Selection show will be suspenseful for change as UConn women's basketball awaits NCAA Tournament seeding

Published on Sunday, 17 March 2019 17:30
Written by CARL ADAMEC


There has been no suspense for the UConn women’s basketball team on Selection Monday the last five years.

Four of those seasons the Huskies entered the NCAA Tournament unbeaten and once (2015) they came in with one loss. They were expected to be the overall No. 1 seed in the 64-team field and that was exactly how the NCAA selection committee saw them.

While UConn (31-2) will not be the overall No. 1 when the pairings are announced on Monday (7 p.m., ESPN), it figures to be the No. 1 seed in the Albany (New York) Regional. It will host first- and second-round games at Gampel Pavilion in search of a record 12th straight Final Four berth.

Where the Huskies (RPI 6, strength of schedule 32) rank among the top four remains to be seen.

“Whether it’s a No. 1 seed or anything else, you still have to beat a lot of good teams,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “There are going to be some really good teams in our bracket. You have to beat all of them if you want to keep advancing. I’ll be curious and anxious Monday to see how it all works out.”

In the NCAA’s last top-16 reveal on March 4, Baylor (31-1, RPI 2, SOS 4) was the overall No. 1 seed followed by Louisville (29-3, RPI 3, SOS 2), Notre Dame (30-3, RPI 1, SOS), and UConn. Baylor has since gone on to win the Big 12 Tournament title while Notre Dame defeated Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament final. UConn clinched its 31st consecutive NCAA appearance by taking the American Athletic Conference Tournament championship.

If Louisville falls from the top line, could Mississippi State (30-2, RPI 8, SOS 42) get the final No. 1 seed after winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament title? Or could it be Stanford (28-4, RPI 4, SOS 7), which avenged a 40-point regular season loss to Oregon (29-4, RPI 5, SOS 9) in the final to gain the Pac-12 Tournament crown?

“This year we’re sitting there like everybody else saying, ‘Oh, man, I hope we get a break,’ ” Auriemma said. “But what’s a break? You hope you’re in another bracket? Then somebody comes out and kicks your butt anyway. More so than ever, though, I think there are more teams looking at the bracket. There is more change. Who is No. 1? Who is a No. 2? Teams are still moving around. Usually by this time, it’s kind of set. I don’t see it that way right now.

“I remember in the late ’80s, early ’90s, I used to be obsessed with the brackets. I was probably like every other coach in America: ‘We’re getting robbed. We’re going to be in the worst bracket. How did we end up in this bracket? Look at how easy that bracket is.’ That was every year. Then there came a period of time when I didn’t even look at the bracket. I could not care less. Tell me who we’re playing next and we’re good to go.”

In the March 4 reveal, the NCAA had UConn in the Albany Regional, Baylor in the Greensboro (North Carolina) Regional, Notre Dame in the Portland (Oregon) Regional, and Louisville in the Chicago Regional. A reasonable switch would be to have the Irish as ACC champion going to Chicago and the final No. 1 seed going to Portland.

The change would also work for the committee geographically. South Bend is a 95-mile drive to Chicago and Albany is a 133-mile drive from Storrs. Waco, Texas, is also closer to Greensboro than it is to Portland. Plus, Oregon has the look of the No. 2 seed in Portland with Eugene only a 110-mile drive away.

UConn has reached the Final Four through Albany in 2015 and 2018. The Huskies won the Bridgeport Regional in 2016 and 2017.

“If we win the first two games, where are we going? Albany,” Auriemma said. “People are complaining we always go to Albany. Well, then get somebody else to bid on it. Like it’s our fault. People are complaining we go to Albany every year. Well, guess what: We’ve been the No. 1 overall seed in the country. Where the hell else are you going to put us? It’s unbelievable.”

“That’s why we play with a little chip on our shoulder too. People think we get breaks. What breaks? We win every game and then we go where we’re supposed to go. That’s what the rule says. The No. 1 seed in the country goes someplace close to home. Someplace close is in Bridgeport or Albany lately. When it was in Trenton (New Jersey), we went to Trenton. When it was in Dayton (Ohio), we went to Dayton. How far east do we have to go? I don’t care if they put it in the Middle East, we’ll play there and we’ll still win.”

UConn won its sixth straight AAC tourney title with a 66-45 rout of Central Florida at Mohegan Sun Arena Monday. Napheesa Collier, who averaged 28.3 points on 67.3 shooting from the floor and 13.0 rebounds, was the Most Outstanding Player and was joined on the all-tournament team by fellow Huskies Crystal Dangerfield, Megan Walker, and Christyn Williams.

The Huskies are hopeful they’ll have two-time All-American Katie Lou Samuelson in the lineup next week. The senior has missed the last four games after injuring her back against Houston on March 2.

Posted in Newington Town Crier, UConn on Sunday, 17 March 2019 17:30. Updated: Sunday, 17 March 2019 17:32.