The inevitability of UConn should be prized — Rebecca Tillett talks Saint Louis run — Must-click women’s basketball links
The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, Mar. 8, 2023
Happy Basketball Wednesday! On Friday, I’m off to see Princeton in the Ivy League Conference Tournament at Jadwin Gym. They’ll face a stiff test from Penn, their down-the-road rivals, and the Columbia-Harvard winner waiting for them on Saturday if they advance. The Tigers are seeking their ninth NCAA appearance since 2010, a standard-bearer for the league more often than not. They are the way other programs measure themselves in the Ivy League. And it all pales in comparison to what UConn has done since 2007.
That was the last time the Huskies failed to reach the Final Four. In that utter, abject failure of a season, the one pointed to as the last time UConn DIDN’T do something, the Huskies finished 29-3, went to the Elite Eight, and lost to only the best center in WNBA history, Sylvia Fowles.
Ask yourself how many programs have had a single season as great as the last time UConn failed to hit its minimum standard.
It’s all incredible, and it bears noting that it’s taking place during a time the women’s basketball landscape has grown exponentially. There was a time, not long ago, that all an athletic department had to do was spend a little money and a top-half finish in a Power 5 conference would follow. Spend a lot, and top-ten national finishes would follow.
There’s just too many programs doing it the right way now for it to be so simple. And there are consequences, too, for failing to win in a way we didn’t see as often — Providence, Xavier, Cincinnati and Minnesota among others in the past week. (I’ll argue to my dying day Minnesota pulled the plug too soon, however. That group is on the cusp of something special and Lindsay Whalen deserved more time.)
It is important, then, to take UConn’s success into that context. Pat Summitt’s Tennessee won eight national titles, and the 11 Final Fours between 1995 and 2008 are incredible. I think you have to say what UConn has done from 2007 through 2022 is even more impressive.
And now: another NCAA Tournament beckons. That BIG EAST Tournament was no easy challenge, and the Huskies made everyone else look like pretenders — even a Villanova team that should host come NCAA time, and features everything you’d want in a March team, from an elite scorer in Maddy Siegrist to shooters for spacing to a team-wide proclivity to both defend and not turn the ball over.
And UConn ran out to a 25-point lead against them.
I do think it is easy to fall into the trap of looking to what’s next and miss what’s right in front of us. Someday, UConn won’t make a Final Four. Someday, Geno Auriemma will retire, as will Chris Dailey. Let’s not rush that, shall we? Let’s make sure we’re paying proper attention here.
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