Stratton’s Stand: Could 2023 see another Dual Championship? 

The UConn Huskies Women’s Basketball team take on the NC State Wolfpack at the XL Center in Hartford, CT, on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. The Huskies won 91-69 with sophomore Azzi Fudd scoring 32 points for the team, a career-high for the 5’11” guard. Photo by Erin Knapp/Daily Campus.

Over the past 25 years, there’s no school that has seen more basketball success than UConn. In that span, the women’s team has won 10 championships and the men four. Only adding to the impressive nature of this feat, the men’s and women’s teams have won the title in the same year, not once, but twice in 2004 and 2014. This is known as a Dual Championship, a term created by the school since they were the first to do it. Now, with both teams ranked in the AP top 10 together for the first time since late 2013 — the year they last pulled it off — it’s time to seriously consider another Dual Championship as a possibility. Let’s assess its likelihood.  

Winning a championship is hard enough on its own. There are maybe 25 programs with the firepower to take home the hardware during any given year. In a sudden-death tournament, one bad game, a few lucky rolls or anything else can be enough to make a great team lose. Now you add doing it twice in the same year, that’s much harder.  

Starting with the AP No. 3 women’s team, their odds of winning the title were a lot higher back during their 2000-2004 and 2013-2016 eras of dominance. They just had the best players and were head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. Now, thanks to a much deeper recruiting pool as a result of the growth of the game, there are just more teams with potential to knock them off.  

Although they still have mostly top 10 recruits up and down their lineup, it’s naturally harder to win consistently. And it’s showing. Although they’ve made 14 straight Final Fours, they haven’t won the title since 2016. This isn’t anything to be ashamed of, it can just be chalked up to other teams getting stronger.  

This year feels different though. It’s not December yet and they already have three wins over top 10 competition, none of which at full strength. Either Caroline Ducharme was out or not herself and now Dorka Juhasz is injured. Even though they don’t have Paige Bueckers, their best talent since Breanna Stewart, this is their best team in years.  

It all starts with Azzi Fudd, the sophomore guard who’s averaging over 25 points and two steals. She’s been fantastic this year and it seems like there’s still room to grow. She hasn’t played a complete game this year, usually only producing big numbers in either the first or second half. After Fudd, the other consistent factor has been point guard Nika Muhl, who has been the best floor general the Huskies have had in over a decade. She’s averaging over 10 assists per game, finding her open teammates.  

Past these two, the other contributors step up on a daily basis. Aaliyah Edwards has been the most consistent of the bunch, averaging 16 points and 11 boards, but Lou Lopez-Senechal, Aubrey Griffin and Dorka Juhasz all have stepped up when needed to. The team doesn’t suffer when their bench players sub in, which is critical for a championship team.  

Their chances of beating any team not named South Carolina feel pretty strong, giving them a clear path to the Final Four or Championship. Their odds of beating the Gamecocks are comparatively low with the dominance of Aaliyah Boston, but it is possible if Fudd is able to put together a solid game while the others contribute too.  

The UConn Huskies Women’s Basketball team take on the NC State Wolfpack at the XL Center in Hartford, CT, on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. The Huskies won 91-69 with sophomore Azzi Fudd scoring 32 points for the team, a career-high for the 5’11” guard. Photo by Erin Knapp/Daily Campus.

Looking over at the AP No. 8 men, this team might be deeper than their 2014 championship squad. Yes, it’s early but the Huskies have legit scoring all the way down their rotation and they have everything you’d want in a championship team. Adama Sanogo is their player of the year candidate, scoring 18 points and grabbing seven boards per night. He also added a 3-pointer to his game this season, making him even more dangerous.  

I could write an entire article on all the team’s other weapons, but I’ll focus on the Huskies’ dual point guard look that’s the most dangerous in the country. At the one they have Tristen Newton, a fourth year transfer from East Carolina and junior Andre Jackson. Jackson plays a little carelessly, but the energy he brings is top tier. He gets the team going and is critical to bringing Dan Hurley’s style of intensity onto the court. On the other end of the spectrum is Newton, who calms the team down. On Sunday against Iowa State, he hit two big time threes to prevent runs. The push and pull of Newton and Jackson is the key to their success, keeping the tempo of the team as regulated as it’s been in years.  

This leadership, their top-to-bottom scoring and depth at every position makes them as good as any team in the country. Winning the men’s championship is tough, but this team can do it. KenPom currently has them ranked No. 6 and BPI has them No. 13, but with the No. 2 strength of record. BPI also gives them a 2.4% chance to win the NCAA title and over 50% to win the Big East. As difficult as winning the title is, the most important factor is having many guys who can step up on any given day, which this team has. Jordan Hawkins and Sanogo scored a combined six points against the Cyclones and they still won by 18.  

Although winning a Dual Championship is close to impossible with the parity in both men’s and women’s college basketball, there’s no school with a better chance to pull it off. It’s definitely more likely not to happen, but both teams are special in a way that we haven’t seen in years. It’s important to just take a step back and appreciate the greatness for what it’s worth as they vie for UConn’s 16th and 17th title. 

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