New Season, Same Expectations —UConn Women’s Basketball Preview
The Connecticut women’s basketball team has been one of, if not the most dominant program in all of sports. They have won 11 national championships and hold the the two longest win streaks in college basketball history, 90 games and 111 games. For 34 seasons, head coach Geno Auriemma and associate head coach Chris Dailey (CD) have been the constant ingredients for the Huskies’ success. Each season they have had the challenge of their top players graduating and starting their professional careers in the WNBA and overseas. They have built the culture of “we don’t rebuild, we reload,” and this season will be no different.
Last season, the Huskies graduated three players, all of whom were selected in the first round of the 2018 WNBA Draft.
Graduated Players from the 2017–2018 Season
- Gabby Williams: WNBA First Round Draft Pick: 4th Overall — Chicago Sky
- Azura Stevens: WNBA First Round Draft Pick: 6th Overall — Dallas Wings
- Kia Nurse: WNBA First Round Draft Pick: 10th Overall — New York Liberty
Below shows the points per game and minutes per game from their senior seasons that UConn will be looking to replace this year.
2018–2019 Season Outlook
As most fans know, the past two seasons have ended in heartbreak for UConn. This season will be all about the number 12 for the Huskies. They will be seeking their 12th straight Final Four and 12th national championship, which I believe they will have a great shot at winning this season with the team they have returning.
The Huskies return nine players and welcome the number one and five prospects respectively in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for the 2018 class, Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa.
Freshmen: Christyn Williams, Olivia Nelson-Ododa
It will be interesting to see the player rotations UConn will use in the first game of the season and how they will evolve over the season. Typically, freshmen have not been an integral piece of UConn’s success, but for this team to make a championship run, the Huskies will need to have consistent minutes from both freshmen, Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa.
Projected Starting Five and Player Predictions:
Crystal Dangerfield — G
- I anticipate Dangerfield will have her best season as a Husky this season. She was recently named to the 20-player watch list for the 2019 Nancy Lieberman Award (the nation’s top point guard). Expect to see many more plays like the one below, now having two seasons under her belt commanding the UConn offense.
- She is one of the fastest guards in the country, and look for her also to be a pest on defense this season locking up the opposing teams’ best players.
- Her 3-point percentage increased from 31.7% to 44.9% last season. I think Dangerfield will increase that again this season and earn a First-Team All-AAC honor and a Second-Team All-American honor.
Christyn Williams — G
- It is very rare to see a freshman in the starting lineup for the Huskies, but Geno has said she does not have the mindset of a freshman with her confident and aggressive mentality. Let’s not forget what she said in June: “We’re going to get that championship. People are going to feel UConn. We’re going to win a national championship.”
- Diana Taurasi on Christyn Williams: “I think she’s a bold and confident young lady. But why not? That’s the reason you go to UConn — to win championships. Whether she says it or not, that’s the expectation.”
- I think she will win AAC Freshman of the Year and I anticipate that she will play starter minutes all season.
Megan Walker — G/F
- After being in “Geno’s Doghouse” most of her freshman season, Walker has come to Storrs this season with a different mindset. Coach Auriemma stated at AAC Media Day that Megan Walker has come in looking like a new player.
- Over the summer, Walker put in a lot of work and below is a video of her working out with teammate Napheesa Collier.
- I anticipate Walker making a big jump from her freshman year struggles. She will earn a a Second-Team All-AAC honor this season and average 13.5 points per game for the Huskies.
Katie Lou Samuelson — G/F
- Samuelson is coming off of successful ankle surgery on April 12, 2018. She named to the 20-player watch list for the 2019 Ann Meyers Drysdale Award (the nation’s top shooting guard).
- As I’ve previously written, this team will go as far as Katie Lou Samuelson takes them. Samuelson will be the focal point of this year’s UConn team with most of the offense going through her hands. I believe Samuelson will lead the Huskies again in scoring, averaging over 20 points per game. She will also earn her third All-American First-Team honor and be the 2019 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
Napheesa Collier — F
- Collier was recently named to the 20 player watch list for the 2019 Katrina McClain Award (the nation’s top power forward).
- She has changed her shot this offseason and expect her to be as efficient as she was back in her sophomore season when she lead the country in true shooting percentage (72.2%) and effective field goal percentage (70.2%). I anticipate Collier will average over 18.5 points per game and lead the Huskies in rebounding.
2018–2019 Season Prediction:
The 2018–2019 UConn team will learn a lot about itself playing at Notre Dame, Baylor and Louisville this season. UConn fans like myself have only seen 3 losses since the start of the 2013–2014 season, two of them being buzzer beaters in overtime. The dynamic duo of Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier have never lost a regular season game or conference game in their career (110–0).
With the demanding away game schedule, I do not anticipate this UConn team going undefeated this year in the regular season, and that is okay! In 5 of the 11 championships the Huskies have won, there were losses in the regular season. The games the Huskies must win and go undefeated in to secure their 12th championship start in mid-March and end on April 7, 2019 in Tampa Bay.
I anticipate the Huskies will go undefeated in the American Athletic Conference again this season and win their fifth consecutive conference championship. Samuelson and Collier will want nothing more than to end their highly decorated careers at UConn with a national championship. With consistent play from the underclassmen and some luck along the way, the Huskies will make it to their 12th consecutive Final Four. This season will not end like the previous two and the Huskies will bring their 12th national championship back to Storrs, Connecticut.