• October 17, 2021

Cindy Brunson on the Final Four and the battle of the undefeateds

Photo: @CindyBrunsonAZ
Photo: @CindyBrunsonAZ

Longtime women’s basketball fans who tuned in to ESPN broadcasts over the years are familiar with the face of Cindy Brunson. The former SportsCenter anchor was a frequent studio host of high-profile games and Final Fours. However, after 13 years at the network, Brunson, along with her husband, former Baseball Tonight host, Steve Berthiaume, headed west to Phoenix. While Berthiaume is an announcer for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Brunson serves as an analyst for Fox Sports Arizona and the Pac-12 Networks covering baseball and basketball. She keeps a foot in the women’s basketball world, providing commentary for the Phoenix Mercury and Pac-12 contests.

Brunson managed to organize a last minute trip to the Final Four after a whirlwind baseball season opener that began in Australia as the Diamondbacks completed a series at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground. She provides Hoopfeed with her thoughts on the weekend and her predictions for today’s historic battle of the unbeatens as Notre Dame (37-0) takes on Connecticut (39-0).

On planning the last minute trip to Nashville for this year’s Final Four

I’ve always had it on my radar screen. It’s a wonderful experience and I cannot put a price on it. I love the opportunity to be out among the fans and people who share my passion for women’s basketball.

On Connecticut’s rout of Stanford in the semifinals and the turnaround of the Huskies during the second half

I have always wanted to be a fly on the wall during the halftime speech held by Geno Auriemma. I’m not sure what he says or how he says it, but he is always able to push the right buttons to maximize the ability of his players.

My big fear for Stanford going into that matchup was the fact that I didn’t feel that Cardinal would be able to score the basketball enough to match all the weapons that UConn has, and that fear was realized. But, I think it was realized in large part based on what Geno Auriemma said at halftime. You could tell that Connecticut was getting looks that they wanted, but for whatever reason in that first half the shots weren’t falling.

On Connecticut in the second half

It was an awesome display. I tweeted about a male fan who was leaving the game early and I said ‘why are you leaving, we could see an upset here, this could be Louisville-Baylor you never know. It’s the best form of reality television. That’s what sports is.’ And he goes ‘no, I have seen this movie before. I know how it ends.’

That’s the trademark and hallmark of Connecticut. You know that they will find that extra gear and it’s been rare that it takes a long time for that extra gear to formulate. BYU is a great example.

[The Cougars] believed that they could win and hung in there and were so disruptive. I’m very curious to see if Notre Dame can take a page out of the BYU Cougars’ book because that was the longest that I’ve seen Connecticut struggle to find its groove.

On what Auriemma may have told his players during halftime

Based on the individual play, I think he said, ‘Bria Hartley, if you go, we go and if you can’t stop [Lili] Thompson, we’re going to be in a world of hurt.’ I think he said that during a timeout because her lockdown defense on Thompson was unbelievable. She comes out of the second half and she starts scoring, getting great looks. I think for all the press that Breanna Stewart gets, and all of the press that Stefanie Dolson gets, and deservedly so, Bria Hartley is so clutch night in and night out for the Husky team.

On the bitter rivalry between UConn and Notre Dame along with the jabs the coaches voiced during the Final Four

I think it’s good for women’s basketball. You always need somebody to get behind and somebody to hate. Look at the Yankees, the evil empire.

Unfortunately, Notre Dame can’t claim the underdog card, not when you’ve been to the Final Four for four years in a row. You just don’t get to do that….I’m very curious to see, without Achonwa, how Muffet McGraw approaches this game.

On UConn’s dominance in games

They come at your in waves. This Connecticut team has size. It has Dolson, it has Stewart, it has Stokes and they just come at you in waves and crash the boards so I’m very curious to see how Notre Dame can hang.

On the historic nature of two undefeated teams in the Finals

There’s so much historic weight, I’m kind of glad that it came down to this.

It would’ve been sexier to have a team like a Maryland who could say “hey,” we could knock down the big guy, just like Louisville did against Baylor, knocked an undefeated team out. It just creates a little bit more buzz but at the end of the day, I think this is going to be an epic game that has all the makings. I just don’t see Connecticut losing. I just don’t.

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