I do think Baylor would have beat UConn last year when they were on a mission (40-0) but had ND not stopped them in 2011 (when they couldn't beat us a fourth straight time in a season) then clearly they would have won 4 of 5 NCs and be seen as a dynasty already with more to come.
Still I think ND should be given more credit. As I read this Yahoo/AP article I wondered how ND could not even be mentioned as another Big East rival with all the love for UConn and Louisville. For God's sake we were 5-1 against them and were the last to beat both of them this season. Now they are predicting a UConn dynasty with Stewart just being a freshman. She had an outstanding run and I had posted my fear of how well she was playing. I agree with Rick Pitino who called her "one of the best freshman in basketball" in the article. Still Lloyd was consistently the best freshman starting all those games on arguably the second best team in the country that beat the National Champs 3 times and deserved her FOY award.
I actually think next year's ND team should be better than this year's despite losing Skylar. If our upcoming freshman class can grow up quickly combined with the 4 other starters returning (with already some strong back-ups) I think that team can seriously compete with UConn as long as they don't rely too much on one player. That was our Achilles heel this year. Although Kayla, Loyd, and Achonwa made some awesome plays and took over certain runs they still seemed to need Skylar's heady leadership and heart to inspire them. In some ways Skylar was the "head" of the team and if truly made completely ineffective, the team mostly struggled. Next year without Skylar they can focus on being a team with no one true leader and become more effective.
Essentially this is what UConn became to win the NC. With Dolson, M-L, Faris, and eventually Stewart they had several players who could step up and be the focal point and clearly were multidimensional by the NCAA tournament. My belief is ND brought that out of them during the second half comeback and their eventually lead at the Big East championship. I don't think we would have won had there been OT. Stewart showed what she could be once the pressure was OFF her and they were in desperation mode. Geno used that to create a much more complex team for the NCAAs whereas ND still operated with Skylar as the "one to see" who had to make her mark. She was still their focal point, coach on the floor. That was too much responsibility for one player.
Let's see what happens when Stewart is "the one to see" next year. She may not be up to it and they still need to develop a point guard. Also losing Faris cannot be underestimated as she made lots of things happen through her defense and truly was a champion. My hope is the 4 starters step up more as a group next year, bring those talented freshman along and keep UConn from becoming that Dynasty. I see Loyd as an incredible talent who can be the glue, quiet leader, but shouldn't become the "coach on the floor" like Skylar became.
Given your UCLA reference I do believe it is up to ND to stop UConn. Remember it was ND that was both the last to beat UCLA before there 88 game winning streak and we were the one who stopped it. That was my favorite athletic moment at the ACC as I attended my Freshman year. Women were just being admitted to ND then so I didn't get a chance to cheer on the women's teams yet. It's nice we can catch them on TV now being west coasters.