Geno Auriemma

UConn looks to move to 10-0 in national title games (AP)

UConn, Geno Auriemma raising the bar in women’s game more important than Wooden comparisons

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UConn looks to move to 10-0 in national title games (AP)

With the juggernaut that is No. 1 UConn a victory over No. 1 Notre Dame away from earning its tenth national title, one of the focuses will be the achievements of head coach Geno Auriemma. A win would also be his tenth national title, matching the number reached by the late John Wooden at UCLA. Are there differences in the ways the two great coaches went about their business? Sure there are, and Auriemma said as much during the team’s press conference Monday afternoon.

“Well, we are a lot different. Come from different eras, different backgrounds,” Auriemma said. “I couldn’t tell you one piece of that pyramid, because at the time that I was growing up and they were winning every game, I was more interested in, you know, how good Mike Warren was.

“I was more interested in how Valley shot the ball or why Shackleford was so good, or, holy s***, they’ve got Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe and they’re still winning like that. So I didn’t pay attention to the other stuff.”

When it comes to Auriemma’s work, focusing on how he compares to Wooden shouldn’t come at the expense of acknowledging how he’s transformed UConn basketball into the program that currently sets the bar in women’s college basketball.

A young program that didn’t play its first season of college basketball until the 1974-75 campaign (it isn’t all that uncommon for programs to be that young, with Title IX being signed into law in 1972), UConn women’s basketball tallied just one winning season prior to Auriemma’s move to Storrs. Auriemma won the program’s first Big East title in his third season at the helm, and two years later the Huskies made their first Final Four appearance.

While it took more four years for the program to win its first national title, with Rebecca Lobo and company running the table (35-0) and beating Tennessee in the title game, the work then set the stage for UConn moving forward. Not only did they engage in a chase for supremacy in the sport with a Tennessee program that under Pat Summitt set the bar, UConn eventually caught up and raised that bar even higher.

Detractors may use that dominance as an excuse to not tune in, citing the product as being “boring” and lacking intrigue, the excellence of those elite programs has helped boost others as well. While UConn has dominated the trophy count of late, winning four of the last six national titles (Huskies have won eight since 2000, with the rest of the country getting seven), other programs have stepped forward.

Notre Dame, their opponents Tuesday night, won a national title in 2001 and has been in each of the last five Final Fours and other national champions (who didn’t win one prior to UConn’s first in 1994-95) include Baylor (twice), Maryland and Texas A&M.

The Fighting Irish have enjoyed success against UConn in the past, having won seven of the last eleven meetings and holding a 3-2 record against the Huskies in national semifinal/title games (all three wins coming in the semis). It’s a game they look forward to, and it’s one that has helped Muffet McGraw build her program into one of the nation’s best. With that being the case, they won’t show up at Amalie Arena in Tampa looking to participate in some kind of coronation, but there is an understanding of what this matchup has done for all involved.

“I like playing UConn.  It’s definitely a learning experience,” Notre Dame guard Jewell Loyd said Monday. “Winning and losing against them, whatever it is, you learn so much and it really‑‑ I think it’s good. Every time we’ve played them, it’s always been a good battle. That’s what you want for women’s sports.”

UConn entered the Final Four as prohibitive favorites, and that remains the case ahead of the national title game. National Player of the Year Breanna Stewart leads the way for a team with three first team All-Americans (Moriah Jefferson and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis being the others) and a fourth player in Morgan Tuck who many, including McGraw, believe is deserving of such praise herself.

With that kind of talent comes the pressure of expectation, especially with UConn have a 9-0 record in championship games, but that’s something the program’s had to navigate for quite some time. However being undefeated in title games isn’t an achievement that’s taken lightly, even with the amount of success that the Huskies have experienced.

“You don’t realize while you’re doing it, but when you bring it up like that and you really force yourself to look back, man, I really can’t explain it either.  Can’t explain it,” Auriemma said Monday when asked about the 9-0 record in title games.

“And I said this [Sunday], for those of you that were here, it’s going to end,” Auriemma continued. “It might end tomorrow. Might end if we’re in that situation next year, following year. This isn’t something that’s going to last forever. Not going to win every single championship game that we’re in, if we’re in some more, but up to this point, man, it is something that’s really hard to explain. And I’m just incredibly grateful.”

