UConn leaves Big East on top
by Mike Lopresti, USA TODAY Sports
NEW ORLEANS — Geno Auriemma’s first Final Four was 1991. Connecticut lost, and he still remembers the fearful question he asked himself that day, having watched his players act as if they felt they didn’t belong.
“I thought, ‘What if we never go back? There’s other teams that made the Final Four that never went back . . . What if that’s what Connecticut is?”’
Twenty-two extraordinary years and eight national championships later, the big stage newcomer has become a dynasty, and the fretting young coach a legend. Now the question is very different.
When will it ever end?
Connecticut, looking every inch the re-polished crown jewel of women’s basketball, cut down the nets Tuesday night. Again. The Huskies program lives on that ladder.
So then what was there left to do after Connecticut blew away Louisville 93-60?
Turn out the lights on the traditional Big East, the party’s over.
The final wrap came Tuesday night, not with Rick Pitino’s Louisville men – he sat in the third row behind the Cardinals’ bench, by the way — but an all-Big East women’s national championship game that turned into one team’s statement of its return to greatness.
How appropriate for the champions to be there at the end. They are probably the biggest victims of all in this breakup, and isn’t that awkward? The Connecticut women.
The Catholic 7 have their own new land. Notre Dame will do fine moving to the ACC. Syracuse and Pittsburgh will do fine. Louisville will do more than fine. Imagine Pitino’s lads in Cameron Indoor Stadium to meet Duke. It’ll take about 30 seconds for that to become a rivalry.
But rather odd, isn’t it? Nobody asked the Connecticut women to come along anywhere. Except, pretty soon, the White House. Again.
They are currently one of the most renowned programs in the nation, any game, any gender. Connecticut is to the women’s Final Four what turkey is to Thanksgiving tables. The Huskies were led in Tuesday’s rout by freshman Breanna Stewart’s 23 points and sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ 18. And they ain’t leaving early for the NBA.