Meeks: UConn—Are U Done?

The UCONN Women's basketball team has a long legacy of greatness. Has that legacy ended?

[fair use] via Wikimedia Commons

The UCONN Women's basketball team has a long legacy of greatness. Has that legacy ended?

Madison Meeks, Guest Contributor

When I think of Women’s college basketball, a few names run across my mind: Mississippi State, Oregon, Notre Dame, Baylor or UConn. Among this list of great programs, the University of Connecticut’s Women’s basketball team has been known for excellence not only in women’s college hoops but also men’s. Though the success of the program cannot be denied, I cannot help but notice that the program is just not living up to its glory this season.

I love everything UConn Women’s Basketball. The team could have seven turnovers, and I would say, “Look how amazing that pass to the other team was!” This team represented everything I wanted to be as a basketball player. 

Watching UConn over the years, I found myself admiring their rotation on defense, their ball movement on offense, their swiftness in scoring on transition and their ability to have team chemistry that other teams could not compete with. Now, I struggle to find the same joy that I used to get watching the latest game highlights.

Before 2018, however, my infatuation with UConn was undeniable and deserved. This program boasts successful, prolific players such as Rebeca Lobo, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Katie Lou Samuelson, Napheesa Collier and many more WNBA greats. Their contributions while playing at UConn laid the foundation to secure the program among the most elite in college sports. Their disruptive team defense, quick transition offense and efficient half-court offensive plays were executed beautifully throughout the entire 40-minute game. 

These players meshed together with their other teammates in ways that most teams could not. The 1995 UConn team consisted of the likes of Rebecca Lobo, Jennifer Rizzotti, Jamelle Elliot, Nykesha Sales and Kara Wolters. This team defied the odds and went on to win the first National Championship to be housed in Connecticut in 1995. Known as the “the Birth of the Dynasty,” this National Championship established the groundwork that would have teams trembling to hear the name “UConn” on their schedule.

In the early 2000s, the tradition continued by six more winning National Championships in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010. These trophies were returned to Connecticut by the willpower, hard work and talent of players: Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tina Charles. Most of these players had successful careers at UConn, breaking records in the NCAA Tournament and continued the same success in the WNBA. Watching these teams play in old games aired on ESPN allowed me to appreciate these players’ fundamentally sound skill sets and finesse unlike anything before their time. 

After 2010, players such as Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck, Moriah Jefferson, Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Samuelson and Collier, strung together four consecutive National Championships from 2013-2016. From Stewart’s ability to play nearly all positions on the court while blocking shots and grabbing rebounds to Collier’s crafty post moves, these four years of UConn women’s basketball saw some uncharted success in this “post-2010” era of basketball. These players possessed an unmatched offensive arsenal, “gnatty” defense, insane passing abilities, “lights-out” shooting capabilities, and prolific rebounding margins. No team could even think about stepping to UConn, and there was no other team I’d rather watch. This team made me want to shoot free throws, run suicides and do dribbling drills until midnight just to be as good as they were. This team was the peak of UConn, and no other person could convince me otherwise. Yeah, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird are amazing, but this 2013-2016 squad surpassed all. No team could top MY UConn team.

Then BOOM, the National Championships ceased after 2016, and watching this team was not the same.

Some players tried to continue the tradition, but they failed. Programs like Oregon, Notre Dame and Mississippi State began to overpower them.

In 2017, UConn was defeated in the infamous upset by Mississippi State in overtime when Morgan William hit the game-winning floater over UConn forward Gabby Williams. This eliminated the team from the Final Four of the Tournament. South Carolina won the 2017 National Championship—not UConn. Cool, maybe next year, right?

In 2018, UConn was defeated in an overtime thrill shot by Notre Dame, which eliminated UConn from the Final Four once again. Notre Dame won the 2018 National Championship—not UConn. Okay, now I am concerned.

With Megan Walker, Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa playing more of a key role alongside Samuelson and Collier in the 2018-2019 season, I thought things might go back to normal. I was wrong. UConn lost to Notre Dame again and got eliminated from the Final Four. Baylor won the 2019 National Championship.

Now I realize that my childhood favorite team may be slipping from glory. With the emerging dominant programs such as Oregon, Baylor, Louisville and South Carolina over the years, UConn is falling by the wayside. I do not doubt Geno Auriemma’s coaching, but I wonder if his coaching will make up for players’ inconsistency, the lack of team chemistry and the team’s inability to play defense off the dribble.

But after Oregon handed UConn their worst loss in Gampel Pavilion, I highly doubt it. UConn has lost their finesse in their killer offense. UConn can no longer make the same defensive plays they once could. UConn’s post players do not score, block shots, and rebound consistently like Lobo, Stewart and Tuck once did.

Much like my high school basketball career, UConn’s “definite #1 spot” has been abandoned and replaced, and much like time, I don’t think UConn will get it back.

Sad to say: The era is over. UConn is done.