One year after going 40-0, UConn is one victory away from winning a third straight national title and putting together a three-year stretch of 113 wins and five losses. While some will point to that dominance as an example of what’s “wrong” with women’s college basketball, the fact of the matter is that it isn’t their responsibility to make sure everything’s “even” like in youth sports (in some cases, not all) where every kid gets a ribbon for showing up.

Other programs have worked to reach UConn’s level and will continue to do so, which can only be a positive for the sport moving forward. UConn’s “job” is to set the bar, not make sure that others can reach it, and that is the case for great teams/programs in any sport. For that achievement, Auriemma and his program should be commended.

Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck lead No. 1 UConn to another title game appearance

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With schools allowed to nominate just three players for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association all-america team, UConn junior forward Morgan Tuck wound up being the one Husky left out of the mix. Breanna Stewart, the national Player of the Year, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson were all deserving, and each wound up being first team all-americans, but there’s no denying the impact that Tuck has for Geno Auriemma’s Huskies.

Tuck entered Sunday’s national semifinal game against No. 1 Maryland averaging 19.8 points per game and shooting 68 percent from the field in the NCAA tournament, and she continued her recent run of success in UConn’s 81-58 win over the Terrapins.

Tuck scored 24 points, scoring 13 in the first half, shooting 10-for-16 from the field and also grabbing nine rebounds. Stewart led the way with a game-high 25 points and Jefferson added 14 and five assists for the Huskies, who shot 53.7 percent for the game and proved to be too much for Brenda Frese’s Big Ten champions to keep up with.

Maryland, which entered the game having won 29 straight games, shot the ball well early on and kept pace with UConn for most of the first half. But in the latter stages UConn did a better job defensively, taking an 11-point lead into the half, and they were even better on that end of the floor in the second half. Maryland shot just 32.1 percent from the field in the second half, with Laurin Mincy and Lexie Brown combining to score just four points.

Brionna Jones led Maryland with 14 points with Brown and Brene Moseley adding 12 apiece, but as their shots got tougher UConn continued to execute in an efficient manner on the other end. UConn’s now won 36 straight games this season, with their lone defeat coming at Stanford in mid-November, and they’ll see a familiar foe in Tuesday’s national title game in Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish, who beat No. 1 South Carolina 66-65 in the first semifinal, have won seven of the last 11 meetings in the series and they’re also 3-2 against UConn at the Final Four. However the Huskies have won the last three meetings, including a comfortable win in South Bend during the regular season (Brianna Turner missed that game for Notre Dame), and they’re also 9-0 all time in national title games.

Geno Auriemma is now one win from his tenth national title, a mark no other coach in the history of Division I women’s college basketball has reached (John Wooden holds the record on the men’s side with ten). To get there his team will need to get past Muffet McGraw’s Fighting Irish, a team that in the past has displayed no fear when it comes to taking on UConn, whether it’s been during conference games as members of the Big East or in the NCAA tournament.

UConn’s Geno Auriemma on current state of men’s college basketball: ‘I think the game is a joke’

Geno Auriemma
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One of the major talking points in college basketball has been the quality of play, as scoring has dipped down to levels the game hasn’t seen since the 1950’s. With the CBI, CIT and NIT all evaluating possible rules changes such as a 30-second shot clock and a larger restricted area arc, the powers that be are attempting to make strides that would result in a product that be considered more entertaining by the casual fan.

One “spectator” who isn’t too thrilled with the current product is UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma, whose team is two wins away from a third consecutive national title. The title would also be Auriemma’s tenth as a Division I head coach, which would match the mark set by the late John Wooden at UCLA.

During the coaches Final Four teleconference Wednesday afternoon Auriemma was asked for his thoughts on the men’s game, and it’s safe to say that he isn’t pleased as a spectator. Below is the full question and his full response, as transcribed by ASAP Sports.

Q.  You’ve read a lot about the state of the men’s college game this year, that the game is not as fluid, efficient, exciting, well played as it has been in years past.  There’s many reasons people would surmise that from more freshman, sophomores playing than juniors and seniors.  I know you are obviously an authority on the women’s game and your team.  But you’re a basketball coach and a basketball fan, so you see a lot of men’s college basketball.  What has been your thought about where you see the state of the men’s game is right now? 

