STANFORD Top-ranked Stanford and No. 2 Connecticut have been here before.
The Cardinal will play for the ninth time in a game featuring the country's top two teams when facing the undefeated Huskies today at sold-out Maples Pavilion.
Seasoned UConn is 13-3 in such showdowns whereas Stanford has won only once in eight previous tries.
But while fans are drawn to these marquee games, the participants are circumspect about their importance with March Madness months away.
"We sort of have low blood pressure," Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike said of the team's attitude. "Numbers don't matter in December."
For the Cardinal star, the game's substance goes well beyond the Associated Press poll.
"It's not just one vs. two," said Ogwumike, who leads the team with 21.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game.
"It's programs vs. programs. When Stanford plays UConn, there is a history. As players, there is so much more baggage than the one vs. two."
To wit: Stanford ended the Huskies' NCAA record 90-game winning streak with a 71-59 victory on Dec. 30, 2010 the last time Connecticut played at Maples.
"At that point, it was a hard one because everybody thought we were unstoppable," Connecticut senior guard Kelly Faris said. "As a senior, I want to leave with a different feeling."
In other words, Connecticut would not shed a tear to halt the Cardinal's 82-game home winning streak that began in 2007. But Faris doesn't view it as some kind of payback.
"We don't go out with the mindset that we have to break their streak," she said. "That's not what we came here for. If you focus on that, you won't focus on the right thing."
Still, Stanford senior Joslyn Tinkle knows what's on opponents' minds.
"People would do anything to see us fall," she said. "That motivates us and keeps us hungry."
Another element of the game is the chess match between Hall of Fame coaches Tara VanDerveer and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma. They have 1,686 coaching victories between them and have led their schools to five consecutive Final Four appearances. The coaches also have developed a strong friendship over the past three decades.
"I understand that when it's all done it's not wins or losses that matter, but the relationships you have with the players and opponents that matter," VanDerveer said. "I never want to go to a gym and not be excited about seeing the other coach. I don't want any relationship filled with animosity or negativity. We are fortunate people, so why shouldn't we be friends?"
Well, for starters Stanford (11-0) has lost to Connecticut (10-0) three times in the past four seasons when the schools were ranked first and second.
Two of those defeats occurred at Final Fours.
Both schools lost in the national semifinals in April in Denver and have not played against each other in a Final Four since 2010.
Auriemma isn't surprised by Stanford's sustained success. The Cardinal returns four starters from last season's Final Four and redshirt senior Mikaela Ruef has provided frontline support that few expected.
Then there's the 6-foot-3 Ogwumike.
"Every game she steps on the floor she plays harder than anybody else," Auriemma said. "She does things that make people think you have to re-evaluate how you guard her."
UConn has forced opponents into an average 23.8 turnovers a game with the help of its press.
"If you take care of the ball, you're halfway home," VanDerveer said. "If you turn it over, you're bleeding in a shark tank."
No. 8 Cal 70, George Washington 43 in Berkeley Talia Caldwell had a career-high 19 points and eight rebounds to help Cal continue the best start in school history. Layshia Clarendon and Gennifer Brandon each added 12 points for the Bears (10-1). Megan Nipe and Shi-Heria Shipp had nine points apiece to lead the Colonials (6-6).
No. 13 Gonzaga 94, Baylor 87 in Spokane, Wash. Kevin Pangos made seven three-pointers and scored 31 points, and Kelly Olynyk added 21 points to lead the Bulldogs (12-1) over the Bears (8-4).