MINNEAPOLIS — Connecticut has spent nearly three decades as the most formidable threat in women’s college basketball, dangerous even if it doesn’t rank first. 1 in Division I for a few weeks – this is where the Huskies spent much of that time.
But after losing to South Carolina on Sunday night, the Huskies no longer have a perfect record in NCAA championship games. In the Geno Auriemma era, it is rare for some UConn players to graduate without winning a national title. And the program so often referred to as a dynasty is experiencing the longest championship drought since winning the first of 11 championships in 1995. Although she has competed consistently in the Final Four in recent years, her last championship was in 2016.
“It’s UConn, so it’s either a national championship or nothing,” sophomore quarterback star Paige Buekers said after the game, looking at reporters with reddened eyes. “I’m clearly frustrated, frustrated and disappointed.”
Her coach, Auriemma, was uncharacteristically depressed when speaking to reporters after the game. Rather than attribute the loss to the “immaturity” of his players, as he did after last year’s national semi-final loss to Arizona, the Division I women’s basketball runner-up coach insisted he was proud of his team for dropping so far.
Oriemma ran through the long list of hurdles the Huskies cleared during the season — most of them related to staying healthy — and added that forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa played with an injury from Friday’s game against Stanford and that freshman quarterback Azzi During the night Fudd fell ill and did not go to the gunfight.
The team has certainly faced a lot of adversity. Most notable among his various setbacks was Bukers’ midseason knee injury, which contributed to the Huskies’ worst regular season in 17 years.
However, even this injury doesn’t explain the questions that hang over Orimma’s every move at this point in his storied career: Is the legendary UConn Huskies dynasty losing its power? Is this defeat bigger than any of the previous Final Four losses, signaling the end of an era?
“This is another reminder of how difficult it is to win here,” Auriemma said. “Usually the best team wins when you get here, and we’re just not good enough.”
Hearing Auriemma say it’s hard to win is almost unbelievable, given how easily he’s done it for the past three decades. Connecticut has long had the best team in its games – it has spent entire seasons leading teams by 30 or 40 points and nearly won its 11 championships.
UConn’s dominance may have begun to recede, but the titleless period is also a testament to the growing number of programs created to challenge its position at the top of the heap. South Carolina, for example, is now a two-time champion whose powerhouse claim is reinforced 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 due to their success,” South Carolina coach Don Staley said ahead of the championship game. “I think people at UCLA treat their women’s basketball team like a sport. They have to do it because of all the victories and all the success, but you can take a page out of their book.”
Whether this loss is due to the fact that the Huskies are no longer what they used to be, to the development of even tougher competition, or simply to a string of failures – perhaps all three reasons are valid – Auriemma is optimistic that his young team will have more to offer. season.
“I love our chances,” said Oriemma, who will bring back two of his top picks in Fudd and Bukers, as well as adding Ayanna Patterson and Isune Brady to the top five. Class of 2022 from ESPN.
“As long as we don’t have to navigate the season like we did this year and—let’s knock on wood—if we stay healthy,” Auriemma said, “I expect to be back here next year.”