HEAD COACH GENO AURIEMMA:  It’s funny, you asked me that, I just had a conversation with Phil Martelli yesterday and I think he’s the president on the ABC board of directors or whatever (NABC to be exact).

And we had this conversation and we talked a lot about where the game is and what the future of the game is.  And obviously it’s immensely popular.  You look at the interest paid on the NCAA tournament.  I don’t know that it’s as immensely popular during the regular season as it used to be, but obviously the tournament is just at another world when it comes to that.

Having said that, I think the game is a joke.  It really is.  I don’t coach it.  I don’t play it, so I don’t understand all the ins and outs of it.  But as a spectator, forget that I’m a coach, as a spectator, watching it, it’s a joke.  There’s only like ten teams, you know, out of 25, that actually play the kind of game of basketball that you’d like to watch.  Every coach will tell you that there’s 90 million reasons for it.

And the bottom line is that nobody can score, and they’ll tell you it’s because of great defense, great scouting, a lot of team work, nonsense, nonsense.  College men’s basketball is so far behind the times it’s unbelievable.  I mean women’s basketball is behind the times.  Men’s basketball is even further behind the times.  Every other major sport in the world has taken steps to help people be better on the offensive end of the floor.  They’ve moved in the fences in baseball, they lowered the mound.  They made the strike zone so you need a straw to put through it.  And in the NFL you touch a guy it’s a penalty.  You hit the quarterback, you’re out for life.  You know, in the NBA, you touch somebody in the perimeter, you whack guys like they used to do when scores were 90 to 75, they changed the rules.

This is entertainment we’re talking about.  People have to decide, do I want to play 25 bucks, 30 bucks to go see a college scrum where everybody misses six out of every ten shots they take, or do I want to go to a movie?  We’re fighting for the entertainment dollar, here, and I have to tell you it’s not entertainment from a fan’s standpoint.

So that’s just‑‑ I’m talking as a fan, not as Geno, Auriemma, the basketball coach.

While some of the early reactions to Auriemma’s comments have fallen along the lines of “he should stick to women’s basketball,” he does make a solid point about the lack of offense in men’s college basketball. While scouting has become far more advanced over the years, this has also led to coaches being even more hands-on throughout the course of a game.

If you’re on Twitter at all during games, you’ve probably seen the torrent of tweets during games lamenting the number of timeouts called and how possessions can be micromanaged at times. There are issues within the game, such as the need to not only talk about enforcing freedom of movement rules but sticking with them throughout the season, and that’s been acknowledged by many.

What’s difficult is finding solutions to those problems, which is something the rules committee is attempting to do with the changed they’re using in smaller tournaments. However with all this being said the NCAA tournament has posted record-high television ratings, so obviously people continue to tune in.

Will that continue to be the case? That remains to be seen, especially when considering the fact that this year’s tournament has a “name brand” program in Kentucky looking to be the first team to run the table since 1976. Auriemma touched on regular season games in his comments, and given the number of available channels the majority of those games aren’t going to blow folks away ratings-wise anyway.

No. 2 UConn rolls No. 1 South Carolina to win most anticipated women’s college basketball game of the season

South Carolina at UConn women's basketball
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In the most anticipated game of the regular season in women’s college basketball, No. 2 UConn rolled past No. 1 South Carolina, 87-62 on Monday night in front of a packed house at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs.

The defending-champion Huskies delivered a quick strike to the previously unbeaten Gamecocks by jumping out to a 16-point halftime lead. From there, UConn (23-1) was on cruise control as four starters finished in double-figures led by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis with 23 points and Breanna Stewart with 22 points. The Huskies finished the game shooting 55 percent from the field (31-for-56) while forcing South Carolina into 17 turnovers.

The Gamecocks struggled to match the overall talent of the Huskies and were led by 17 points apiece from Tiffany Mitchell and Aleighsa Welch.

With the win, UConn looks like the best team in women’s college basketball once again. The Huskies are already coming off of back-to-back national championships and have been to seven consecutive Final Fours entering the 2014-15 season. The Huskies have now won 22 consecutive games after losing the second game of the season at Stanford.

UConn only has one more ranked team currently on the schedule and its the final game of the regular season at No. 25 South Florida.

South Carolina will get a few games to bounce back from this loss in the SEC before three consecutive games against top-15 teams to close out the conference season. The Gamecocks finish at home against No. 6 Tennessee and No. 13 Mississippi State before a road game at No. 10 Kentucky.

