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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Few tests remain for UConn

Facing five ranked teams and playing 10 games in six different states  in the last five weeks proved to be no problem for the top-ranked UConn women's basketball team.

With just two more ranked teams on the schedule for the final 31 games of the regular season, where do the Huskies go from here?

That is a question UConn coach Geno Auriemma has heard before.

“I've had some fun with that question,” Auriemma said. “I get it in recruiting, what conference are you in? Who are you playing? What level of competition exists in your conference? All that stuff and to me, what do we have 18 conference games? That is 18 nights that we are going to be playing basketball. Rutgers just beat Georgia so they are pretty good; Louisville is pretty good so there are four games that are going to be pretty good right off the top of my head but that is only 18 games, 18 nights. If we just gauge our improvement with how we play in those 18 games, you are doing a disservice to who we are. I will know if we are getting better. I will not need the score of those games, I will know if we are getting better. There are a lot of teams that play in great conferences and play great competition all year long and then get their (butts) beat in the NCAA tournament so it doesn't matter who we are playing, I will know if we are going to get better.”

UConn knows making its non-conference schedule as strong as possible is more important than ever. A home and home series with former conference rival Notre Dame will kick off next season with a game in South Bend, Ind. The Huskies will also host Duke and will play at Stanford. There’s interest on both sides for UConn and Louisville, teams which have played in two national championship games, to play each other on an annual basis. Maryland and Penn State are other perennial top 25 teams who played the Huskies earlier this season and could play them in the future. South Carolina has been in talks to play UConn as well. The Huskies would add more ranked teams to its non-conference slate if at all possible.

When it comes to the conference schedule, UConn went from being in the powerhouse Big East Conference to being in a league where it could be the only ranked team as early as the 2014-15 season.

The process of what view as an inevitable march to the inaugural AAC title will begin next week.
After getting a few days off for the holidays, the UConn players were reconvene in Storrs and open conference play by hosting Cincinnati on Sunday. The Huskies ring in 2014 by playing at Central Florida on New Year’s Day in the conference road opener.

“After playing Duke and Cal this week, we are really confident in what we are doing but still there is still a lot to be gained in practice and we are going to do that before we play Cincinnati on Sunday,” UConn sophomore forward Breanna Stewart said. “Everybody is really clicking and it is only going to help us going into the conference schedule.”

DIXON IMPRESSED WITH HUSKIES
Jamie Dixon knows a thing or two about winning leading the Pittsburgh men's basketball program to seven straight NCAA tournament appearances and four trips to the Big East championship game.

With Dixon on hand at Madison Square Garden for the Maggie Dixon Classic, staged annually in honor of his late sister Maggie, I spoke with him for a few minutes before the game and asked him what impresses him the most about Auriemma's UConn team.

"They are good year in and year out because he always adjusts to his talent," Dixon said.

"You couldn't have a better coach and a better program or a better venue. He has been so supportive, he is a dear friend of our family and we can't thank him enough for all his support of this event."

MANUEL ENJOYS THE SHOW
UConn AD Warde Manuel has witnessed his share of special moments in his time at UConn but Sunday was the first time he was able to accompany the UConn women's team to Madison Square Garden and he enjoyed what he saw during the dominating win over Cal, a team which played in the 2013 Final Four.

"It was my first time with the women’s team here in the Garden and to have our women’s team where they are to play against Cal, it was a special time to be here in the Garden and watch them play," Manuel said.


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