Stratton’s Take: How do you deal with the UConn women’s basketball team in March? 

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The sky’s still blue. It’s still cold in January. Grayson Allen is still trying to end other player’s careers through hard fouls. Those things have all stayed the same. One thing that hasn’t? UConn’s women’s basketball team standing as a top five team in January. For the past 14 seasons, UConn has been in the top five at this point in the AP Poll rankings. That is, until this year, where they sit at No. 10, following an ugly loss at unranked Oregon. 

However, the program is far from falling apart. The bigger issue is not a lack of talent or even poor coaching. It’s the fact that UConn is currently missing so many good players. Currently on their roster, the Huskies have three ESPN HoopGurlz No. 1 players. Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd have been out since early December and Christyn Williams has been out for the Huskies’ past few games.  

It’s impressive enough to have this type of talent on a roster, let alone to have enough good players to be missing so many top tier ones. The benefit? All three players are slated to return at some point this season as of right now. So, the question is: if you’re the tournament committee in March or an AP voter, how do you rate or place the Huskies? 

At full-strength, UConn is clearly a top five team. With Bueckers, Williams, Nelson-Ododa and now a surging Ducharme, their roster rivals that of any other in the country. There is a good chance that they’ll have a team that fits the image of a one seed, but a resume resembling more of a four, five or even six seed.  

They had a full-strength loss to South Carolina in the Bahamas by 16, in a contest that was closer than the score indicated. They’ve also lost to NET No. 4 Louisville by five, No. 11 Oregon by 13, and No. 24 Georgia Tech by 13. Their best win is over NET No. 22 Notre Dame by 19, to go along with victories over No. 25 Arkansas by 15, No. 32 Creighton by eight, and No. 41 UCLA by 10.  

According to their schedule alone, nothing about this team really indicates that they are better than the close to 20 spot in the country. They haven’t beaten a team better than No. 22 and haven’t lost to a team worse than No. 26. Assuming that they’re roughly the 24th best team in the country purely based on what they’ve shown so far, that would make them a six seed. Despite this, ESPN Bracketologist Charlie Creme has the Huskies as a four seed in the Bridgeport region with NC State as the one. The reason? It’s because the lower of a seed that the committee makes the Huskies, the more unfair it becomes to other teams. For other teams in the NCAA tournament though, the worst possible seed that UConn could be is a four.  

Picture this scenario: UConn skates past the Big East shorthanded, as they have done in recent weeks and slowly add their missing pieces to their lineup. In their only remaining non-conference game, they lose to No. 4 Tennessee, keeping their status the same as a four seed in the eyes of the committee. In the first round, they beat a 13 seed easily. Next up is a five seed similar to the caliber of Notre Dame, who they beat by 19 earlier this year. They win that one.  

Now, in the Sweet 16, UConn has been placed in Bridgeport, just an hour and a half away from Storrs. NC State, who has worked hard all season to achieve their status as a one seed, will now have to play what essentially is an away game against a full-strength Husky team that will be out for blood. How is this fair to NC State or whatever other poor one seed that UConn draws?  

There is no correct place to put UConn. How do you explain to a one seed that they have to play the Huskies in Bridgeport in the Sweet 16? That’s why I propose making the Huskies either a three or a six seed. This way, at least no deserving one seed will have to play the Huskies in the 16. Plus, if they’re a six seed, then they likely won’t get the benefit of being in Bridgeport. Conversely though, if they’re a three seed, then they’re not screwing a deserving three seed in the Round of 32 who would otherwise have been able to make it to the second weekend. 

There are pros and cons to all sides of the argument, but this is something that the committee will have their hands full with, since the UConn team that will be playing in March will certainly not be the team that we have seen for the vast majority of this campaign. 

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