Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Now the Olympics get fun

Although Geno Auriemma has coached the United States to six consecutive wins at the Olympics, the reality is that his job performance will forever be determined by what happens today and Saturday.

If the U.S. beats Australia today and then defeats either France or Russia on Saturday to capture the gold medal for the fifth straight time at the Olympics Auriemma will return home knowing that the mission was accomplished after coaching the U.S. team to titles at both the World Championships and the Olympics.

However, if the U.S. squad were to stumble in either of its next two games Auriemma will probably be remembered more than if the U.S. rolls up a pair of 25-point victories. The critics will be coming from all angles taking aim at the UConn coach and likely will question the inclusion of six of Auriemma's former UConn players on the U.S. squad. Auriemma has said in recent years that it is always bigger news when his UConn loses than when it wins. Well, that certainly hasn't changed this summer.

Auriemma knew this is what he was signing up for when he accepted the job. When I talked to him during the U.S. training camp in Washington, D.C. he called the heightened expectations as being like "UConn on steroids."

The good news is that Auriemma has the U.S. playing tremendous basketball and more importantly playing as a unit. The players have bought into Auriemma's system and if there are issues concerning playing time, they certainly are being kept under wraps.

I watched a practice in D.C. when the U.S. players were struggling to pick up the nuances of the aggressive, trapping defense Auriemma wanted to use in the pivotal games. Then to see how the United States took those defensive principles and sprung them on Canada was something to behold.

Now comes a showdown with Australia a game earlier than people anticipated. After the rivals met in the gold-medal game in the last three Olympics, it seemed only natural that they would square off for the gold again. However, Australia lost to France in overtime and finished second in Group B and also had two single-digit wins. Australia features a dynamic frontcourt tandem in Lauren Jackson, who began the all-time leading scorer in women's Olympic history earlier in the tournament and Liz Cambage. It remains to be seen how Australia's backcourt stands up against the U.S. pressure. Australia has just eight more assists than turnovers and as a team is shooting just 27 percent from 3-point range. That should allow the U.S. to cheat off at least one of the perimeter players to help out on Jackson and Cambage.

It could be a memorable day for U.S. women's sports fans with the U.S./Australia game set for noon and then the U.S. women's soccer team playing for the gold medal at 2:30 p.m.


Anonymous Joe said...

Geno has seemed relatively subdued...I guess he adjusts his coaching to the needs of the players!

These are professional, adult women; not college students on the cusp between adolescence and adulthood.

BTW, didn't the USWNT say that Geno had limited to no say in the choice of players for the team?

11:54 AM 

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