NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Connecticut enters the women's Final Four on a march toward history.
On Saturday, Stanford just marched at Bridgestone Arena. The Cardinal ended practice with a spirited line dance featuring coach Tara VanDerveer.
Stanford players sounded and looked loose on the eve of their daunting showdown Sunday against UConn (38-0), which is two victories from its record ninth NCAA title.
The Huskies start five All-Americans on what many consider to be one of the greatest women's college teams of all time. Stanford (33-3) consists of All-American Chiney Ogwumike and a cast of sidekicks. It lost to UConn by 19 points in the Cardinal's second game this season.
So, it's difficult to blame national media and fans for breathlessly discussing a Connecticut-Notre Dame title game Tuesday that would feature two unbeaten teams in the finale for the first time.
The Fighting Irish (36-0) play Maryland (28-6) in the other semifinal Sunday.
The no-chance Cardinal gets it.
"Obviously the tagline for the Final Four is pursuit of perfection," Ogwumike said Saturday.
But broken storylines litter sports pages through the ages.
Ogwumike and her underrated teammates get that, too.
"Sometimes dangerous people operate in silence," said the Pac-12's all-time leading scorer and rebounder. "If you're going to talk about them, you're not talking about us. And if you're not talking about us, hopefully we can strike silently."
Or, as VanDerveer said, "If we're going to be someone's hors d'oeuvre, we're not going to be swallowed easily."
Nerd Nation showed no intimidation Saturday when going country at the Big Dance.
Senior Sara James played a dance video on her phone before practice that went viral in the Cardinal locker room. Before the players knew it, their usually reserved coach joined the act.
"I never imagined it would have happened," forward Taylor Greenfield said.
VanDerveer stepped out of her comfort zone to keep the players loose.
"There's no reason to be uptight," Greenfield said. "No reason to stress. Tara believes in us."
It will take more than belief to knock off the country's best women's team.
The Huskies have no glaring weaknesses, starting with leading scorer Breanna Stewart, who Saturday was named Associated Press college player of the year after averaging 19.4 points and 8.1 rebounds a game.
At least Stanford has done it in the past. In 2008, the Cardinal upset UConn in the national semifinals in Tampa, Fla. But it fell to Connecticut in the next two Final Fours, including the 2010 championship game.
Eight months after the 2010 defeat, the Cardinal stunned the Huskies to end an NCAA record 90-game winning streak. Last season, Stanford's 82-game home winning streak was broken by UConn 61-35.
Stanford players Saturday watched their early season defeat at Connecticut as part of the preparation. VanDerveer described the experience as painful.
But it also served as a reminder of how much the team has matured since November.
"We don't know who they are," the coach said of the November roster. "That's not how we play, and that's not what we are going to do."
Stanford is going to have to survive the intensity of UConn's fierce defense as well as the game's best shot-blocking team, averaging 8.2 blocks this season.
"It's a lot easier for us to get them out of control, because we have so much continuity on our team," UConn forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said.
Perhaps the Cardinal's best chance would include getting its opponent in foul trouble. Connecticut has a six-player rotation after losing sophomore forward Morgan Tuck to season-ending knee injury.
The loss leaves the Huskies with only one reserve post player, 6-foot-3 Kiah Stokes.
"If one of their main guys gets in foul trouble, the whole dynamic changes," said ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo, a former UConn star.
It might be a sliver, but it's something to hang on to.
Call it hope.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.
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