Geno Auriemma says UConn women have looked ‘really good’ this year
NEW YORK -- The women's basketball season is almost two months old and one thing is clear, the UConn Huskies are by far the best team in the country.
While some already see a record ninth title for Connecticut as a foregone conclusion, the rest of the nation can take some solace that Brittney Griner and Baylor looked just as unbeatable last season. That's until Louisville stunned the Lady Bears with one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.
Still, it's rare coach Geno Auriemma has liked a team as much as he likes this one and it hasn't gone on to win a national championship.
"We're really good," Auriemma said. "I'd be lying if I sat here and said that we weren't. We're really, really good. I'm not one of these coaches that says, `We just want to compete and hope we make the NCAA tournament and see what happens."
Not even two injured players have slowed down the top-ranked Huskies (12-0). What's scarier is that Auriemma is certain they will develop.
"Playing a team like Duke on the road and knowing that there was so many things that we can do better and can get better that's great for our team to know that that as good as we are now there's so many things we can improve on," he said.
Some of UConn's numbers are staggering: The Huskies have won by nearly 38 points a game, with no team posing much of a threat. Not even the five ranked opponents the Huskies have beaten presented much of a challenge. Connecticut went to both Duke and Maryland and came away with easy double-digit victories. The Huskies blew out Cal last Sunday.
"Connecticut is better than we are, but they're better than everyone," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said.
It's easy to argue that Connecticut has one of the top two or three players in the country at nearly every position, starting with sophomore sensation Breanna Stewart.
"We never had anyone like her," Auriemma said of his young star. "We've had some of the greatest players ever to play college basketball and never had anyone like her. Maya Moore was unique, Diana Taurasi was unique. We've never had anybody that has the God-given things that Breanna has."
Stewart is joined by center Stefanie Dolson, guard Bria Hartley and forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis in a lineup that's nearly impossible to stop.
Then there is the smothering defense.
The Huskies have only given up 583 points - 48.5 a game - this season. They've usually reached that total themselves by halftime, scoring 576 points in the first 20 minutes.
While the old Big East had a handful of teams that challenged UConn over the past few years, the new American Athletic Conference is weaker. Auriemma's team is 63-7 against AAC opponents with six of those losses coming to Rutgers - although, none in the last five seasons. The other defeat came against Louisville, but that was back in 1993.
"If we just gauge our improvement with how we play in those 18 games, you are doing a disservice to who we are," he said. "I will know if we are getting better. I will not need the score of those games; I will know if we are getting better. There are a lot of teams that play in great conferences and play great competition all year long and then get ... beat in the NCAA tournament so it doesn't matter who we are playing, I will know if we are going to get better."
UConn does have one non-conference game left at No. 9 Baylor. The Lady Bears have won 66 games in a row at home.
Then it will be on to the NCAA tournament with the first two rounds played at home before the Huskies will travel to Louisville, Nebraska, Stanford or even Notre Dame - the biggest thorn in the Huskies side the past few seasons.
Yet, even playing on someone's home court in the regionals might not be enough to stop this team from achieving a second consecutive title - and history.