UConn women likely to be No. 2 seed in NCAA tourney

STORRS – When UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma was asked after the Huskies’ dominant Big East Tournament performance how he felt the NCAA Tournament selection committee might seed his team when the bracket is revealed tonight, he said he has long given up trying to figure out what drives the seeding process.

UConn (29-5) finished conference tournament week ranked No. 7 in the AP national poll, which would dictate the Huskies will be a No. 2 seed. However, some of the other ranking metrics indicate UConn is stronger than the national polls would indicate.

The Huskies are ranked No. 2 (behind only undefeated South Carolina) in the NCAA’s NET ratings, which the NCAA explains as an algorithm metric that takes into account “game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, and the quality of wins and losses.”

“I have no idea what the NET actually is, so I don’t know how you determine if we are the No. 2 NET ranking or what that means,” Auriemma admitted. “You could tell me according to the NET these are the top 10 teams in the country and this is how they are going to be slotted in the NCAA Tournament, and I would go, ‘Fine.’

“Me, I kind of look at my team and look at some other teams. I can tell who is really good, who is not so good, who is really hard to play against, who is maybe not so hard to play against. We will see what the committee does.”

UConn is also ranked No. 2 behind South Carolina in RPI and strength of schedule. All those metrics would indicate the Huskies should be strongly considered for their 23rd No. 1 seed when the NCAA reveals the NCAA Tournament bracket tonight at 8 on ESPN.

Auriemma said he knows a lot of coaches study such things year-round and use metrics to schedule games to impress the selection committee.

“They are very good at scheduling just the right teams so they get their ranking really high, and then they get their butts beat in the NCAA Tournament because they are not that good,” Auriemma said. “I don’t know anything about that stuff.”

Auriemma said he uses the eye test to put together a schedule that will challenge his team and force the Huskies to get better if they want to succeed in the postseason.

The Huskies will be playing in their 34th consecutive NCAA Tournament this year. Only Tennessee (41) and Stanford (35) will have played in more in a row when they receive at-large bids today.

No one in the history of the women’s game has more NCAA Tournament wins than the Huskies (130-22). Tennessee (128-32) is the only other program with at least 100.

The Huskies make the most of their opportunities with consistently impressive historical results. They have advanced to the Final Four a record 22 times, including the last 14 in a row.

Tennessee is second in overall appearances at 21 with Notre Dame third at nine. In terms of consecutive Final Four trips, no one has come close to UConn’s 14 in a row as LSU, Notre Dame and Stanford have the second most at five apiece.

Auriemma said that if the Huskies play as well as they did during the Big East Tournament, they can beat anyone in the country. That could mean a 15th consecutive Final Fours or even a 12th national championship.

“Until somebody beats South Carolina, they’re still undefeated and they’re still the favorite, as they should be,” Auriemma said. “In terms of everyone else, it’s really hard this year to pinpoint given some of the (conference) tournament outcomes. Everybody’s had their turn. Everybody’s looked the part, and everybody has looked the other way, which is a great sign for the NCAA Tournament.”

National championship contenders and potential No. 1 seeds Indiana, Stanford, Utah, Maryland and LSU all lost in their conference tournaments. That’s put Big Ten champ Iowa and ACC champ Virginia Tech in strong contention for top seeds.

UConn’s three February losses to South Carolina, Marquette and St. John’s may have relegated the Huskies to a No. 2 seed, but the Huskies’ impressive Big East Tournament performance has Auriemma feeling confident regardless of where the committee seeds them.

He sees plenty of reasons the Huskies can make a deep NCAA run.

“The way we played defense, the energy level and the way we were locked in and how hard we competed and how well the ball moved,” Auriemma said. “The ball hasn’t moved like that since January. What is it going to take in the NCAA Tournament? You’ve got to play defense, you’ve got to rebound and you’ve got to get great shots. We pretty much did a lot of that, and we did it really, really well.

“Every team has issues going into the tournament. Ours are kind of minor compared to what they could be.”

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