that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”
Gene Wang at the Washington Post: Connecticut routs Syracuse, wins historic fourth straight NCAA title
From the moment she arrived to play basketball for Connecticut four years ago, Breanna Stewart aimed to set herself apart from anyone in the history of the sport. At the top of her list of goals was playing for the first women’s team to win four national championships in as many years.
Following a masterful performance in Tuesday night’s 82-51 victory over Syracuse in the NCAA tournament final, Stewart not only made good on her unprecedented aspirations but elevated the top-seeded Huskies into exclusive company.
Hillsman may have lost an NCAA championship game to Connecticut on Tuesday, but he clearly retained all his confidence.
And that’s probably warranted.
His success in recruiting great players was on full display in the Orange’s run to the title game.
While he missed on Stewart coming out of Cicero-North Syracuse four years ago, heading into this offseason the spotlight of the program’s first-ever Final Four should give Hillsman an even easier time getting an audience with the handful of difference-makers coming out of high school basketball every year.
Before this one had even begun, Quentin Hillsman was working it, and working it hard.
“Some of our players have played against them and I’ve coached against them numerous times,” he’d announced … and the “them” in the equation were the Connecticut Huskies. “I’ve been on every possible end of the spectrum of a UConn game — a regular-season game, a Big East Tournament game, on Senior Night at their place. I’ve been in every possible situation against them.”
Well, not exactly. At least not going into Tuesday evening. Because it wasn’t until then that Hillsman and his Syracuse women’s basketball team walked into Bankers Life Fieldhouse and entered a whole ‘nother realm
“I thought in spurts we played pretty good,” Hillsman said. “We just had some troubles (in execution). But the troubles come from UConn.. They’re just a great basketball team. I’m not shocked by how good they are. I’m not shocked about the things they did in the game. We competed. We definitely didn’t play scared. It was a very tough basketball game and I thought our kids left it all on the floor.”
Jim Fuller, New Haven Register: UConn women win fourth straight national championship, 11th overall
“There are three key ingredients that go into this kind of success,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said as he pointed to Tuck, Stewart and Jefferson. “When you have players like these three and the kind of individuals that they are, the kind of character that they have, the way they conduct themselves every day, I have never been around a better group of great players that love the game, appreciate the game, love their teammates. They have done something that obviously never has been done better so it means they are really good.”
It was the day before her class would attempt to make history by winning a fourth consecutive national championship, and Connecticut senior Moriah Jefferson was trying to explain why perceptions of her and her classmates are drawn from incomplete information.
Morgan Tuck may look calm and composed on the court, a model of subtle efficiency juxtaposed against Jefferson’s perpetual motion or Breanna Stewart’s long-limbed canter. But that, Jefferson noted, obscures an inner wild child loud enough behind closed doors to carry through the walls.
Jefferson acknowledged, too, that despite the speed with which she plays, she is known as “Grandma” to her teammates for reasons that have more to do with demeanor than age. The hummingbird activity slows to a Texas amble when the sneakers come off.
Howard Megdal at Vice: THE UCONN WOMEN TAKE THEIR HISTORIC, INEVITABLE CROWN
After answering questions at the postgame podium, Sykes took a long, slow walk down the corridors of Bankers Life Arena, eventually ending up in the visitors’ locker room. Weary from a full season of drives and spills, she asked, “You mind if I sit down?” No one did, and she wearily settled into a chair in front of her locker, one leg extended. Her team had been routed, but she had started to find perspective on it before the game even ended, while standing on the sideline. The realization came as the confetti began to fall and both pep bands began to play.
“I was just taking in those last few seconds on the clock to realize what we’ve accomplished this year,” Sykes said. “You see the clock winding down, and you realize that you lost the game, but at the same time you think in a positive mindset, too—that gives you ammunition to get back to that spot. And we’re going to forever remember this feeling. And next season we want to get back here so we can change that feeling and know how it feels to win a national championship.” Sykes, it should be said, was the exception. It’s really hard to take the long view as a player who is used to winning, and has just lost by so much, so quickly.
WaPo’s Des Bieier: Breanna Stewart’s U-Conn. career was about as close to perfect as it gets
Let’s take a moment to appreciate a uniquely successful college basketball career, one that ended in a remarkably appropriate way. With her Connecticut Huskies winning the NCAA title Tuesday, Breanna Stewart completed a near-perfect run, and her final act came against an unlikely opponent that just happened to be her hometown team.
