Remember how we found a whole bunch of new planets two weeks ago?
You won’t find a weirder sentence to begin a sports column, but stick with me. Imagine this: we send some stuff to spy on these new aliens, and they get ticked off. They send the mothership to Earth, but they leave the death ray at home.
Instead, they say “Assemble your best collection of UConn basketball players, magically brought back into their athletic primes by our advanced technology, and we will play a best-of-seven series for the fate of your planet!”
Yes, this is nearly the exact same set-up as Bob Ryan’s Martian Premise, later popularized by Bill Simmons in “The Book of Basketball.” Yes, it still doesn’t make any sense if you start to critically think about it – they’d just pull an “Independence Day” and we’d be done for.
But who are we picking?
It’s practically impossible to narrow down all the stars from the greatest, most dominant basketball program of all time into a team of 12 players, but I tried anyways. Here are my picks for the UConn women’s team.
PG: Sue Bird ’01
SG: Diana Taurasi ’04
SF: Maya Moore ’11
PF: Breanna Stewart ’16
C: Rebecca Lobo ’95
Coach: Geno Auriemma ’17
GUARDS: ’02 Sue Bird (starter), ’16 Moriah Jefferson, ’04 Taurasi (starter), ’15 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. ’95 Jen Rizzotti
Bird and Taurasi are obvious choices to occupy the two guard spots. Bird’s senior year was UConn’s last official entrant into the 180 (or 50-40-90) club- 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the 3-point line and 90 percent from the free throw line. She shot 50.5 percent from the field, 46.6 percent from the 3-point line and 94.2 percent from the charity stripe on top of 231 assists (5.9 per game) to just 93 turnovers and added 96 steals. She won’t have a problem dishing out assists with this team of Husky greats.
Any of Taurasi’s seasons are worthy of a starting spot, but her best all-around season was her last in Storrs, where she averaged 16.2 points, nearly five assists and four rebounds per game. She shot 39 percent from beyond the arc, 46 percent from the field and was clutch as ever while leading UConn to the 2004 title (the men also won the national championship that year in case you forgot). Not to mention, senior-year Taurasi means her trash-talking is at its peak. The aliens are not ready for that.
Jefferson brings a blend of speed, shooting and hard-nosed defense that would serve as a major spark off the bench, drastically changing the tempo of any game. Mosqueda-Lewis is the greatest shooter in the history of women’s college basketball, and if you’re into rounding, sneaks into the 50-40-90 club with her 51.8-48.8-89.5 percent shooting season with 121 made 3-pointers in 2014-15. There’s a good chance this spot goes to Katie Lou Samuelson in the next two years, but for now, KML reigns supreme.
Rizzotti serves as a fifth guard, bringing her superior passing abilities (4.6 assists per game in 1994-95) along with solid on-ball defense and the ability to knock down open shots.
FORWARDS: ’11 Maya Moore (starter), ’16 Breanna Stewart (starter), ’98 Nykesha Sales, ’89 Kerry Bascom
The forwards consist of arguably four of the most prolific scorers in program history. Like Taurasi and Bird, Moore and Stewart are locks to start. Moore averaged 22.8 points per game, shot 52 percent from the field and averaged more than eight rebounds and four assists per contest. She’d likely be the primary scoring option on a team that would have no problem getting buckets.
Stewart is a phenomenal scorer in her own right, but with scoring all around her, her biggest asset to this team are her rebounding and shot blocking abilities. Her freakish athleticism and 7-foot wingspan led her to become UConn’s blocked shots leader after averaging 3.4 in her senior year. She also averaged 8.7 rebounds and four assists per game while shooting 57.9 percent from the field. Not too shabby.
Sales and Bascom are both dynamic, versatile scorers. In a seven-game series, there’s no doubt that at least one of them gets hot and carries this team for an entire game. Sales has the school record with a 46-point performance against Stanford in 1997, and Bascom is no slouch either, averaging 22.6 points per game in 1988-89.
CENTERS: ’94 Rebecca Lobo (starter), ’10 Tina Charles, ’97 Kara Wolters
Lobo is a bucket getter in her own right. In her junior season, she dropped 19.2 points and hauled in 11.2 rebounds per game. She’s also an elite rim protector, blocking 396 shots in her career and 131 in her junior campaign.
Wolters is as dominant of a post presence to ever come through Storrs, scoring 17 points and adding eight rebounds per game in her senior season on 62.3 shooting from the field. She can spell Stewart or Lobo as a defensive stopper and would allow the Huskies to put out some huge lineups if necessary by sliding Stewart to small forward and Lobo to power forward while Wolters slots in at center.
Charles is UConn’s all-time leader in rebounds and an elite post-player. If chemistry is an issue, swapping Charles with Lobo in the starting lineup, while not ideal, ends up creating a team that has actually played real basketball together: the 2016 USA women’s basketball Olympic team.
COACHES: ’17 Geno Auriemma (head coach), ’17 Chris Dailey, ’17 Shea Ralph, ’06 Rizzotti
Auriemma and the UConn staff have had a lot of impressive seasons together, but arguably none like this current season, where the Huskies have handled the loss of three first-team All-Americans in stride, taking a supposed “down year” and turning the Huskies into the odds-on favorite to win the national championship. Rizzotti has proven to be a great coach, guiding Hartford to six NCAA tournaments before leaving for George Washington this season.
For a team entirely made up of first team All-Americans and each starter winning a National Player of the Year award during their UConn career, Auriemma won’t have to do much other than manage foul trouble and rotations. With Auriemma at the helm and a group this talented, the aliens will have their work cut out for them to get a win.