MINNEAPOLIS – Connecticut has spent nearly three decades as the most formidable threat in women’s college basketball, dangerous even if it did not reach number one. 1 in Division I for weeks at a time – that’s where the Huskies spent a significant portion of that time.
But after losing to South Carolina on Sunday night, the Huskies no longer have a perfect record in NCAA championship games. For the first time since 2008, some UConn players will graduate without having won a national title. And the program, so often thought of as a dynasty, has been in the midst of its longest championship drought since winning the first of its 11 championships in 1995. Although it has been a fixture in the Final Four in the last years, his last championship was in 2016.
“This is UConn, so it’s a national championship or nothing,” star sophomore guard Paige Bueckers said after the game, looking forward to red-eyed reporters. “I’m obviously overwhelmed, frustrated and disappointed.”
Her coach, Geno Auriemma, was uncharacteristically submissive when talking to reporters after the match. Instead of attributing the defeat to ‘immaturity’ of his players, as he did after last year’s national semi-final loss to Arizona, the one to one winning coach in Division I women’s basketball history insisted he was proud of his team for doing so. to make far.
Auriemma went through the wash list of obstacles the Huskies had overcome during the season – most of them related to staying healthy – and added that striker Olivia Nelson-Ododa had played with an injury sustained in Friday’s game against Stanford, and that freshman guard Azzi Fudd had become ill last night and had not been shot.
The team certainly had a lot of setbacks. Most notable among his various setbacks was Bueckers ‘midseason knee injury, which contributed to the Huskies’ worst regular season in 17 years.
However, even that injury does not take into account the questions that arise about every move Auriemma makes at this point in his narrated career: does the legendary UConn Huskies dynasty lose its power? Is this loss, more than one of the previous Final Four defeats, the one that signals the end of an era?
“It’s still a reminder of how hard it is to win here,” Auriemma said. “Mostly the better team wins when you come here, and we just weren’t good enough.”
Auriemma hearers say that it’s hard to win can sound almost unreliable, considering how easy it has looked over the past three decades. Connecticut has long had the better team in its games – it has spent entire seasons blowing up teams with 30 or 40 points, and almost ran to its 11 championships.
UConn’s dominance may have begun to rise, but the untitled region has also built a testament to the growth of programs to challenge its position at the top of the heap. South Carolina, for example, is now a two-time champion whose claim to powerhouse status is made stronger by the fact that, unlike in 2017, the Gamecocks had to go through the Huskies to win this championship.
“A lot of what we can do and get is from the back of their success,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said before the championship game. “I think the people at UConn treat their women’s basketball team like a sport. They are forced by all the winning and all the success, but you can take a page from their book.”
Whether this loss is due to the fact that the Huskies are not what they used to be, the development of even tougher competition or just a lot of bad breaks – maybe all three reasons are valid – Auriemma is optimistic that his young team is next to much too bidding will have season.
“I love our chances,” said Auriemma, who will return his two recruits to A-list in Fudd and Bueckers and add Ayanna Patterson and Isuneh Brady, both ranked in the top five of the 2022 class by ESPN .
“Provided we do not have to navigate a season like we did this year, and – knock on wood – if we stay healthy,” said Auriemma, “I expect to be back here next year.”