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Preparing for life after UConn: What to expect in the AAC in the Huskies’ final year

It’s UConn’s last season as a part of the American Athletic Conference, and the Huskies are once again expected to dominate. South Florida, Cincinnati and Central Florida will also be in the mix.

UConn v Notre Dame
With Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson now in the WNBA, Crystal Dangerfield is one of the players to watch in UConn’s final AAC season.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Since the formation of the American Athletic Conference in 2013, the Connecticut women’s basketball team has been outstandingly dominant in conference play. After this season, the Huskies will be returning to the Big East. It is likely that they will be taking their seventh consecutive conference championship before leaving the AAC, however. The Huskies have yet to drop a conference game and are unlikely to do so this year.

Last year, the conference sent two teams to the NCAA Tournament. UConn made the Final Four, while Central Florida was cast as a 12-seed as an at-large bid and was bounced from the first round. Cincinnati finished third in the conference and was invited to the WNIT, advancing to the semifinal, while South Florida was knocked out by James Madison in the second round.

UConn has the talent to once again make it to the Final Four. The Basketball Hall of Fame and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association starting five watch lists feature four players from the program: point guard Crystal Dangerfield, shooting guard Christyn Williams, small forward Megan Walker, Jr and center Olivia Nelson-Ododa. Dangerfield, Williams and Walker, Jr. are returning starters, with Nelson-Ododa expected to take the starting role. It remains to be seen who the fifth starter will be.

South Florida was picked to finish second behind UConn. The Bulls had nine of their 12 players start more than 10 games last season, as the injury bug was quite an issue. USF should be improved on the court given their health remains constant. Their non-conference schedule includes Notre Dame, Baylor and Mississippi State, along with two more schools that qualified for the tournament in 2018. Their performance outside the conference could help them build a strong resume for the NCAA Tournament.

UCF and Cincinnati tied for the third spot in the conference. UCF features the best non-UConn player in the conference, senior Kay Kay Wright. Wright was named the AAC’s preseason co-Player of the Year alongside UConn’s Dangerfield. UCF made the tournament last year and are likely to be in the running for another trip in 2020.

Cincinnati was 17-2 at home last year, but a 6-8 road record is probably what put them in the WNIT instead of a trip to the big dance. The Bearcats return both of their top scorers, Antoinette Miller and Iimar’i Thomas, both of whom were selected to the preseason All-Conference Second Team.

UConn has the AAC in hand until proven otherwise. That said, there is a lot of good basketball to played during the Huskies’ final season in the conference. For the fan bases of UConn’s conference foes, 2020 probably cannot come soon enough — though it’s likely due to the Huskies’ presence that their schools are headed towards promising futures.