One week removed from their fourth-straight national championship and their 11th title in program history, it’s time to look back on the Huskies’ biggest strengths and weaknesses from their sixth perfect season.
The Three Musketeers
When Geno was asked about the biggest factor in winning this year’s championship during the trophy presentation, he quickly pointed to the senior class of Breanna Stewar, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck. He could not be any more correct.
The senior trio combined to average 45 of UConn’s 88.1 points per game, including 56 of the team’s 82 points in their 82-51 win over Syracuse in the national championship game. Aside from a five-game span that Tuck missed due to knee pain, these three players were healthy and playing at their highest level for the entire season. Given that these three are likely the top three players in the country and have the chance to be selected with the first three picks of the WNBA draft on April 14, the Huskies had advantage night after night and never failed to take advantage of it.
Freshmen Find Their Groove
Expectations were high from the day Katie Lou Samuelson stepped onto campus. As the No. 1 recruit in the country on the nation’s top team, she was expected to be a major contributor from the start.
While Samuelson struggled early on, she eventually did just that, becoming a consistent scorer and improving in all areas before her season was cut short due to a broken foot suffered on the first play of the Final Four against Oregon State.
After struggling to find her shot from beyond the arc and some poor showings on the defensive end, Samuelson settled in and became UConn’s most reliable scoring option outside of the Huskies’ three seniors. The freshman finished averaging 11 points per game, shooting 39.4 percent from the 3-point line and demonstrating an ability to score with either hand in a variety of ways from nearly anywhere on the court, best exemplified by her program record 22-point performance in her NCAA tournament debut.
Samuelson’s classmate Napheesa Collier also turned in a solid season, averaging 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds off the bench in just over 17 minutes per game. Collier helped fill the void left by Samuelson in the national championship, scoring six points in just 15 minutes, four of which stopped an extended run from the Orange in the third quarter.
The success of Samuelson and Collier coupled with a talented sophomore class of Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams and Courtney Ekmark bodes well not only for the Huskies’ success next season but also in the future.
Defending the Deep Ball
It’s hard to find a real weakness on a team that didn’t lose a single game, let alone win one by less than 10 points. However, one of UConn’s only real struggles throughout the season was defending the 3-pointer. Opponents shot 29.9 percent from deep against the Huskies, which ranks 104th in Division I.
Of course, when you lead the country in points per game (88.1) and hold opponents to the lowest amount in the country at 48.3 points per game, a few 3-pointers here and there isn’t a huge issue. However, with so much of the current offense leaving due to gradutation and the loss of the Huskies’ best on-ball defender in Jefferson and off-ball defender/shot blocker in Stewart, it could evolve into a major problem next season. If head coach Geno Auriemma can find a way to fill the tremendous void of losing arguably three of the best players in program history and can lock down their perimeter defense, a 10th-straight Final Four appearance isn’t out of the question.