UConn women's basketball: Recapping the first episode of HBO's The March to Madness
Wednesday night, HBO debuted UConn: The March to Madness, a documentary series that follows the UConn women’s basketball team as the Huskies continue their historic win streak and look to win a fifth straight national championship.
In the first of the six episode documentary series, viewers saw everything from an inside look of an intense practice in Storrs, Conn., to an emotional Geno Auriemma reflecting on his career as head coach and the many talented players the school has produced. College basketball fans learned more about the players on the roster besides just their stat line – as the series depicts many of the team members' personalities, interests and hobbies. The episode also introduces you to other members of the program who may not often find themselves in the limelight, but certainly keep the ship running, such as associate head coach Chris Dailey.
Here are some of the key takeaways and best moments from the first episode:
1. “Once you created something everybody wants, and that everybody says is the greatest thing ever created, what are you going to create after that, that’s even better than the greatest thing ever created?”
The episode opens with beautiful scenes of a snowy Storrs and Auriemma stating the above sentence, which puts in perspective the pressure that comes with wearing the UConn uniform. Auriemma humbly answered the question of how the Huskies could create something better than they have in the past. “I have no idea,” the coach said.
The Huskies have won 11 national titles in the past 22 years, and since Nov. 23, 2014, they have won every game, earning a current 104-game winning streak.
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2. The legacy and impact of Auriemma was nicely depicted in the first episode, as the narrator Liev Schreiber pointed out that the 62-year-old has been coaching for half his life. There were moments of sit down interviews with past UConn greats like Rebecca Lobo, Maya Moore and Sue Bird. All three echoed the same thing about Auriemma, his expectations are high and he expects you to meet them. As Kia Nurse stated in the episode, you have to be “mentally tough” and “love to be challenged” if you want to play for Auriemma. Sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson stated he knows how to read people and even gave him the term “master psychologist.”
At the end of the episode viewers see another example of the high expectations from Auriemma. The coach sits in his office with his fellow coaches and talks about how he is unhappy and believes his team isn’t listening and just not getting it. Before the ending credits roll, the Huskies earned their 100th straight win against then-No. 6 South Carolina.
3. Remember when UConn started this season? It’s hard to imagine thinking back now, but the Huskies came into the season at No. 3 in the AP poll. The top three picks in the WNBA draft were all members of last year’s UConn team in Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck. UConn had many doubters questioning if they would be successful this season. Many pointed out that they had no All-Americans returning and that this would be the year to take them down. Obviously, there is plenty more basketball to play and it’s what happens in March that will count in the end. But it is almost funny to think about this now as the team continues its winning streak.
The episode starts off with scenes from the Huskies game on Nov. 17, 2016 vs. then No. 2 Baylor Bears, which was the first home game of the season. A cool moment is shown during the game when Auriemma yells out to his freshman point guard Crystal Dangerfield to “win this game today.” Her effort is enough to do just that. The show also takes you to Dec. 7 when the Huskies were then 8-0 and now had to face No. 2 Notre Dame on the road. The Fighting Irish have not beat the Huskies in four years and junior forward Gabby Williams received praise from her coach for being the player of the game. The Huskies would earn another win against a top team when they beat No. 4 Maryland on Dec. 29. Prior to the game Auriemma was not feeling well and was coughing. Before the team took the court he said “you better not make me talk loud tonight.” It was another moment that showed the coach’s personality. The inside access and audio makes you wonder what will air when they show the Huskies recent close game against Tulane on Feb. 18.
4. An awesome scene from the episode was when Geno looks back on his career at UConn. He speaks about how special the 2002 team was with Diana Taurasi. He admitted that Taurasi was one the best player to coach and what an honor it was. He also spoke highly about Maya Moore, and how she was the example of how he tried to recruit not just the best, but the toughest players. Auriemma looked back at a specific moment in Moore’s career when she chased down an opponent on a fast break and blocked the ball - all while the Huskies had a 30-point lead. It's interesting that a specific moment sticks out to him.
5. There were a couple funny moments that stood out in the episode. The players took a trip to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. There they would see a photo of Auriemma in his younger coaching days. “He looks like he is 12,” a player jokingly said.
Another humorous, but also intense moment was when Dailey had to calm down a heated Auriemma during the Huskies’ game against Maryland. The coach was not happy with the officiating and was letting it be known. Dailey had to hold back Auriemma and eventually calmed him down. It was a great moment to see the teamwork the pair shares. Auriemma says later in the episode that Dailey is someone he wishes he could embody characteristically, while Samuelson calls her the rock the holds everything together. It was a nice moment to honor the coach who has been with the program for 31 years.
The next episode airs on March 8 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.