UConn women’s basketball is no longer invincible
But the Huskies are still a contender to win their 12th NCAA championship
“… I’m just here for business, I’m running down and I’m with it …”
– Cardi B from her song “Foreva”
This season’s University of Connecticut women’s basketball team boasts head coach Geno Auriemma. In his 34 seasons at UConn, he’s coached 11 UConn women’s basketball teams to national championships. The Hall of Famer has coached two USA teams to Olympic gold medals too. In Katie Lou Samuelson, Megan Walker and Christyn Williams, he has three starters who joined the women of Storrs after being Gatorade National Players of the Year in high school. They went into weekend games ranked No. 2 in the nation. Baylor was ranked No. 1.
It’s a down year for UConn.
After all, the UConn women have already lost two regular-season games, to Baylor and Louisville. The University of Connecticut went into the last two NCAA tournaments undefeated and were upset in the national semifinals. Before that, UConn had won four NCAA championships in a row. But that was so long ago.
This year, opponents don’t have to hope UConn will beat themselves. Opponents can beat UConn, and they don’t have to play the game of their lives to do it. This year’s UConn team is vulnerable to quick guards and strong inside players.
Still, it would be the height of March Madness to pick against these Huskies. They have the rest of the regular season — it ends Monday night at South Florida — and the American Athletic Conference tournament, which begins Friday in Uncasville, Connecticut, to work out their bugs. They have time to get down to serious business. They have time to decide whether to turn to Samuelson, a senior swing player, or senior forward Napheesa Collier for clutch baskets. There’s time for junior point guard Crystal Dangerfield to emerge as the superstar she came to UConn to be. Mikayla Coombs, a backcourt player, and Olivia Nelson-Ododa, a frontcourt player, or others could emerge as reliable substitutes coming off a too-thin bench.
Besides, UConn still goes on devastating runs; minutes of playing dumb or ineffective basketball will usually cost foes the game. Last week, UConn went on a 27-0 run in beating Wichita State 84-47.
Although UConn won its first women’s basketball championship in 1995, in the 21st century, Diana Taurasi (three), Maya Moore (two) and Breanna Stewart (four) led nine of the 11 title teams.
Despite being very different personalities, they were united in one championship characteristic: They made plays that controlled their games, uplifted their teammates and demoralized their opponents.
But who will do it for the UConn women this season?
The world of big-time women’s college basketball spins on the hope, but not the expectation, that no one will.
I wouldn’t bet on it. Would you?