Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

uconn edition

uconn edition

next seasonConnecticut is planning to suit up Azurá Stevens, a 6-6 transfer from Duke who many believe would have been its best player this season. The Huskies will also add Megan Walker, rated by some as the nation's No. 1 recruit. They return six of seven rotation players.— New York Times

You don't know what to do with yourself, do you? Spring training isn't here yet, and who cares about Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jersey, and golfers are still limbering up, and the NBA won't be decided until June. That leaves college basketball, which is sort of a mess with everyone but Gonzaga taking multiple losses. Then there are the UConn women, whom you wouldn't even think of looking at. Right? Which makes you a dope, for choosing boredom over excellence.

I'm talking to you, the guy who can't let a record pass without slighting it by saying, "Yeah but that's the women's game." You're cheating yourself, and you don't even realize it. Jay Bilas, who actually understands what he's watching in the UConn women, calls them the "most dominant program in the history of college basketball. Period."

If you want to turn away from that, go ahead, but Monday night, they won their 100th straight game, something no team — male or female — has ever done, and they did it with more flow, buff, and polish than any team you've ever seen, too.

UConn's trademark pouncing execution is the thing to watch. The Huskies make every opponent seem inferior: They've beaten 97 of 100 teams by double digits, and their average margin of victory during the streak is 38.4 points, and 25 of their wins have come by 50-plus points.

What's so interesting is that this particular team doesn't beat you with size or transcendent talent. They're a bunch of understudies, such as Gabby Williams, a 5-foot-10 forward who sat on the bench for two years. On Monday night the physical dominance belonged wholly to South Carolina, which had the 6-foot-5 All-American Aja Wilson, while UConn didn't put a preseason All-American on the floor — or even a starter over 6-1. But UConn played the elevated game in a 66-55 win, led by Williams with 26 points. You've never seen a team in the collegiate game — male or female — that does every little thing so relentlessly well.

"It's just, we let our guard down, and when you let your guard down a team like UConn is going to make you pay every time," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "Every time."

UConn's winning streak cause a lot of anxiety within women's basketball; the fact that they don't seem to have much competition isn't great for ratings. But what's going on is not about the poor quality of the rest of women's basketball: South Carolina is terrific; so is No.2 Maryland; so is Baylor.

What's going on at UConn is unique; there is something in the teaching of Geno Auriemma and longtime assistant Chris Daly that is producing basketball that's a cut above what you see in any other team, at any level, of either gender. The Kansas men don't cut and move with this much purpose on every play. Partly, this is because the four-year scholarship is still meaningful in the women's game, so that Auriemma has been able to ingrain habits from class to class.

"You figure it out right away," UConn guard Kia Nurse said. "And I think it's the way the vets teach you how we do every drill, how we lift, how we work out. And the importance of each little detail in what we do."

The inconsequential possession doesn't exist for UConn. They do nothing casually — ever. And they take advantage of every casual thing by their opponent. "We had lazy passes, and they made us pay for it," Staley said. There is never a single idle moment, never a drifting move, never a sluggish foot or a hand. They don't take even a piece of a play off. When they set a screen, it's a squared-up physical wall that creates instant open floor. There is no such thing as an indifferent dribble. Watch how they pass on the move, how hard they cut, how disciplined they space and how they fly up the floor.

A few years ago, I asked Auriemma to explain his method. He talked about tape on the floor and hitting marks, and endless drills until decisions are split-second so the ball never gets stuck, and he said it all while snapping his fingers: "Do it right, do it right, do it right, do it right, do it right." That snap is the pace with which they play. But maybe more enlightening was Daly, who said that Auriemma once spent three weeks drilling a single piece of offensive choreography without practicing anything else.

"How many people can get something consistently, exactly right for 30 straight minutes without making a mistake?" she asked.

Answer: Only one.

That's why a UConn team that was supposed to be rebuilding is instead a favorite to win a beyond-unprecedented 12th NCAA title. Many of the 100 games in the streak were won by last year's colossus, which had Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck, who went 1-2-3 in the WNBA draft. But that makes what this group is doing more extraordinary. "If this would have been done by last year's team, I think it would have been less heroic because it would have been, 'Well of course they are supposed to do it. Look who they have,' " Auriemma said.

In an odd way, this could be one of UConn's most defining teams. It's revealing that the program isn't all about recruiting, isn't all about having the dominant player, isn't all about physical superiority. It's about method, approach, and playing the game as a kind of ethic. And that's something that should be of interest to anyone who cares about quality. — Washington Post

next seasonConnecticut is planning to suit up Azurá Stevens, a 6-6 transfer from Duke who many believe would have been its best player this season. The Huskies will also add Megan Walker, rated by some as the nation's No. 1 recruit. They return six of seven rotation players.— New York Times 02/14/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 14, 2017 8:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  2. Armwood pulls away to defeat Plant 27-7, remain undefeated

    Footballpreps

    SEFFNER — First-year Armwood coach Evan Davis pulled out all the stops to get his team psyched for Monday's annual grudge match against Plant.

    Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar (97) gets fired up before the start of the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
  3. Bucs journal: Dirk Koetter says Vernon Hargreaves needs to improve

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The Bucs now rank 31st in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 301 yards per game in their 2-3 start, and coach Dirk Koetter was asked Monday how concerned he is with the play of second-year CB Vernon Hargreaves.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick, throwing an incompletion under pressure after replacing injured Jameis Winston against the Cardinals,  would start this Sunday in Buffalo if Winston’s shoulder is still bothering him.
  4. Backhand shot makes Nikita Kucherov's offense even more dangerous

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — Nikita Kucherov is on a historic streak, just the fourth player in the past 30 years to score a goal in each of his first six games.

    Nikita Kucherov’s backhand shot adds to his strong scoring.
  5. Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville amid federal corruption probe

    College

    In an expected move, the University of Louisville Athletic Association's Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. The decision came 19 days after Louisville acknowledged that its men's basketball program was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe and …

    In this Oct. 20, 2016, file photo, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino reacts to a question during a press conference in Louisville, Ky. Louisville's Athletic Association on Monday officially fired Pitino, nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged that its men's basketball program is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe. [AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File]