It’s official. Have left a wakeup call for shortly after 11 p.m. on April 8th . Should be just about the time someone hands UConn coach Geno Auriemma a pair of scissors to cut down the nets after the Huskies complete their fifth undefeated season and cap off their ninth National Championship in Nashville, TN. Yes, it’s only January, but women’s college basketball has yet to produce a team that will prove this prognostication, made in the preseason, wrong.
2014 began much the same way the 2013 ended, with UConn posting yet another relatively easy victory over a less than worthy opponent, posting a 77-49 victory over conference foe UCF on New Year’s Day. Even if hoop games were 20 minute affairs, no one thus far, with exception of Maryland, has proven they can hang with this year’s edition of the Huskies. The Terrapins are the only team through fourteen games to trail by single digits going into the half, with top-ranked UConn (14-0, 2-0 AAC) taking an average lead of 24 points going into the break.
UConn’s average margin of victory is 36 points.
Everybody loves a winner, but if attendance figures are any indication, not everybody is willing to pay for it. With unchallenged success and no foreseeable competition on the horizon, it looks as though UConn fans have decided that television and radio are the bigger bang for the buck this season. Through four games at the XL Center in Hartford this season, attendance has averaged 8,134, down from the 9,301 averaged through three games played there last season. Even the friendly confines of Gampel Pavilion has proven a tougher sell this season, with attendance down by an average of over 500 fans in the three games played on the Storrs campus facility compared to the first three under the dome last season. Gampel averaged just over 8,100 last season, down to just over 7,600 this season.
The upside is a significant increase in crowds on the road over last season, including UCF posting a record crowd of almost 3,500 on their home floor.
Senior center Stefanie Dolson said one focus of the team is to guard against mental let downs, saying, “We don’t want to become complacent as a team. We’re going to get better from here. It’s only halfway through the season. We have a lot of room for improvement.”
A scary proposition for opponents, but ironically, possibly making the product a tougher sell to Connecticut fans at home.
Embarrassment of riches
UConn endured two significant injuries earlier this season when sharp-shooter Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis bruised an elbow nerve in a scary fall against Stanford and, within 24 hours, also losing sophomore forward Morgan Tuck to knee surgery. Whereas most teams would have been crippled by back to back injuries to significant scholarship players, UConn didn’t miss a beat. Tuck and Mosqueda-Lewis both missed the next eight games returning for UConn’s 22 point win over then second ranked Duke. Mosqueda-Lewis returned in grand fashion scoring 21 points behind a blistering 7-11 performance from three point land. What could’ve been a significant injury bug was hardly anything more than an annoying gnat.
The return of both pieces has left Auriemma with playing time and rotation problems that has resulted in inconsistent play, but, is still a problem most coaches can only dream of having.
Said Auriemma, “Having nine (players) available now. That’s all great and lovey-dovey and everything, but it’s going to take a while to get used to after playing with six or seven most of the time. So, I’ve gotta do a better job of figuring out who should be in with who and who plays well with who, so that it doesn’t end up being stand around and watch.”
With the presumed toughest part of the schedule behind them there is very little to indicate that a regular season loss lurks on the horizon and even less to indicate that UConn will stumble in the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT this March. Jeff Walzs’ Louisville team, with a home and home matchup with the Huskies, may keep the fans in the seats and glued to their TV’s beyond half time, but in the end even his veteran Cardinals squad will, in all likelihood, fall by double figures to UConn when it’s all said and done.
Conceding defeat, Cincinnati coach and former UConn player Jamelle Elliott, earlier this week summed up what most teams try to do against the Huskies, “Our goal was to make it as much of a half court game as possible. To really stop them in transition, our goal was to make them make at least four or five passes before they shoot. That was our goal – stop them in transition and have them make at least four or five passes before they got a shot at the basket.”
Hardly a recipe for victory.
UConn’s next matchup is at conference opponent Memphis Saturday at 3 p.m.… It will be the first meeting between UConn and the Memphis Tigers… With the win over Cincinnati on December 29, (67-34), the Huskies improved to 27-5 all-time in conference openers…The Huskies boast an all-time mark of 185-56 for the month of December…This year’s team has dished out 21.1 assists per game, just shy of the school record of 21.7 assists per game, set by the 2001-02 squad.