clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A Storm Is Coming: Could Notre Dame Bring Doom to UConn’s Superheroes?

Led by Marina Mabrey and Jessica Shepard, the Irish have overcome injuries to fight their way to the Final Four. Their reward: a matchup against the unbeaten Huskies.

Getty Images/AP Images/Ringer illustration

Christopher Nolan made three Batman movies, and of those three The Dark Knight Rises was barely the third best of them, but there’s a wonderful scene in it where Anne Hathaway (she plays Selina Kyle, a very elegant thief who actually turns out to be the new Catwoman) shares a dance at a ball with Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne. The two lob quips and tiny insults back and forth at each other as they dance, and it’s a fine enough moment, but then Selina hints at doom, and there is real menace in her, which turns everything she says big and overwhelming and terrifying and threatening.

She makes mention of all the extremely rich people in the room, and when she does so, her voice is soaked in contempt. She leans in close to Wayne and lets her words slither out of her mouth. “You think all this can last?” she asks, and the camera cuts to a fancy-looking man breaking open a crab leg in front of a giant table full of crab legs and lobster while a woman watching him pretends to think it’s hilarious. “A storm is coming, Mr. Wayne,” Selina continues, and her words grow more and more devilish, and she pulls Wayne closer and whispers the final piece of her mini-monologue in his ear, except it feels less like she’s whispering to him and more like she’s pressing a large kitchen knife up against his throat. “You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large … and leave so little for the rest of us.”

Here’s the actual clip, because you should watch it, because it’s very good:

That scene was what I started thinking about in the hours after I’d watched Notre Dame stuff my beloved Oregon Ducks in a coffin and then bury that coffin underneath a million pounds of old nails and broken glass in their Elite Eight matchup this past Monday, and what I’ve continued coming back to over and over again when I think about their Final Four matchup against UConn on Friday night.

UConn is an unstoppable, impossible, inconceivable, outrageous, preposterous basketball tidal wave. Do you know how good UConn is? I’ll tell you how good UConn is.

Remember that scene in this most recent season of Game of Thrones when the dragon comes through and just fireballs the fuck out of everyone? That’s UConn. Remember that scene in Logan when they send the guy in the warehouse to get the little girl and a few minutes later she walks out holding his severed head in her hand and then throws it at the people trying to catch her? That’s UConn. Remember that scene in 300 when the Spartans force all those soldiers off the cliff so they fall some hundreds of feet down to their deaths? That’s UConn. Remember that scene in Independence Day when the aliens explode the White House with a giant laser beam? That’s UConn. Remember that scene in Kill Bill where Beatrix Kiddo kills all the gangsters and then tells the wounded ones who are still alive that they can all leave but that if she cut off any of their arms or legs that they have to leave them there because they belong to her now? That’s UConn. That’s how good the team is.

If you like stats and not movie references: UConn is 147-1 in their last 148 games, including a three-year stretch where they lost zero conference games and won three national titles. The Huskies are winning games in the tournament this year by an average of 38.8 points. Per Ben Baskin at Sports Illustrated, they have the no. 1 ranking in offensive efficiency. And they have the no. 1 ranking in defensive efficiency. And they have the no. 1 ranking in shooting efficiency. And they have the no. 1 rating in opponent shooting efficiency. And they have the no. 1 ranking in foul rate and margin of victory per possession. And if you like stats, then you know that having the no. 1 ranking in all those things is a good thing. Matter of fact, it’s the best thing. It’s the no. 1 thing of no. 1 things, if you will. (This feels like a good spot to link to Natalie Weiner’s feature at Bleacher Report that explains how UConn being so strong is good for basketball, which is a thing that I agree with.)

So that’s UConn. The Huskies are extremely basketball rich—and extremely basketball-skills rich. They have all the best numbers and also the best player in the country (the superheroic Gabby Williams) and also the most dominant coach ever in history.

And still.

And Still.

AND STILL.

I keep thinking about the way that Notre Dame shook off losing four (!!!) players to knee injuries this season and still somehow earned a no. 1 seed for the tournament. I keep thinking about the way the team took that Elite Eight game that very much felt like it was going to go Oregon’s way (Oregon was up six at halftime and looked for all the world to be the better, more experienced, more capable team) and turned it into a hammer fight in the second half, basically bludgeoning Oregon’s head in.

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Spokane Regional
Jessica Shepard
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

I keep thinking about guard Arike Ogunbowale and her all-over-the-court brilliance. I keep thinking about Marina Mabrey, who was billed as a 3-point specialist but has had to take over at point guard because of those aforementioned injuries, playing like someone’s whispering what’s going to happen during a play three seconds before it actually happens. I keep thinking about forward Jessica Shepard turning the area under the rim into a bad neighborhood on its worst night. (Mabrey is the most captivating player on Notre Dame to watch when she has the ball, but Shepard is, without question, the best player to watch when she’s trying to get the ball. She’s just such a fucking deadly tank in the paint. And it’s not that she’s grabbing so many rebounds—she’s actually averaging less than 10 per game this tournament, same as she did during the season—it’s how violently she seems to gather in the ones that she gets. I love it. I love players who, whenever they come in, you see the players on the other team go, “Aw, man. Fuck.”) (If you like stats: I’m almost certain Shepard leads the nation in AMFs.) (That stands for “Aw, Man Fuck,” obviously.) (Also, I should mention that Shepard had a game earlier this season where she scored 35 points and grabbed 20 rebounds. She’s 100 percent capable of going atomic.)

Now—clearly, of course, for sure—Batman ended up beating the bad guys in The Dark Knight Rises, and so if we track the analogy all the way through that means Notre Dame is going to play UConn tough before UConn steals away the win. (This, I think, means that Shepard is Basketball Bane, which makes me so happy.) But I don’t know. UConn was indestructible last year, too, and then all of a sudden they weren’t. Maybe something like that happens again this year. Maybe Notre Dame uglies up the game enough that it wobbles UConn. Maybe Arike and Marina, who lead the tournament as a duo in scoring, both catch fire for a stretch late in the game and are able to put some real pressure on UConn. Maybe Shepard shows up to the game in a mask and big coat talking about the day of reckoning and shit starts to get very dangerous.

Maybe, just maybe, the storm comes.