Both of these teams were No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament last season but South Carolina fell to North Carolina in the Sweet 16. With both of these teams likely coming back as No. 1 seeds for the 2015 NCAA Tournament, we could see a rematch between these teams in the Final Four.

UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma wins No. 900 as No. 2 Huskies top Cincinnati

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source: AP
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UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma earned his 900th career win on Tuesday night as the No. 2 Huskies picked up a 96-36 win over Cincinnati.

The American Athletic Conference win gives UConn a 21-1 record on the 2014-15 season and they’re 11-0 in conference play as Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Gabby Williams each finished with a team-high 16 points.

A member of both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Auriemma becomes the eighth head coach in women’s college basketball history to reach the 900-win mark and only the third coach among that group to do it at one school. The 60-year-old Auriemma also needed the fewest amount of games to reach 900 wins of any coach in NCAA history.

The nine-time national-title winning head coach of UConn, Auriemma is now 900-134 during his astounding run with the Huskies. Since taking over the UConn women’s program before the 1985-86 season, Auriemma has led the Huskies to four undefeated seasons, 15 Final Four appearances and once led the program to a NCAA Division I basketball record 90-game win streak. The program has also achieved 19 seasons of 30 or more wins and won 20 conference regular season titles during Auriemma’s tenure.

Individual players have also thrived at UConn under Auriemma as a Huskie has been named the Naismith College Player of the Year eight times and 12 players have made multiple All-America teams.

Besides his work at UConn, Auriemma has also been successful in international basketball. He’s won two Olympic gold medals (2000, 2012) and two gold medals at the FIBA World Championships (2010, 2014) coaching USA Basketball’s senior women’s national team.

Former Tennessee women’s head coach, and Auriemma rival, Pat Summit still has the most Division I wins of any basketball coach as she registered 1,098 career wins before retiring after the 2011-12 season.

Fifteen unforgettable college basketball moments from 2014

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1. UConn men’s and women’s basketball teams both win national titles, only school to do so … and they’ve done once before

The UConn men’s basketball team won its second national championship on Apr. 7, an improbable run culminating in a wire-to-wire win over Kentucky. The following night, the women’s basketball team capped an undefeated season, repeating as national champion. Since 1999, the two programs have combined for 12 titles. UConn is the only school to have dual champions in the same season, first doing so in 2004.

2. Aaron Harrison’s 3-pointers vs. Michigan and Wisconsin put Kentucky in the national championship game

Kentucky entered the 2014 NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed, a disappointing seed given the preseason hype around the team. The Wildcats went through growing pains all season long, and hit their stride in March, reaching the national title game with dramatic wins over Wichita State, Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin. In the latter two, Aaron Harrison cemented himself as one of the clutchest players in the tournament’s history with identical shots against Michigan and Wisconsin.

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3. Lauren Hill inspires nation through her fight with inoperable brain cancer

By now you know the story of Lauren Hill, the freshman at Mount St. Joseph in Ohio. She was diagnosed last season with terminal brain cancer. She has inspired others by continuing to pursue her dream of playing college basketball while also raising awareness for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. The NCAA approved moving her team’s season debut up to Nov. 2, in which she scored the season’s first basket. Hill has appeared in several more games before being named honorary coach. So far, she has helped raise over $1 million.

4. UMass guard Derrick Gordon becomes the first openly gay player in Division I men’s basketball

Months after NFL Draft hopeful Michael Sam announced he was gay, UMass junior guard Derrick Gordon did the same, becoming the first active player in men’s Division I basketball to do so. Gordon, in his second season with the Minutemen, is averaging 11.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game.

5. Rashad McCants reveals he took bogus classes at North Carolina in order to remain eligible

There has been controversy around the North Carolina athletic department for quite some time. In June, Rashad McCants, a member of the 2005 national championship team, accused Roy Williams of steering him into no-show, paper classes in order to remain eligible. This sparked the reopening of an NCAA investigation, in whichKenneth Wainstein, a former member of the U.S. Justice Department, found 18 years of academic fraud. McCants, who spent four years in the NBA, has been relatively quiet since claiming UNC and the NCAA were set to pay him $310 million.

