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Don’t let Final Four loss blind you to how incredible UConn’s run was

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The last time the UConn women’s basketball team lost in the NCAA tournament, President Barack Obama was just a few months into his second term in office.

That feels like a forever ago, but it points out how dominant the Huskies have been over the past few years before Friday night’s stunning buzzer-beater loss at the hands of Mississippi State in the Final Four.

Winners of four consecutive national championships and 111 games in a row overall, UConn losing to the Bulldogs is one of the most stunning upsets in recent sports history. During the last five NCAA tournaments, the Huskies won every single game by at least double digits until Morgan William’s buzzer-beater changed everything.

Even just last year, UConn beat Mississippi State by 60 in the Sweet 16 and it sparked a debate about the state of women’s basketball.

It’s easy to overlook everything that UConn has accomplished because we’ve become so accustomed to Geno Auriemma’s teams dominating the entire landscape of women’s college basketball. Everyone just expects the Huskies to never make any mistakes.

But losing in the Final Four was a bigger national story for UConn than winning another national title. If the Huskies had just blown through the Final Four with two more wins we might not be paying that much attention.

We should be paying attention to UConn’s greatness because what they accomplished with this winning streak is completely absurd. It seemed like nobody would ever surpass the Huskies’ previous record-breaking winning streak of 91 games that was snapped in 2010. A couple of years later, UConn topped that with another ridiculous winning streak.

It’s going to be fascinating to see where UConn women’s basketball goes from here. The Huskies have already made 10 consecutive Final Four appearances and won numerous national championships. People are just going to assume that UConn women’s basketball will return to its dominant ways once next season tips off.

We’ll just have to see if it is the start of another memorable multi-year run for UConn women’s basketball.

Milton scores 20 to help No. 15 SMU beat UConn

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Shake Milton had 20 points and seven rebounds to lead No. 15 SMU over UConn 69-61 on Saturday.

The Mustangs (25-4, 15-1 American Athletic Conference) won their 11th straight and haven’t lost since Jan. 12 at Cincinnati. Semi Ojeleye had 16 points, Ben Moore added 15 and Sterling Brown had 11.

The Huskies (14-14, 9-7), who have dropped two straight after a four-game winning streak, were led by Kentan Facey’s 15 points. Freshman Christian Vital and Vance Jackson each added 14, while Rodney Purvis had 11.

The Mustangs rode the hot shooting of Milton, who made 6 of 7 from 3-point range, to lead 41-30 at halftime. SMU led by as many as 16 points, with Milton’s fifth 3-pointer giving it a 31-15 lead with 8:04 to play.

Milton scored just two points in the Mustangs’ previous win, a 76-66 decision over Houston on Feb. 18.

SMU shot 50 percent from the field and led by double digits for almost the entire final 13:28 of the half. Vital’s 3-pointer with 34 seconds left made it 39-30, but Moore closed the half with a dunk.

The Mustangs survived some foul trouble in the half, with Ojeleye and Brown sitting for extended periods with two fouls apiece.

UConn shot just 11 for 32 in the half, with the starting backcourt of Purvis and Jalen Adams a combined 3 for 16. Adams missed the final 2:58 of the half with a left ankle sprain and did not return.

Without Adams, UConn tried climbed within 57-52 with 9:20 to play, but the Mustangs answered with a 9-2 run to regain control.

BIG PICTURE

SMU: The Mustangs and No. 15 Cincinnati are vying for the top seed in the AAC Tournament, but it will come down to the wire. The teams split in the regular season.

UConn: The Huskies are looking to lockup a top-five seed in the AAC Tournament, but could be in trouble if Adams is out for an extended period of time. Vital and Purvis are the only healthy guards left.

UP NEXT

SMU finishes the regular season at home with Tulsa and Memphis.

UConn closes at East Carolina and Cincinnati.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

UConn women win 100th consecutive game with double-digit victory over South Carolina

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The UConn women’s basketball team continued to make history on Monday night as the program won its 100th consecutive game on with a 66-55 home win over No. 6 South Carolina.

Using an 11-2 run to end the third quarter, the No. 1 Huskies had a double-double from junior Gabby Williams (26 points and 14 rebounds) while sophomore Napheesa Collier (18 points, nine rebounds) also had a strong outing.

Monday’s win puts UConn at 25-0 on the season with the non-conference win. These two programs also met last season as the Huskies beat South Carolina on the road when the two teams were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country.

South Carolina (21-3) was led by 17 points from junior forward A’ja Wilson while senior center Alaina Coates had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. The Gamecocks tried to use their size to pound the Huskies on the interior but UConn was up to the challenge and also did a great job of shutting down South Carolina’s perimeter shooting (28 percent three-point shooting).

UConn already shattered the record for longest winning streak in NCAA history earlier this season back on Jan. 14 with their 91st consecutive win, which came against SMU.

The four-time defending national champions haven’t lost since since Nov. 17, 2014 when they fell to Stanford in overtime. That loss to Stanford snapped another 47-game winning streak that the Huskies had going.

