UConn's Front-end Loaded SOS Dilemma

oldude

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I love the fact that season after season UConn plays one of the toughest OOC schedules in WBB. On the other hand, it concerns me that after the annual battle against SC in early February, UConn has few if any tough in-conference challenges for the 5 or so weeks leading up to the Big Dance. For several years, UConn’s Strength of Schedule (SOS) has been front-end loaded, while other top teams around the country play many of their most difficult games in-conference in February & March.

It wasn’t always this way. During the last year of its existence, 2012-13, the OBE was arguably the strongest WBB conference in the country. As usual, UConn scheduled a tough slate of OOC opponents including TX A&M, MD, Duke, Purdue, Stanford, OR, PSU and a battle in Waco, TX against #1 Baylor, which the Huskies lost. The battles didn’t end with the OOC schedule. In 2012-13, the OBE sent 8 teams to the Big Dance. Three OBE teams made the FF. Every night in the OBE was a battle. UConn lost three nail-biters to ND and faced tough competition throughout the league.

By the time the Big Dance rolled around UConn was battle tested and ready. The Huskies marched through their first 4 opponents to yet another matchup with ND. The 4th time was a charm as UConn won by 18. On the other side of the bracket the strength of the OBE was equally apparent when Louisville stunned #1 Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen, playing their way into the championship game against a UConn team they had lost to by 14 pts during the regular season. The second time around, UConn set championship game records beating Louisville by 33 pts while draining 13 x 3pt shots, the first of 4 straight championships for the Huskies.

It is impossible to know if UConn might have won any of their last 4 national semifinal games, and perhaps even another championship, if they had the benefit of playing in a stronger conference. The teams UConn lost to: MSSt, ND (twice) and AZ were all playing their best basketball of the season after emerging from three of the top conferences in the country.

I continue to hope that teams in the NBE will get much better, just as I had hoped the AAC would get better during UConn’s 7 years in the conference. During the frenzy of transfers that followed the end of this past season, both Seton Hall and St Johns added some very talented players to their roster. But in all honesty, I will be surprised if any team in the NBE gets within 10 pts of UConn this year.

There is no easy fix to UConn’s front-end loaded SOS dilemma. The recipe for UConn to win another championship will need to be:
  • Recruit great players
  • Challenge them continuously during practice and regular season games to the greatest extent possible
  • Rely on the experience of the best coaching staff in WBB to thoroughly prepare the team for all the game situations they will face during the Big Dance
  • Find a way to win the championship against 6 progressively tougher teams playing their best basketball at the end of the year
 
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I agree. It has made a big difference. They have been a different team the last 4 National Semis from who they were during the respective regular season and even to a certain extent from the Elite 8 or Sweet 16.

The chances of overall league improvement and specific team improvement are much greater in the NBE than they were in the AAC but it will be years before it resembles the OBE in women's play.

I am just hoping that the bitter taste of defeat last year, the great talent, the depth and the senior laden team this year will offset a very real deficiency in the league schedule.

If I were to try to explain the issue in simple terms I would just say that there were two factors. First, we didn't improve in the games at the end of the season and in the Big Dance like other teams did and secondly, we weren't physically ready or mentally prepared for a grueling semifinal game because we hadn't gone through that in a compressed time period during the regular season or in the post season league tourney.

Hey, I worry. There is so much talent this year though and and a strong senior leader in Evina with CW also and a strong leader in general with Paige that it may not matter. I think we all want this season to start in the worst way.
 

UConnCat

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1/17 Oregon
1/27 South Carolina
2/6 Tennessee

That's the best that can be done.

Wasn't a problem in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In 2017 and 2018 the team lost on buzzer-beaters.

If you're good enough it doesn't matter. Last year's team wasn't good enough.
 
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Yea when you look at the gamecocks schedule they basically play every final 4 contender: UConn most likely twice, Stanford, Maryland, NC St, Louisville, and then they get the luxury of possibly playing Tenn three times. I just think Sc is gonna be battle tested non stop and they get a huge advantage. Obviously Stanford and Maryland didn't want to play UConn maybe cause of relationship with Geno not as strong with Dawn and those other teams but Uconn definitely could have benefited free on those games
 

oldude

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A great example of a team that benefited from playing in a tough conference was AZ this past season. The Wildcats had a good young coach, one great player and an experienced, physical supporting cast. They lost 4 Pac-12 games during the regular season and a 5th time during the conference tournament.