“When you feel the most satisfied, when you’ve done all that you can do,” Stewart said, “when you’re working this hard and performing at that level, there’s nothing else that can be asked of you. No matter, win or lose or anything, you’re putting it all out there. That’s what you want.”
Maybe the most remarkable part of this is that Stewart has made it look … well, almost mundane. Stewart, her teammates and UConn Nation were excited Tuesday, but for many sports fans, the conclusion of another perfect season — UConn’s sixth — was practically ho-hum.
Okay, so what was with that sword? USA Today’s Laken Litman explains Why the UConn seniors knighted each other after winning national championship
USA Today’s Luke Kerr-Dineen: Let’s appreciate UConn women’s basketball for what it is: A dynasty
The role parity plays in the NFL is hardly a taboo subject when people discuss the league’s popularity, and it’s not as if the New York Yankees escaped criticism when they were winning everything and paying its players handsomely for the pleasure.
The difference here is that not only did people linger on the negative side of that question, many never made it to the eventual conclusion that almost always follows: That dynasties should be celebrated because they offer casual fans an avenue into the sport that didn’t exist before.
Not a golf fan? That’s fine, but I bet you know who Tiger Woods is. You may not follow horse racing but I’d be shocked if you didn’t know what American Pharoah accomplished last year. You don’t have to be a UFC follower to know who Ronda Rousey is, or a boxing fan to understand that Mayweather-Pacquiao was a very big deal.
They are the Celtics in pony tails, and the Yankees in pink. They are the Canadiens without a penalty box, the Steelers without shoulder pads. They are UCLA, with two X chromosomes.
Their coach is John Wooden in a coed world. Except now, he has one more national championship.
And now that Breanna Stewart has crunched her last opponent and cut down her last net, what to think about the Connecticut Dynasty?
Swish Appeal: UConn’s Big 3: 4 years, 4 National Championships
Hartford Courant’s Jeff Jacobs: Senior Sweep — Savor The Huskies’ Big Moment
Basketball is Marcus Paige hitting an impossible shot with 4.6 seconds left and Kris Jenkins answering with a buzzer-beater for the ages.
Yet basketball, too, is John Wooden’s UCLA men of a half-century ago and Auriemma’s UConn women of Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
There is a memorable scene in the movie “Hoosiers” where Coach Dale has the boys measure the distance from under the backboard to the free-throw line and then again from the floor to the rim. Fifteen feet. Ten feet. “The exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory,” Dale said.
The message, of course, was no matter how big the moment or how colossal the challenge, the game is constant. The game is the same for everyone. For David. For Goliath. For Paige. For Jenkins. For Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton. For Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart.
Auriemma, who was emotional in a press conference before semifinals, said the three players left a legacy not only for the school, but for players who follow them.
“They’ve left an imprint on this game that’s going to last a really long time,” he said. “And I think it’s a blueprint for kids coming after them that if you want to know how to do it, they showed everybody how to do it. And they did it the right way. And they did it together and they did it with people that they love. And I’m really, really proud of them.”
Richard Deitsch at SI: Perfection: UConn’s Stewart leaves legacy as unparalleled winner
There were no Kris Jenkins or Marcus Paige moments tonight, no Ryan Arcidiacono hearing “Arch! Arch! Arch!” and flipping the ball back to his trail shooter for the shining moments of all shining moments. No, this was a clinical Connecticut victory, a cold-blooded dissection of Syracuse, which had a remarkable run to the final before getting eaten by a basketball Godzilla.
UConn is the champion of women’s basketball again in an 82–51 rout, but this one came with plenty of notables: The win vaulted the UConn senior class of Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck to 151 career wins (and just five losses), the most victories for any class in the history of women’s basketball. The trio also ran the table in the NCAA tournament with 24 consecutive wins, a record that can only be matched but never topped. Oh, yes, there was also this: UConn coach Geno Auriemma won his 11th career national title, eclipsing legendary UCLA men’s coach John Wooden by one.
If you want to have an argument about women’s basketball…Taurasi, not Stewart, largely considered best UConn player ever
You have to like a question with three choices and no wrong answers. But which one is the most right?
