MOHEGAN INDIAN RES. - The UConn womenâs basketball team has done its part. Now itâs up to the NCAA selection committee.
The Huskies clinched their spot in the NCAA Tournament with their 66-45 win over Central Florida in the American Athletic Conference Tournament final at Mohegan Sun Arena Monday night. It will be their 31st consecutive appearance in the NCAA field.
âEverybody that starts Oct. 15, itâs about winning the conference championship,â UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. âIt doesnât matter which conference, weâve been in a bunch of them in the last 34 years. Thatâs still always the goal - win the regular season, win the conference tournament and go to the NCAA Tournament. I still feel that way about weâre doing and Iâm always excited about winning a championship in the conference.â
The Huskies were the overall No. 1 seed the last five tournaments. While UConn (31-2) will hand that title to either Big 12 champion Baylor or Atlantic Coast Conference champion Notre Dame this month, the Huskies are expected to be a No. 1 regional seed for the 13th consecutive year and be placed in the Albany (New York) Regional. They were a top seed in the selection committeeâs top-16 reveal on March 4.
UConn, which has an RPI of 5 and strength of schedule of 33, has reached the Final Four through Albany in 2015 and 2018. The dates for the games at Times Union Center in Albany are March 29 and 31.
âI remember in the early years of my career, I used to be obsessed with the brackets,â Auriemma said. âThen came a period of time where I didnât even look at the bracket. All I wanted to know was who we were playing next and are we good to go. This year weâre sitting there like everyone else.â
The Huskiesâ run of 31 consecutive NCAA appearances is the third-longest streak in history. Stanford clinched its 32nd straight berth by winning the Pac-12 Tournament title on Sunday. Tennessee, meanwhile, has been in all 37 NCAA Tournament fields but will be sweating it out on Selection Monday to see if its 19-12 record (RPI 57) is good enough to get an at-large bid and extend its streak.
This Friday is the 30th anniversary of UConnâs first NCAA Tournament game, a 72-63 loss to La Salle at the Storrs Field House. Who could have imagined the Huskies would be in every tourney since.
âI wouldnât have believed that,â Auriemma said. âI remember losing our first NCAA Tournament game. I remember the following year losing our first game again and thinking, âThatâs what weâre going to do. Weâre going to be in the tournament, weâre going to lose and then weâll go home. Weâll be one of those teams.â It was a big deal to get to the regionals then.
âDuring those days, youâre not thinking, âYou know what? Thirty years from now youâll be sleep-walking through the first two games, at least thatâs what people think, because youâll be expected to go to your 12th straight Final Four.â That would have been make-believe stuff. I still canât believe the way itâs played out.â