Adia Barnes, Arizona ready to face familiar rival in NCAA title game
It’s a Pac-12 showdown in the women’s NCAA Tournament championship game.
While it’s an exciting moment for the Pac-12 to take center stage, it also means the two teams know each other pretty well.
Arizona Wildcats head coach Adia Barnes told reporters there’s both pros and cons to facing a familiar opponent.
“We know what to prepare for and they know what to prepare for,” Barnes said during a press conference. “The tough part is we do have to play them again and we do know each other so that can be a challenge. I think sometimes it’s easier when you don’t know the team because you’ve got to just go and just play.”
Stanford and Arizona, the top two teams in the Pac-12 standings, have met twice already this season. The Wildcats lost both of those games, most recently falling by 27 points in a February matchup.
This time around, Barnes said her team is more than ready to face the Cardinal.
“What’s on our side is its very hard to beat a team three times in a season and the difference with us is we’re a lot better,” Barnes said. “So is Stanford, but just speaking about us, we are shooting the ball better, we are defending better, we are playing better basketball than we were when we played them.”
No. 3 seed Arizona saved its best basketball for March Madness, knocking off a few favorites throughout the tournament, including basketball giant UConn in the Final Four game on Friday.
The Wildcats served the Huskies their first double-digit point loss in the tournament — not surprising for an Arizona team with a solid defense. They have only allowed 50.2 points per game in the tournament.
“I don’t think we played our best basketball game by any means [Friday], but I think we were solid and I think we’re a better team now than we were a month ago,” Barnes said. “I like our chances. Stanford is a really good team. They’re coached really well.
“We know we’re going to face things we probably haven’t seen but at this time of year, everything’s difficult. There’s no easy game, everybody’s really good that’s why they’re here.”
The last time there was a conference clash for the women’s NCAA title was in 2017 when South Carolina beat Mississippi State in an all-SEC final.
Having two Pac-12 teams in the national limelight will only help the conference earn respect Barnes argued is not often given to the West Coast.
“I think exposure, visibility and also for the country to know, you need to respect Arizona,” Barnes said of the benefits of making it to the final round.
“For the country to know, we’re not just a men’s basketball program. Now we’re a respected women’s basketball program. That’s happened just recently, so hopefully we can keep it going.”
As for Sunday’s matchup, Barnes said while they acknowledge the significance of team’s first ever NCAA championship game, the Wildcats just need to go play basketball.
“This time of year, anything can happen,” she said. “It’s not a seven game series, it’s one game and we’ve made it this far, so we’re going to give everything we’ve got.”