WBB: The Big East welcomes UConn with open arms

The UConn Women’s Basketball team during a game huddles. The University of Connecticut is back in the Big East, and many teams think UConn can take the conference to the top. Photo by Kevin Lindstrom/The Daily Campus

UConn is finally home. Well, almost. 

After spending seven seasons dominating the American Athletic Conference, the University of Connecticut is back in the Big East, where old stories will be revisited and new stories will be created in one of the most historic conferences in college sports. It’s been a while in the making, but with Thursday’s Big East media day, we are one step closer to the reunion that has even Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman thrilled. 

“On the women’s basketball side, we just brought in a team that has in many ways put women’s basketball on the map,” Ackerman said. “Their role in the modernization of women’s basketball cannot be overstated, and now to have that as part of us is a fortifying step for a league that has flown under the radar. I don’t know if UConn is the icing on the cake or maybe part of the cake, but I think they will lift the profile of the league, create a higher standard of excellence for all of our schools and will generally help us maintain a leader-like position as we look to have the women’s game grow.” 

Amidst this major change, however, one constant that remains is the Huskies’ prowess as one of college’s most dominant athletic programs in history. After going a perfect 118-0 during the stint in the AAC, UConn was chosen unanimously to come out of the Big East on top, with the one vote UConn didn’t receive going to DePaul because UConn head coach Geno Auriemma could not vote for his own team.  

The Huskies are a daunting task for any group to undertake, but the other coaches of the Big East welcome the challenge with open arms, and are ready to put their talent to the test. 

“I think, between our coaches in our league and our players, we’re all competitors, and great competitors wanna play against the best each and every night,” Marquette head coach Megan Duffy said. “Geno coming into our league as a top coach in the country [with] his players and his talent, it’s only gonna raise the level in the entire Big East. So we’re looking forward to having that challenge throughout this season.” 

Olivia Nelson-Ododa revs up for a basket. UConn has rejoined the Big East Conference, and many other teams are excited for what UConn Women’s Basketball can bring to the table. Photo by Kevin Lindstrom/The Daily Campus

Several other coaches shared the thought of UConn presenting a new and exciting challenge, but none seemed more excited than Creighton head coach Jim Flanery. 

“It’s a great experience because you’re gonna find out that one, they have really good players but two, they play the right way,” Flanery said. “They play really hard. They make you uncomfortable [and] there’s nothing you don’t admire about the way that they play.” 

During his response, Flanery also told the media about a nightmare he had early on in the pandemic about UConn, and joked that when the inevitable complications occur during the season, he wouldn’t mind if one happened just before his team had to take on the Huskies. 

Georgetown head coach Jimmy Howard mentioned the unique atmosphere UConn is sure to bring both on and off the court as what excites him the most. 

“You get to play against the best, you get to play in an atmosphere that’s like a Final Four situation,” Howard said. “They’re gonna challenge you in many ways on the court because [of] how clean they are and their offensive and defensive intensity, but they’re also gonna challenge you in recruiting to try and up the ante to make each and every one of our teams better. I think it’s a win-win for all of us.” 

Long-time coach of the DePaul Blue Demons, Doug Bruno, kept his response concise when asked about the impact UConn’s addition would have on the conference, using the experience he gained having coached DePaul since the Huskies’ first stint in the Big East. 

“I really believe UConn is the best program in the history of all college basketball,” Bruno said. “This is the absolute best program and it’s absolutely going to lift us.” 

“I really believe uconn is the best program in the history of all college basketball. This is the absolute best program and it’s absolutely going to lift us.”

One sentiment shared by every coach present at the media day was that the Big East deserves more publicity as a top conference in the nation. Providence head coach Jim Crowley believes UConn is just what the Big East needs to get them there. 

“I think the great thing they bring is the rise in our national profile,” Crowley said. “This league has incredible players and incredible coaches and still flies under the radar on the national level with the media, attention, rankings and whatever else it may be. UConn brings instant notoriety with that and will expose our league to a lot more eyes.” 

Xavier head coach Melanie Moore says the addition of UConn can do even more. 

“We were a strong conference without them. We were top six in the rankings across the country,” Moore said. “Now you add UConn, and why can’t we be the best conference in the nation?” 

With media day behind us, we are one step closer to the start of competition. The Huskies are set to kick off their season on Nov. 28 with the Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase hosted at Mohegan Sun starting Nov. 28, before the Big East starts conference-play on Dec. 4. There are still plenty of unknowns about the team’s schedule otherwise, but no matter who or when the Huskies play, this season will be one for the history books for both UConn and the Big East. 

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