This current 100-game winning streak is the second time the UConn women’s program passed the previous Division I win streak record — which was set with 88 wins by the UCLA men’s team under head coach John Wooden. Head coach Geno Auriemma previously guided the Huskies to a 90-game winning streak — which also started after a loss to Stanford in 2008 and ended with another loss to Stanford on Dec. 30, 2010.

During the current 100-game winning streak, the Huskies didn’t shy away from marquee opponents as they toppled an incredible 28 ranked opponents by over an average of over 20 points per game.

The 2016-17 Huskies have also been impressive because they had to replace Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck — the most successful class in NCAA history. Despite those roster losses, UConn has beaten nine ranked teams this season and looks like the favorite to capture its fifth consecutive national championship.

UConn has four games left in the regular season with a road game at South Florida being the only game against a ranked team. The Huskies will also have to get past the American conference tournament before the NCAA tournament.

If the Huskies enter the NCAA tournament unbeaten they’ll be attempting to win its 12th national title under Geno Auriemma and complete its seventh undefeated season.

American Athletic Conference Preview: Cincinnati, UConn and SMU battle for the crown

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Beginning in September and running up through November 11th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2016-2017 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the American Athletic Conference.

The American is going to look quite different this season as the league lost a few familiar coaches and some very talented players. Most of the teams we’ve grown familiar with atop the standings are back in the title picture for 2016-17 as teams like Cincinnati, UConn, SMU and Houston have NCAA tournament aspirations, while many others are in rebuilding mode or trying to be more stable.

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:

1. The league has four new coaches: After helping SMU become a legitimate program, Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown abruptly resigned in the middle of the July live evaluation period this summer, handing things over to former Illinois State coach and SMU associate head coach Tim Jankovich. While Jankovich was left with enough talent to make another run, Tubby Smith at Memphis, Johnny Dawkins at UCF and Mike Dunleavy at Tulane face rebuilding efforts. Smith has a habit of turning things around and should be able to help Memphis become nationally relevant again while Dawkins and first-time college coach Dunleavy have more to prove.

2. Cincinnati remains consistent: With six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, expectations are that Cincinnati makes it back this season. With senior Troy Caupain, junior Gary Clark and transfer Kyle Washington, the Bearcats have plenty of upperclass talent with experience. The question will be whether the Bearcats can make the second weekend of the tournament (or beyond) for the first time since 2012.

3. UConn is loaded with talent: Head coach Kevin Ollie lost quite a bit of firepower from last season, but he has plenty to be excited about. Senior guard Rodney Purvis has talented sophomore Jalen Adams and McDonald’s All-American Alterique Gilbert with him in the backcourt while Amida Brimah is back at center. The key for UConn’s season could be production at forward from players like VCU transfer Terry Larrier and freshman Vance Jackson.

4. Larry Brown didn’t lead the cupboard bare at SMU: Brown might have handed the keys to Tim Jankovich, but the Mustangs still have plenty of firepower. Double-figure scorers like Ben Moore, Shake Milton and Sterling Moore are all back while Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye and freshman center Harry Froling add more punch in the front court. The Mustangs have the talent to reach the tournament again and remain a consistent program for the future.

5. Houston has a chance to break through: While the league’s top three is Cincinnati, UConn and SMU, the Cougars also have a chance to make a NCAA tournament run if some newcomers can help. Junior guard Rob Gray and senior wing Damyean Dotson both return and sophomore guard Galen Robinson Jr. emerged as a starter last season. Junior college transfer and former Indiana forward Devin Davis might be the key to where the Cougars play after the season.

MORE: 2016-17 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Memphis forward Dedric Lawson (1) goes up for a shot between Connecticut forward Shonn Miller (32) and guard Daniel Hamilton, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the finals of the American Athletic Conference men's tournament in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Memphis forward Dedric Lawson (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

PRESEASON AMERICAN PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Dedric Lawson, Memphis

After a monster freshman season in which he averaged 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, Lawson entered the 2016 NBA Draft. The combine in May was an eye-opening experience for Lawson as it showed he needed a lot of work to be a pro. As a sophomore, Lawson has even less help than last season and he should be regularly putting up double-doubles.

THE REST OF THE AMERICAN FIRST TEAM:

  • Troy Caupain, Cincinnati: One of the best senior floor leaders in the country, Caupain comes to play in big games.
  • Rodney Purvis, UConn: Purvis is coming off of his most consistent year shooting last season (38 percent 3PT) and played really well in the NCAA tournament.
  • Damyean Dotson, Houston: Dotson shot 36 percent from three-point range and averaged 6.8 rebounds per game as one of the conference’s most versatile wings last season.
  • Gary Clark, Cincinnati: The reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Year will be a strong contender for Player of the Year if he improves his offensive production.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Jalen Adams, UConn
  • Shake Milton, SMU
  • Rob Gray, Houston
  • Jahmal McMurray, South Florida
  • Ben Moore, SMU

BREAKOUT STAR: UConn has a lot of options to choose from in its backcourt, but the Huskies are hoping for a big season from sophomore Jalen Adams. The 6-foot-3 guard has the makings of a high-level scoring guard who could be a nightmare to contain off the dribble. If Adams improves his perimeter jumper he might be a major weapon this season.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Orlando Antigua hasn’t had the turnaround he expected at South Florida as he’s 17-48 in two seasons with only seven conference wins. The Bulls also lost four starters from last year’s team and top recruit Troy Baxter opted to decommit on the eve of the school year.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : The American might not have a lot of NCAA tournament-caliber teams this season, but the ones in the field are the type of teams that nobody wants to face.

