TAMPA — She didn't steer herself south of the All-America pantheon single-handedly.
Other factors, all well beyond Morgan Tuck's control, conspired to navigate Connecticut's 6-foot-2 redshirt sophomore to a point just below the radar of national recognition. There were those two knee surgeries last season, limiting the Illinois native to eight games and lessening her acclaim in the 2014-15 preseason.
There was the fact the Huskies went on to win a national title without her last April. And naturally, there's the matter of Tuck occupying a low post with two-time national player of the year Breanna Stewart.
"Stewie casts a pretty big shadow," UConn coach Geno Auriemma acknowledged.
Allow those points to converge, and you've got what many deem a travesty today: Tuck (14.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) received neither Associated Press All-America honors (which featured first, second and third teams) nor a spot on the 10-player WBCA Coaches' All-America squad.
"I think people don't give her enough credit," said Notre Dame first-team All-American — and one-time high school rival — Jewell Loyd.
That sentiment was echoed throughout the Amalie Arena corridors Monday, roughly 14 hours after Tuck's de facto clinic in UConn's 81-58 national semifinals romp of Maryland. Those 24 points? Those nine rebounds? Those two 3-pointers during the Huskies' decisive 14-0 run?
Every facet of the performance had the distinct whiff of All-American.
"The fact that she didn't play and we won a national championship and went undefeated (last season), it was like she must not be that vital," Auriemma said.
"But if somebody just came to our practice every day for a month, they would think Tuck was the national player of the year. That's how good she is every day in every area."
On a surgically mended knee, no less.
A two-time Illinois Ms. Basketball (as a freshman and senior at Bolingbrook High), Tuck had arthroscopic right knee surgery in November 2013, with minimal effect.
"It just wasn't healing," Tuck said. "We thought it did; it would kind of heal-and-then-get-worse type of thing, so I was in and out."
Roughly two months after the scope, doctors performed an OATS (osteoarticular transfer system) procedure, in which cartilage was moved from a non-weight-bearing part of the knee to the damaged area. She was granted a medical hardship waiver for 2013-14.
By Game 3 of this season, Tuck was starting, proving to be nearly every bit the matchup nightmare of the 6-foot-4 Stewart. Her soft touch around the rim befits her size. Her ball-handling acumen and long-range skill (19 3-pointers) belies it.
Seven games into her comeback, in a 76-58 early December win at Notre Dame, Tuck had 25 points and nine boards.
"It's disappointing that the media decides ahead of the season who the best players are gonna be, because I think she is their second-best player," said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw.
"I thought the game we had with them, she was the best player on the team."
Too late for a recount?
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.