When the UConn women‚Äôs basketball team‚Äôs schedule is put together, coach Geno Auriemma usually has just one thought.
Whenever and wherever his Huskies are scheduled to play, they‚Äôll be there.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic still playing havoc, there are few things known about UConn and the 2020-21 season other than the first day it can play a game is Nov. 25.
‚ÄúWe know we‚Äôre not going to play as many non-conference games as in the past because there are more conference games than in our previous conference,‚ÄĚ Auriemma said on a Zoom call Thursday. ‚ÄúSo that knocks out a couple. Then the late start knocks out a couple. Then each conference has its own deal about how many games they can play.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôll get the results soon.‚ÄĚ
Auriemma confirmed that the Huskies will play 20 Big East games - twice against each of their 10 league rivals - as originally planned. He added three or four of those games will be played in December.
UConn played 16 league games during its time in the American Athletic Conference.
But the Huskies‚Äô original plan was to play 11 non-league games and that‚Äôs where the questions are. Auriemma said games against rivals Notre Dame, Baylor, South Carolina, and Tennessee are still on, as is the Hall of Fame Women‚Äôs Challenge at Mohegan Sun Arena Nov. 28-29 which will have UConn taking on Quinnipiac in the opener and then either Mississippi State or Maine on day two.
Contractually, UConn was to visit Notre Dame, Baylor, and Tennessee, while playing host to South Carolina in 2020-21.
Auriemma hopes those will go on though no dates are set.
‚ÄúWe haven‚Äôt heard from anybody that says, ‚ÄėHey, we‚Äôre off the schedule, we‚Äôre not playing,‚Äô ‚ÄĚ Auriemma said. ‚ÄúUntil somebody does that, which they haven‚Äôt, then we have those games.‚ÄĚ
Also up in the air is whether fans will be allowed to attend, if any at all.
The Huskies have been among the nation‚Äôs leaders in attendance for a quarter-century.
‚ÄúThat has always been one of our biggest strengths,‚ÄĚ Auriemma said. ‚ÄúOur crowds are great, our fans are loyal, and they‚Äôre passionate whether it‚Äôs here (on campus at Gampel Pavilion or at the XL Center. For us not to have them ‚Ä¶ Maybe for some other teams they‚Äôre not quite sure what it is that they‚Äôre missing because they have never had it to that extent. But for us, it‚Äôs big. It‚Äôs really big.‚ÄĚ
Auriemma will have a rooting interest in the WNBA Finals which features the Seattle Storm and Las Vegas Aces.
Leading the Storm surge are two of his former players at UConn and with the United States national team: point guard Sue Bird and forward Breanna Stewart.
Bird is seeking her fourth WNBA crown to go with two national championships at UConn, four Olympic gold medals, and four FIBA World Cup gold medals.
Stewart is seeking her second WNBA title to go with four national championships at UConn, a 2016 Olympic gold medal, and two FIBA World Cup gold medals.
‚ÄúSue and Stewie know how to win big games,‚ÄĚ Auriemma said. ‚ÄúBecause they‚Äôve been so successful in so many of them, they walk into every big game knowing they‚Äôre going to win. That‚Äôs a big difference than players hoping they‚Äôre going to win. The flip side is true.
‚ÄúIf you‚Äôre playing them, you know they don‚Äôt lose these types of games. That works on you. They‚Äôre the best. They know how to win. And the guys who are playing against them know they know how to win.‚ÄĚ
Game 1 is tonight in the WNBA ‚Äúwubble‚ÄĚ in Bradenton, Florida.