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 nation's top two teams when facing the undefeated Huskies on Saturday 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 versus two," said Ogwumike, who leads the team with 21.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. "It's programs versus 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 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 has lost to Connecticut 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.
But Connecticut (10-0) entered the season expected to be the only team capable of challenging reigning national champion Baylor. The Huskies added 6-foot-4 Breanna Stewart, the national high school player of the year, to a roster that had five regulars from last season's 33-5 team. Stewart leads Connecticut in scoring (16.9 points per game) and rebounding (7.2).
Stanford, on the other hand, was expected to drop like an elevator after the graduation of All-American Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney's sister. Instead, it upset then-No. 1 Baylor in Hawaii last month and weathered a tough trip at South Carolina and Tennessee.
Auriemma isn't surprised by Stanford's sustained success. The Cardinal (11-0) returns four starters from last season's Final Four team, and redshirt senior Mikaela Ruef has provided front-line support few expected.
Then there's the 6-3 Chiney 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."
Connecticut might not have a Maya Moore-type star, but it has highly skilled offensive players. The Huskies' versatility has led Stanford coaches to focus on Connecticut's style instead of an individual player.
UConn has forced opponents into an average 23.8 turnovers a game with the help of its press. It is one factor Stanford will emphasize.
"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."
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.
Connecticut (10-0) at Stanford (11-0), 1 p.m., ESPNU