Geno Auriemma and his UConn Huskies’ tendency to rack up national titles can be jarring.
Eleven national championships since 1995. Nine since the turn of the century. Four in a row from 2013-16. The conversation around the program is usually who will challenge UConn this year? Not, does UConn have the pieces to compete again? Because there hasn’t been a Final Four without the Huskies since 2007, regional final without them since 2005 or regional semifinal without them since 1993.
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The last time UConn didn’t make the NCAA tournament was the 1987-88 season and the Huskies finished 17-11. That was Auriemma’s third year in charge.
But we shouldn't ignore just how impressive the Huskies have been in their own conference. They are 100-0 in AAC regular season games and 15-0 in conference tournament competition. That’s six regular season titles and five tournament titles, without losses, and by next week UConn could add three more tournament wins and a sixth tournament championship.
If the Huskies accomplish that feat that would be three senior classes in a row that never lost a conference game. Not to Cincinnati, Houston, UCF or anyone else.
This season No. 2 UConn (28-2, 16-0 in AAC) is winning and winning and winning thanks to AAC-best marks in scoring offense (82.9 points per game), scoring defense (54.9 points per game), field-goal percentage (.493), field-goal percentage defense (.341) and more. Napheesa Collier leads the conference in scoring and rebounding with a double-double average of 20.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. And a UConn player also leads the conference in assists, free throw percentage, made 3s and defensive rebounds.
Two years ago the Huskies also led in scoring offense and scoring defense. They also held the AAC’s top marks in field-goal percentage and field-goal percentage defense. And more. Collier led the conference in scoring then, too. Some of her teammates led in other categories.
It’s a combination of individual stardom, which includes the three-straight years Breanna Stewart spent as the nation's best player, and team success no other program has been able to capture.
Since UConn’s first AAC season it has seen two players grabbed in the first round of the 2015 WNBA Draft, three picked with the first three picks of the 2016 WNBA Draft and three more selected in the first round of the 2018 WNBA Draft. If not for overtime losses in the Final Four to Notre Dame in 2018 and Mississippi State in 2017, UConn’s AAC life could include five national championships instead of three.
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No other AAC team has reached a national championship game in that span let alone a Final Four.
UCF did finish just three games back of UConn this season in the conference standings as one team has each of the past two seasons, but it also lost by an average of 36.5 points per game. No AAC team kept the final score deficit to single digits. The last team to do that was Tulane on Feb. 2, 2018, a 63-60 win for UConn.
The streak will end at some point. That’s what streaks do. But no one could look another person in the eye, with UConn’s more than 100 wins and no losses on their mind, and say they’re confident in their choice without wincing.