will focus on Stewart as she tries to write yet another chapter in the record books.
Here are some other stars to watch at the Final Four:
GENO'S RECORD DRIVE: Stewart may be the biggest name on the court this weekend, but Auriemma is the most recognizable person in the sport. Since taking over at UConn in 1985, Auriemma has won 10 national championships, including two three-peats, and created one of the greatest dynasties in sports. What's next? A fourth consecutive title would break a tie with the late John Wooden for most Division I championships in men's or women's basketball in a career.
JAMIE'S GOT A SHOT: Oregon State guard Jamie Weisner does more than just score. The 5-foot-10 guard is the heart and soul of her team. Don't believe it? Weisner, the Pac-12 player of the year, was lifted up by her teammates following their Pac-12 Tournament victory. And before being named a second-team All-American earlier this week, she was selected as the Most Outstanding Player in Dallas after scoring a career-high 38 points and making seven 3s in a regional semifinal win over DePaul.
PLUM PUDDING: Washington got to Indy largely because of 5-foot-8 guard Kelsey Plum. After finishing the season ranked No. 3 in the nation in scoring (26.2 points), she was even better in the tournament and had 26 points and eight assists in the Huskies' regional final upset of conference rival Stanford. This week, she was named a third-team All-American. If the Huskies have any chance to reach or win a national championship, Plum has to come up big.
THE NEXT BIG THING?: Alexis Peterson could give fans a glimpse into the future this weekend. The 5-foot-7 freshman led Syracuse in scoring at 16.1 points per game. But instead of wearing down, she's heating up. She scored 26 points in a regional semifinal shocker over South Carolina and a season-high 29 in the regional championship game to knock off Tennessee. Now everyone is waiting to see what Peterson will do for an encore on the sport's biggest stage.
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