ST. LOUIS -It is clear Louisville believes in itself, its coach and the righteousness of its quest for the impossible dream - a national title.
The Cardinals call themselves "The Bad News Bears" and revel in their self-image as the ragamuffins of women's basketball.
They've even suggested they are happy to have another shot to prove it to No. 1 Connecticut, which crushed them twice this season, on the grandest stage of all Tuesday.
"We're playing a team that has a lot going for it right now, a team that, from what I've heard, really wants to play us," Auriemma said. "I admire the Big East camaraderie. I'm sure that's what they meant, right?"
The Cardinals believe in themselves, but it is just as certain many others do not believe in them yet, not even after they beat LSU, Maryland and Oklahoma to reach the final.
"That's OK," Louisville senior Angel McCoughtry (St. Frances) said Monday. "That's how we win. So I hope they all wish Connecticut wins. That's what we've been thriving on.."
What's not clear is how No. 1 UConn feels about all this karma, whether there is reason to fear an abstract concept when so much contrary evidence has already been presented.
"The game has to be played," UConn's Maya Moore said. "... Hopefully, our reality will be what we expect."
Tuesday night, UConn's unbeaten season intersects with the unfettered optimism of coach Jeff Walz's team.
"I know many people have said that Geno has never lost a national championship" game, Louisville guard Deseree Byrd said. "But neither has Coach Walz."
At stake for the Huskies (38-0) is a third undefeated championship season and a sixth title.
The Huskies have won all their games by at least 10 points, and if they do the same Tuesday, they will become the first team in the history of NCAA basketball, men's or women's, to dispatch each opponent by double figures.
"I think I saw their manager drop a bottle of water," said Walz, a former Maryland assistant. "So that's a weakness."
UConn's combined winning margin in the two games with Louisville (34-4) was 67, including a 39-point victory in the Big East championship game March 10.
"If you flip a coin and it comes up heads 10 times straight, there's no guarantee it will the 11th time," Auriemma said.