25 Nov. It has taken little time for UConn women’s basketball to move up in the Associated Press poll.
Most of that is due to the Huskies’ work the first 10 days of the regular season. UConn, which started the season ranked No. 6, used wins over Top 10 opponents Texas and North Carolina State to jump No. 3, just 11 points behind second-place Stanford. Reigning champion South Carolina, who defeated the Cardinal in overtime on Sunday, is the unanimous No. 1.
But the Huskies (3-0) have also seen the Longhorns, who started at number 3, lose back-to-back games in the Battle 4 Atlantis after their loss at Gampel Pavilion, dropping 16 spots. Iowa, which started number 4, lost to Kansas State. And Tennessee, which started at No. 5, may all be out of the Top 25 next week after dropping six spots and 12 spots to No. 23.
UConn will try to avoid the vicious bug today when it takes on Duke in a first-round matchup of the Phil Knight Legacy at the Chiles Center in Portland, Oregon.
“This has been happening for a few years,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “There are less great teams and a lot more good teams. So the next thing that happens is those good teams start beating other good teams. If you are a Top 10 team and you have flaws, they will show it. And this the transfer portal thing, this is going to happen more often. The portal with guys in and out that doesn’t affect teams like Marquette, Gonzaga as much. They have their guys and they keep their guys, pretty much. The teams in the Top 10, Top 15 , Top 20, they have guys left and right, “This man should have been this, this man is all this, all that.” They get there, they don’t play, they take off. Now you put together a new team, it seems, every year.
“And all of a sudden you’re playing against a team that has three or four guys who’ve been together for three or four years. This will keep happening. It’s a great sign for women’s basketball that now you can’t just go to the gym and roll it out there and say : “Yes, we are a Top-10 team in the country and we can just knock you over for not being ranked.” I think those days are gone I don’t think anyone is good enough to do that and those other teams are too good I love it That’s the kind of thing that has made March Madness the madness it is to the men’s side. We need that madness on the women’s side. We need more of it.”
While UConn has used the transfer portal to add Lou Lopez Sénéchal and Dorka Juhász over the past two seasons, others — such as Texas, North Carolina State and Tennessee — rely more on transfers to reload their programs. Duke has gone big in the transfer portal to rebuild since former Tennessee All-American Kara Lawson replaced Joanne P. McCallie with the Blue Devils in July 2020.
Of the 17 players on the Duke roster, 11 are transfers from other colleges, including starters Jordyn Oliver (Baylor), Celeste Taylor (Texas) and Kennedy Brown (Oregon State) along with top reserves Elizabeth Balogun (Louisville, Georgia Tech ) and Reigan Richardson (Georgia).
The Blue Devils (5-0) are coming off a 58-41 victory over Toledo on Sunday. Their only win at a power-conference school is their 72-51 victory over Texas A&M on November 17.
UConn arrived in Portland on Tuesday after Sunday’s 91-69 victory over North Carolina State. The starters were excellent. Azzi Fudd tied her career with 32 points, while Lopez Sénéchal scored all of her 20 points in the second half. Aaliyah Edwards had her second double-double in three games with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Aubrey Griffin, starting in place of the injured Juhász (broken left thumb), had 16 points, six rebounds and six steals. Nika Mühl set a school single-game record with 15 assists, breaking Paige Bueckers’ record with one.
“I still don’t know how good we are,” said Auriemma. “I have a pretty good idea how hard we’re going to play and what we’re going to bring each night. I’ve seen us struggle and then become great. But if we’re going to compete like we’ve been doing these two games and play with this kind of energy and goal, then I think these two games have shown us what we can be.
The Huskies scored the first nine points and then held off every run from the Wolfpack before blowing the game open with a 15-2 run to close out the third quarter.
Fudd is second in the nation in scoring at 30.0 points per game, while Muhl is No. 1 in assists with 10.3 points per game.
“If we start running on all cylinders, something could be different,” said Auriemma. “I don’t know what it is, but when you have games like this I like to say, ‘That’s the baseline. This is where we started. So now it can never be lower than this. It only goes up from here .’ Wherever that is, I don’t know.”
Juhász will not participate in the tournament and the Huskies hope that Caroline Ducharme, who has been suffering from neck stiffness since the start of the season, will get out of the way more.
In today’s other first round game of the Phil Knight Legacy, Iowa and All-American Caitlin Clark face Oregon State. The championship and consolation games are scheduled for Sunday.
Follow Carl Adamec on Twitter: @CarlAdamec, Facebook: Carl Adamec and Instagram: @CarlAdamec for coverage of all sports in the 18-city JI coverage area, plus updates on the UConn women’s basketball team and head coach Geno Auriemma.