It’s not UConn’s year. The team has a monumental win over Notre Dame, but then losses to other ranked opponents — Baylor and Louisville. Personnel-wise, Napheesa Collier is putting forth a Grade A effort that will hopefully pay off dividends in the 2019 WNBA Draft. But with this lack of rhythm — and after the latest AP Poll placed the Huskies at No. 5 behind Notre Dame, Oregon, Louisville and Baylor — UConn hopes to perfect its dancing routine before March.
When was the last time the AP ranked UConn this low?
Within two games of the season, UConn suffered its first loss to North Carolina, 65-71, despite double-digit scorers in Barbara Turner and Ann Strother. That was the start of problems to come, as the team was trying to recover from the departure of Diana Taurasi, who spearheaded the 2004 national championship campaign in Storrs. To end the season, the Huskies were left out of the Final Four after being ousted by Stanford in the 2005 NCAA Tournament.
AP Poll, Week 14: 11th
Final AP Poll rank of the regular season: 6th
UConn’s W-L record: 25-8
2005 NCAA Tournament: Entered as No. 3 seed, lost to Stanford in Kansas City regional
Following an early exit at the 2005 tournament, UConn proceeded to the next season with less enthusiasm. This was also the official start of restructuring a program that underwent a major face-lift to its personnel. Highlighting this season was a win over then-No. 3 LSU, along with close losses to Tennessee, North Carolina and Rutgers. The icing on the cake was provided by Monique Currie and the Duke Blue Devils, who knocked UConn out in the 2006 NCAA Tournament with a two-point win in the Bridgeport regional.
AP Poll, Week 14: 8th
Final AP Poll ranking of the regular season: 10th
UConn’s W-L record: 32-5
2006 NCAA tournament: Entered as No. 2 seed, lost to Duke in Bridgeport regional
Source note: Jump to pages 63 (AP Poll history) and 86 (NCAA tournament history) for more information.
Every dog has its day
Player eras and title runs since 2004
Though the Huskies won the 2004 national championship, they suffered a major blow to their roster with the graduation of Diana Taurasi. Members of that 2003-04 team, both Barbara Turner and Ann Strother returned for the 2004-05 season with freshmen Ashley Battle, Charde Houston and Mel Thomas. Regardless of Turner and Strother being back, UConn finished 25-8 and were booted by Stanford out of the 2005 NCAA Tournament.
Renee Montgomery (2005-07)
Overall record: 64-9
NCAA Tournament titles: 0
Joined by a batch of freshmen led by Renee Montgomery, UConn would have hoped to repeat the 2004 national championship. Montgomery did her service in 2005 as a once-in-a-lifetime starter at UConn, earning Big East Freshman of the Year honors with the help from 123 assists. Then, in 2006, she kept that momentum going with four 20-point games and 70 total steals. As a team, the Huskies were pretty quiet on offense in terms of points scored and their dynamic defense of the season buckled under the pressure of a Sylia Fowles-led LSU team in the 2007 NCAA Tournament.
Maya Moore (2007-11)
Overall record: 150-4
NCAA Tournament titles: 2
Maya Moore is arguably the best UConn Huskies basketball player off all time, but the 2011-12 season that featured Caroline Doty, Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson contained some fallout. The wrath of Notre Dame, for example, couldn’t be escaped, as UConn lost three times to the Fighting Irish, who also denied the Huskies a 2012 title. Things would look up for Storrs, however, for the next four years when Breanna Stewart, UConn’s other wunderkind, arrived on campus.
Breanna Stewart (2012-16)
Overall record: 151-5
NCAA Tournament titles: 4
Again, Notre Dame proved to be the major setback of UConn’s 2012-13 season, but UConn tasted revenge in the NCAA tournament by advancing to the championship to face Louisville. It was an emotional title win for Stewart (23 points), Coach Auriemma and the Huskies, as they also surpassed Tennessee’s seven national titles under the late and great Pat Summitt.
Napheesa Collier (2016-19)
Overall record (includes current season): 91-4
NCAA Tournament titles: 0
It wasn’t the 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds club that defined Collier’s career at UConn, but quiet leadership and commitment to a sport that’s about to be taken to the next level. Collier was a part of the 2016 national title, but since then, the program has been — in terms of titles — in a dry spell. The Huskies would end up claiming Christyn Williams from the pool of recruits, making it clear that Coach Auriemma will build around the 5-foot-11 guard from Little Rock, Arkansas.
Are there any sunny days left in the forecast?
UConn had eight-of-nine seasons full of bliss and celebrations, but considering the mixed bag of impressions from the 2018-19 team, it may be fair to say that the so-called “dead years” — from 2004 to 2007 — are back in full force ... for now. It is no disrespect to UConn because every team in the world of sports experiences growing pains. Future seasons will depend on UConn recruiting, seeing as its rivals have prevailed in signing the nation’s top recruits and are focusing on building championship-caliber teams.
Next season could be the start of the Christyn Williams era, pending how she, Crystal Dangerfield and Megan Walker do business together. Other programs, such as Stanford, are only getting stronger, while Notre Dame will lose Marina Mabrey, Brianna Turner, Jessica Shepard and Arike Ogbunwale. What that means for UConn in the short haul is not up to one single woman, but a collective of players — young and experienced — that desire player development over national titles. All else will fall in line as it should.
At stake for UConn in the 2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament
Could the top four seeds crumble to help UConn’s end-of-season run?
With only a handful of games left in the 2018-19 regular season, the home stretch would need to swing in UConn’s favor, but there are four teams standing in the way of any vertical movement. Unfortunately, the meat of the other teams’ schedules has passed, so it’s virtually smooth sailing for UConn’s opponents. But there are some trap games, like Baylor-Texas and Oregon-Arizona State, that could open the flood gates for Coach Auriemma’s crew.
Record: 20-1 (lost to Stanford)
Notable wins: UConn, South Carolina
Remaining games: TCU, at Kansas State, Oklahoma, Kansas, at Iowa State, Texas, Oklahoma State, at West Virginia
Game to potentially alter UConn’s path: Baylor at Iowa State
Record: 21-1 (lost to Notre Dame)
Notable wins: UConn, Kentucky, Arizona State
Remaining games: Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Miami, at UVA, Boston College, NC State, at Pitt
Game to potentially alter UConn’s path: Louisville vs. NC State
Record: 21-1 (lost to Michigan State)
Notable wins: Mississippi State, Arizona State, Utah
Remaining games: at Cal, at Stanford, at Oregon State (x2), UCLA, Southern Cal, at Arizona, at Arizona State
Game to potentially alter UConn’s path: Oregon at Stanford
Record: 21-2 (lost to UConn, UNC)
Notable wins: Iowa, Oregon State, Louisville
Remaining games: at Miami, Florida State, at Boston College, at N.C. State, Duke, Syracuse, at UVA
Game to potentially alter UConn’s path: Notre Dame at Boston College
Otherwise, the Huskies won’t have an easy climb.