If you saw the UConn bench go wild when that last shot went in, you may want to (see) read Lindsay Schnell’s piece: UCONN RESERVES BRIANA PULIDO & TIERNEY LAWLOR ON WHAT IT’S LIKE TO WALK ON WITH A DYNASTY
Briana “Polly” Pulido was about five minutes into her first walk-on workout with Connecticut assistant women’s basketball coach Shea Ralph in the fall of 2013 when she had a thought she couldn’t shake
What the hell did I get myself into?
It’s a question she still battles, she says, though not as much anymore. As one of two walk-ons for the Huskies, who go for an unprecedented four-peat tonight in the women’s national title game, Pulido knew what she had gotten herself into, and why. It’s cliché, but true, she says, that she wanted to be part of something special.
Harvey, NY Times “On Basketball”: A Team Sets a High Bar, and Then Surpasses It Yet Again
Did you catch the audio of Mechelle on WNYC: What UConn’s Success Means for Women’s Basketball
How about NPR’s Frank Deford: It’s Time To Celebrate The UConn Women’s Basketball Team
Mechelle: Auriemma passes Wooden with 11th title
Why has Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma won so many national championships? There are multiple intersecting specific reasons that have helped in the construction of the Huskies’ women’s basketball dynasty that claimed its 11th NCAA title, all under Auriemma, on Tuesday. But there is also one overriding factor.
Which is this: Some people are exceptionally great at what they do.
Why is Mark Zuckerberg a gazillionaire? Why has Meryl Streep earned 19 Academy Award nominations? Why do the Beatles remain the best-selling musical artists of all time, even 46 years after they broke up?
The big “why” for the extreme end of greatness is always an extreme talent. Then there are other variables: opportunity, geography, timeliness, an ability to seize the moment.
“The first thing I thought about (Monday) night, when you told me you would ask me that question if we won, was last night, there were something like 20-some of my former players, and we were all in one room and I just remember taking a step back and looking at all of them and thinking, ‘This is just an unbelievable scene’,” Auriemma said. “And they’re all here today. And what those 11 titles mean to me is how many great players I’ve had a chance to coach and how many great people have come through the program.
“It doesn’t matter whose name I’m above, whose name I’m under or next to, as long as I have those names and those players in my memory, I’m good.”
More audio on Dan Patrick: Geno Auriemma says he hates John Wooden comparison
ESPN’s Front Row offers BTS of ESPN at NCAA Women’s National Championship
American Athletic Conference offers: UConn Women’s Basketball Captures Perfect 38-0 Season
In their own words: NCAA post-game:
Other Indy stuff:
This past weekend, senior Mercedes Riggs headed to Indianapolis, Ind., for the NCAA Final Four. Riggs was a part of the “So You Wanna Be A Coach” program put on by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). A product of Lindon, Utah, Riggs stopped by to talk about her experience and what lies ahead in her career.
“It really was a special moment for women’s basketball,” Auriemma said. “I hope it was a moment that everyone took in and appreciated and wants to do again. I talked to some of the coaches and players on those teams and they said they never experienced anything like this. And you know what? They deserve to. Those kids play just as hard, put in as much time and effort as our kids.”
The NCAA added a nice touch, having the players from Division II champion Lubbock Christian and Division III winner Thomas More hold the flag during the Division I title game. A moment they won’t forget anytime soon.
Something you might have missed: ‘Loudest ovation’ at NCAA game for Lauren Hill.
NICE! From the Seattle Times: A LOOK BACK – Huskies’ 2016 Final Four run
It was a season of firsts for the Washington women’s basketball team — a season in which UW finished just fifth in the Pac-12. But once the Huskies found their footing in the postseason, coach Mike Neighbors’ squad went on an improbable NCAA tournament run that culminated in a Final Four appearance. Here’s a look back at the Dawgs’ 2015-16 season and their journey to the Final Four.
Hofstra had a nice WNIT run: W.B. Mason Coaches Report With Krista Kilburn-Steveskey
With Morgan Tuck declaring for the draft, follow excelle’s WNBA draft board here. Did I mention that Powers is doing the same? Aerial Powers on WNBA: ‘It’s the right opportunity’
On that draft list: Banham Reflects On Career, Looks Ahead To WNBA Draft