We’re taking history for granted at UConn
There has not been an unbeaten team in men’s college basketball since 1976, when the Indiana Hoosiers went a perfect 32-0 en route to an NCAA Championship. Last year, all eyes were on Wichita, Kan., when the Wichita State Shockers went 35-0 before falling in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. Ironically enough, the Shockers’ opponent in that first loss is the program that has all eyes watching on Lexington. It was Kentucky, which knocked off the Shockers, 78-76, and went on to the national championship game before falling to Connecticut.
Kentucky has come back just a season after reaching the title game and the Wildcats are stacked with as many as 10 guys who will eventually have NBA potential. After a 66-48 win over Tennessee on Tuesday, UK is 26-0.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari has formed quite an era at the helm for Kentucky, but the dynasty of dynasties in college basketball lives in Storrs, Connecticut, where the Huskies women’s basketball program is playing the same brand of basketball that has produced a Final Four berth in each season since 2008.
In last week’s showdown with then-No. 1 South Carolina, UConn showed why it has developed into the biggest dynasty in any men’s or women’s sport currently. The Huskies made it look easy, routing the Gamecocks, 87-62, and finding themselves back at the top spot in the country for the first time since Nov. 17. That’s when UConn suffered its first and only loss this season, an 88-86 defeat at the hands of Stanford that took overtime for the Huskies to see their 47-game winning streak snapped.
With Tuesday’s 85-26 victory over Houston, UConn clinched its 22nd consecutive season with 25 wins or more.
It’s become all but a given that the Huskies will be competing for the Final Four in Tampa Bay, Fla., in the first week of April.
What is the key to the program’s success?
The Huskies’ head coach has gone 902-134 in his 29 years at UConn. Before he arrived, the Huskies had only recorded one winning season. He has led the program to nine national titles.
Auriemma has set the standard with a new definition of success in women’s basketball, and has earned the respect from his peers.
“He is one of the best coaches in sports history,” Seton Hall head coach Tony Bozzella said. “I think it speaks volumes that there isn’t a program currently that has caught up to consistently competing with Connecticut.”
Ironically enough, Bozzella had just gotten done watching Auriemma’s weekly coaches show before our interview began. He admitted that he and his staff have used the transition offense drills and other things that Auriemma and his staff have preached.
What also stands out about UConn’s success is that the Huskies never have an off-day. They have not allowed more than 64 points in a game this season outside of the two-point loss on Nov. 17 and are averaging 89.3 points per contest. It’s not as if one end of the floor is this program’s strength.
“Their success has been constant, and that’s another reason why the coaching staff deserves credit,” Bozzella said.
Auriemma has recruited excellent talent and there have been 27 UConn players drafted into the WNBA throughout his time, but it’s the culture that he’s formed that has made those players develop into the best that they can be.
While the amount of the attention that the Huskies are receiving is not anywhere near the attention that men’s basketball teams get, it is clear: the UConn ladies have made their mark on what is an era to remember in the college game.