CloseMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, ladies’s school basketball, and different school sports activities for espnW. Voepel started masking ladies’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.
WICHITA, Kan. — The UConn gamers see the upsets which were taking place across the nation in ladies’s basketball. They’ve misplaced twice themselves this season — albeit to 2 different projected No. 1 seeds within the NCAA event — so that they know extra loopy issues may happen in March.
However the second-ranked Huskies are taking part in effectively sufficient, as traditional, that it is unthinkable they’re going to be upset in American Athletic Convention play — which suggests they’re going to in all probability head into Choice Monday on a 13-game successful streak and be slotted into the Albany Regional about 130 miles from their campus.
The Huskies do not get as a lot consideration after they’re cruising previous their AAC foes, like in Tuesday’s 84-47 victory at Wichita State, which moved UConn to 100-Zero in regular-season American video games since becoming a member of the convention. However the Huskies — with 11 NCAA titles and a streak of 11 consecutive journeys to the Closing 4 — are additionally by no means removed from anybody’s ideas.
Nonetheless, UConn (25-2) by no means takes something with no consideration.
“Anybody can lose any recreation,” senior Napheesa Collier stated. “You must come into each recreation with the identical focus, as a result of groups are out to get you. Particularly in the event that they’re the underdog. So it’s essential to be prepared.”
Collier was prepared Tuesday, because the Huskies visited Wichita State for the primary time for the reason that Shockers joined the American in 2017. UConn at all times attracts a crowd on the highway, and helped herald 6,156 followers to Charles Koch Area. The Huskies are conscious of placing on an excellent present on the highway. And even when one among UConn’s star points of interest, coach Geno Auriemma, wasn’t right here — he missed his second consecutive recreation due to a abdomen virus — the Huskies nonetheless did their factor.
“Via his profession, Geno has had a willingness and want to play in loads of completely different locations,” stated affiliate head coach Chris Dailey, who led the crew in his absence, as she did Sunday in Tulsa. “It is one thing we put loads of worth in, and we discuss to our gamers about it. These individuals have by no means seen Connecticut play dwell. So we need to depart right here with the followers of Wichita State saying, ‘Hey, they seem to be a fairly good crew. This is what they do, how laborious they play, how unselfish they play.’
“We might not make each shot. We do dumb issues identical to all people else. However I feel our effort degree, our depth — individuals who know basketball respect it.”
Olivia Nelson-Ododa, a 6-foot-Four freshman ahead for UConn, had six blocks Tuesday, and hit each discipline objectives and all 4 free throws. AP Picture/Orlin Wagner
Collier shot 13-of-15 from the sector and 5-of-Eight from the road. No UConn participant performs more durable than Collier; she was hustling after a loose-ball rebound late within the fourth quarter when the sport had lengthy been determined.
Collier completed with 32 factors and 12 rebounds, and is averaging 20.Zero PPG and 10.5 RPG. Together with standouts comparable to Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, Iowa’s Megan Gustafson, Louisville’s Asia Durr, Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale and Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan, Collier is a strong candidate for nationwide participant of the yr.
“I feel she does it with ease,” junior Crystal Dangerfield (14 factors, eight assists) stated of Collier. “It is enormous for this crew, like a spine for us.”
Collier and fellow senior Katie Lou Samuelson (18 factors, 5 assists) may have their senior day on Saturday in opposition to Houston in Storrs, Connecticut. That will likely be emotional for Huskies coaches and followers.
“They have been by means of the wars collectively, and so they rely on one another,” Dailey stated of Collier and Samuelson, who’re each anticipated to be WNBA first-round draft picks in April. “It is good to see, it is enjoyable to see. However then it form of makes me unhappy to see they are not going to be with us that for much longer.
“To observe each of their development as gamers is one factor, however their development as people — you could not ask for 2 extra coachable gamers. They’re at all times concerned, even after they’re on the sidelines in follow. They’re nice ambassadors for what Connecticut basketball is.”
Six groups are vying for No. 1 seeds. UConn will likely be in Albany. 5 mid-majors are locks. However will Louisville or Notre Dame find yourself in Chicago?
The highest 16 seeds stay the identical, however the Irish are the No. 1 seed within the Portland Regional, the place the Geese drop to the No. 2 seed.
Coming off the bench, Aleah Goodman is aware of simply how she will be able to influence a recreation. The sophomore made key performs each offensively and defensively final week.
Nobody will likely be shocked to listen to the always-in-control Collier say of her upcoming senior day, “Effectively, I am not going to cry.”
“We have labored actually laborious to get so far,” Collier continued. “I do not see it as unhappy. After all, I’ll miss my teammates, however I am pleased with us and I am excited for the long run.”
The Huskies, whose solely losses are to Baylor and Louisville, shut out the common season at South Florida on March Four, after which play within the AAC event, which is March Eight-11 at Mohegan Solar Area in Uncasville, Connecticut. UConn formally clinched the No. 1 seed for the league event with the victory over the Shockers. The Huskies have not misplaced a recreation to an AAC foe for the reason that convention started in 2013-14.
Dailey stated she conferred a bit with Auriemma by cellphone Tuesday. She joked about him critiquing some issues the Huskies employees did, prompting her to contemplate hanging up on him. In all seriousness, they’ve labored collectively since 1985, and know what one another is considering on a regular basis.
Dailey additionally is aware of precisely what the Huskies ought to appear like going into March. How they play even in video games they win simply, like Tuesday, is necessary.
“We got here out with an aggressiveness and actually pushed the ball in transition, and that simply makes us a greater crew,” Dailey stated. “We made loads of nice performs.
“I discover with our crew, they’re at all times stunning me. They’re in all probability slightly harder than I feel they’re. At this level within the season, it isn’t about bodily preparation. It is about psychological preparation. And their capacity — whether or not it was Coach Auriemma right here or myself — to place the blinders on and be mentally ready to play two video games on the highway in environments that are not straightforward to play in, I feel that claims the world about them.”