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT: Watching the UConn backcourt and the different combinations Kevin Ollie can use with all the talent he has. A perimeter duo of Jalen Adams and Alterique Gilbert would be a lot of fun to watch.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:

  • Nov. 17, Pittsburgh at SMU
  • Nov. 19, Cincinnati vs. Rhode Island
  • Dec. 1, Cincinnati at Iowa State
  • Dec. 5, UConn at Syracuse
  • Dec. 6, Houston at Arkansas

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @American_MBB

Connecticut guard Jalen Adams (2) celebrates a 3-pointer from half court at the end of the triple overtime to tie the NCAA college basketball game against Cincinnati in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference men's tournament Friday, MArch 11, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. UConn won104-97 in quadruple overtime. (Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Connecticut guard Jalen Adams (Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant via AP)

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Cincinnati: The Bearcats have the league’s best returning duo in senior guard Troy Caupain and forward Gary Clark and N.C. State transfer Kyle Washington should help on the interior on both ends. Play from senior guard Kevin Johnson and sophomore Jacob Evans III could dictate whether this team can make the second weekend of the tournament.
2. UConn: This team is a bit of an unknown since so many new pieces will have to step up and contribute. If Jalen Adams or Alterique Gilbert play well and Terry Larrier adds frontcourt production, the Huskies will compete for the league crown.
3. SMU: Plenty of talent remains at SMU as this team has the wing talent to score and defend with the league’s best. If the frontcourt additions of Semi Ojeyele and Harry Froling come through, this team could be very tough.
4. Houston: Coming off of 22 wins and an NIT appearance, the Cougars have to replace guard Ronnie Johnson and productive forward Devonta Pollard. If Devin Davis and the other newcomers can help defend, Houston could be a surprise team.
5. Memphis: Dedric Lawson could be in for a big season and brother K.J. Lawson might see a jump in production as well. The Tigers need Coppin State grad transfer Christian Kessee needs to produce for an unproven backcourt.
6. Temple: The status of senior guard Josh Brown and his surgically-repaired Achilles could be the key for the Owls as they have some intriguing young talent. Freshmen Alani Moore, Quinton Rose and Damion Moore are talented.
7. UCF: Johnny Dawkins has a strong front court in A.J. Davis and 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall and the Knights get former all-rookie selection B.J. Taylor back from injury.
8. East Carolina: The trio of B.J. Tyson, Caleb White and Kentrell Barkley are talented enough to make this team rise up the standings. The key for the Pirates is consistency in conference play.
9. Tulsa: Coming off the NCAA tournament and 20 wins, Frank Haith has 10 new players on his roster. Rutgers transfer Junior Etou will be expected to help starting wing Pat Birt.
10. South Florida: The loss of four-star freshman Troy Baxter will hurt but sophomore Jahmal McMurray is an all-league candidate who can really score. Transfer Geno Thorpe (Penn State) and Troy Holston Jr. should help.
11. Tulane: New coach Mike Dunleavy has some talent in the form of Malik Morgan and Melvin Frazier but this team needs a lot more talent to compete with the league’s best.

UConn gets commitment from 2017 big man

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UConn landed a commitment from a Class of 2017 big man on Wednesday night as three-star forward Josh Carlton pledged to the Huskies.

The 6-foot-9 Carlton hails from powerhouse DeMatha Catholic and took an official visit to see the UConn campus in late August. Carlton also visited Georgetown during the recruiting process.

Carlton joins four-star point guard Makai Ashton-Langford in UConn’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts. UConn is still going after five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo as a main target as they could take two or three more players in this class to fill it out.

UConn adds four-star Class of 2017 point guard

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UConn and head coach Kevin Ollie continue to recruit high-level lead guards into the program as the Huskies added a pledge from four-star Makai Ashton-Langford on Monday.

The 6-foot-2 Ashton-Langford is coming off of a very good summer in which he helped his grassroots program, Mass Rivals, go unbeaten during the month as he’s considered a consensus top-ten floor general in the Class of 2017.

Considered the No. 40 overall prospect in the Rivals.com Class of 2017 national rankings, Ashton-Langford is very aggressive trying to get in the paint as he likes to make plays for himself and others off the bounce. Ashton-Langford will have to improve an inconsistent perimeter jumper, but he’s a great piece for the Huskies.

The first commitment in the Class of 2017 for UConn, Ashton-Langford attends powerhouse high school program Brewster Academy. UConn can now focus on trying to get five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo to play alongside Ashton-Langford while they also try to add some frontcourt pieces to round out the class.

Ashton-Langford joins a long line of solid point guard recruits for the Huskies in recent years as they’ve been able to get Jalen Adams and McDonald’s All-American Alterique Gilbert the last two classes. That should give UConn great depth with ball handlers the next few years and it bodes well for running Ollie’s offense.