6. Kentucky’s platoon system is unveiled

With nine McDonald’s All-Americas on the roster, and several holdover John Calipari was not expecting on having, how was Kentucky going to divide the play time so everyone would be satisfied? Easy, Coach Cal implemented a platoon system. It’s not always going to be the game plan, but it’ll certainly continue to be a talking point into 2015.

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7. Wichita State runs the table, 31-0 regular season

Gregg Marshall followed a Final Four run in 2013 with 35 consecutive wins. The Shockers capped off a perfect 31-0 regular season with a 68-45 win over Missouri State. Wichita State would win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and advance to the Round of 32 where the Shockers met Kentucky in arguably the best game of the year. It took a Kentucky team, playing its best basketball of the season, to narrowly hand Wichita State a loss.

8. Adreian Payne’s friendship with 8-year-old cancer patient, Lacey Holsworth

In February, Jason King of Bleacher Report told the heartwarming story of Michigan State big man Adreian Payne befriending 8-year-old cancer patient, Lacey Holsworth. The nation really got to know Princess Lacey when she became part of Payne’s Senior Night. Lacey died in April. Payne and Michigan State gave her a brought her so much joy in her final months — inviting her to the East Regionals in New York and to Dallas to watch Payne in the college basketball dunk contest — and in return she touched countless lives, stretching far beyond the East Lansing campus.

9. Shabazz Napier tells reporters he goes to bed “starving” weeks before leading UConn to the national title

The NCAA has consistently been under fire for its lack of compensation for student-athletes. In March, UConn senior Shabazz Napier went on record stating, “I don’t feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving.” That quote were originally from late March, but didn’t gain traction until CNN posted it right before the national title. Without UConn’s championship run, those comments likely don’t get the attention it did. The NCAA approved unlimited snacks a week later.

10. Doug McDermott scores his 3,000th point in a Creighton uniform

On Senior Night, Creighton forward Doug McDermott became only the eighth player in NCAA history to score 3,000 points. Naturally he surpassed the milestone with a 3-pointer en route to 45 points in a win over Providence. McDermott, now a rookie with the Chicago Bulls, ended with 3,150 career points.

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11. Jim Boeheim’s jacket becomes the focal point of an epic meltdown

The first matchup between Syracuse and Duke as ACC rivals was an instant classic with the Orange prevailing in overtime. The second meeting looked to become another thriller until Jim Boeheim had a Hall of Fame worthy tantrum. C.J. Fair was called for a controversial charge with 10.4 seconds left and the Blue Devils leading 60-58. Boeheim, quite simply, lost it. Racing down the sideline, saying words I can’t write on this website and getting ejected from the came. Duke was able to secure the win from the line thanks to the meltdown. This also sparked some of the greatest memes.

12. Austin Hatch, a two-time plane crash survivor, scores his first point for Michigan

The Michigan freshman has endured more than you can imagine over the years. He’s been involved in two plane crashes, resulting in the death of five family members. Michigan promised to honor his scholarship, and earlier this month he scored his first career points.

13. Mercer upset sets Duke, Kevin Canevari does the ‘Nae-Nae’

The upset of the tournament was No. 14 Mercer over No. 3 Duke in the Round of 64. Plenty came from this game. There was an awesome postgame interview. Lehigh, which upset Duke in a 2012, and Florida Gulf Coast, Mercer’s conference rival and previous tournament darling, tweeted congratulations. Duke legend Christian Laettner tweeted that this wouldn’t have happened during his career. But the most memorable was Mercer reserve guard Kevin Canevari doing the ‘Nae-Nae’.

14. Dayton’s Elite 8 run

The Flyers started Atlantic 10 Conference play 1-5 after cracking the top 25 rankings in November. Dayton recovered to win 23 games and become one of six bids from the A10, as a No. 11 seed. In the Round of 64, the Flyers were slotted against in-state rival Ohio State, upsetting the Buckeyes before taking down No. 3 Syracuse and then topping No. 10 Stanford in the Sweet 16. The run came to an end against top-seeded Florida. The run turned Dayton head coach Archie Miller into a prime candidate for several coaching vacancies, but he signed an extension in March.

15. Wofford’s Aerris Smith delivers a passionate speech in his final collegiate game

This may not be as well known as other moments in 2014, but this is truly an incredible speech. Wofford forward Aerris Smith had his senior season dominated by injuries. After the Terriers won the Southern Conference Tournament championship, Smith announced that he had played in his final game.