Of course AZ made it all the way to the championship game, beating the Huskies along the way. In the championship game AZ came within a last second missed shot of winning the championship against a Stanford team that had beaten them convincingly twice in the regular season.
 

oldude

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1/17 Oregon
1/27 South Carolina
2/6 Tennessee

That's the best that can be done.

Wasn't a problem in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In 2017 and 2018 the team lost on buzzer-beaters.

If you're good enough it doesn't matter. Last year's team wasn't good enough.
I completely agree. In 2014-16 UConn had the best player in WBB on teams loaded with present & future AA’s. But in just a few years, the overall level of talent in WBB has grown significantly with the P-5 conferences dominating the talent pool.

The last time any team outside of a P-5 conference, OBE or UConn won a national championship in WBB was Leon Barmore’s Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters 33 years ago.

This year’s UConn team is one of the deepest, most talented I have ever seen. As always, the Huskies are coached by the best coaching staff in WBB. Hopefully, that will be enough to secure a 12th banner.
 
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Let's also remember that last year wasn't a normal year for anyone, so I'm not inclined to draw comparisons historically. We had the youngest team in a very long time, if not forever, the pandemic (which is still a factor, although less so in terms of schedule impact and protocols as I'm imagining most or all teams will be at least mostly vaccinated), and there were a few injuries. This really was that group's first Final Four. I think CW and Liv were the only ones with Final 4 experience, so I would fully expect this year to look very different in a positive way. :)
 

Bald Huskie

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I believe it would be impossible for anyone other than UConn to win the NC this year. Why? Christyn and Evina will not allow this team to lose its focus. This is why Christyn came here, this is what Evina came here, this is why they will not leave without a NC. They will not allow this team to lose. These two will be relentless this season, so look out for some very inspiring play for these two. Go Huskies.
 

Carnac

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I agree. It has made a big difference. They have been a different team the last 4 National Semis from who they were during the respective regular season and even to a certain extent from the Elite 8 or Sweet 16.

The chances of overall league improvement and specific team improvement are much greater in the NBE than they were in the AAC but it will be years before it resembles the OBE in women's play.

I am just hoping that the bitter taste of defeat last year, the great talent, the depth and the senior laden team this year will offset a very real deficiency in the league schedule.

If I were to try to explain the issue in simple terms I would just say that there were two factors. First, we didn't improve in the games at the end of the season and in the Big Dance like other teams did and secondly, we weren't physically ready or mentally prepared for a grueling semifinal game because we hadn't gone through that in a compressed time period during the regular season or in the post season league tourney.

Hey, I worry. There is so much talent this year though and and a strong senior leader in Evina with CW also and a strong leader in general with Paige that it may not matter. I think we all want this season to start in the worst way.
Excellent observations BBallF. There is no substitute for experience. All of the returning players now know what it takes to get to the championship game. They don't have to be told. Last year, they saw the elite teams and the level of effort it will take to "survive and advance". We have 3 senior leaders and a graduate transfer with 3 years of P5 playing experience.

If THIS team can't win it all, then I don't know which future team can. We have more than enough experience and as much or more talent than any other team. To borrow a question recently asked by Marisa Mosley (Wisconsin WBB head coach), "Why not us, why not now?" I'm asking..........If not now, when? :eek: As UConnCat said "last year's team wasn't good enough." We were hoping they were, but we knew in our hearts they weren't. When it's right, you know it. I think THIS team is right and can win it all. It feels right!!. ;)

TIP IN.................Stepping out on a shaky limb here, but I'm guessing the women's FINAL complete schedule for the year will be released THIS week. Let's see if I'm right. :)
 
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I do think it is a disadvantage to have the tough schedule front loaded, but even in the NBE it is necessary. Most high level teams use the pre-conference schedule as an extended training camp to get newer players acclimated etc. The Big East is better but still doesn't have serious competition for Uconn, at least yet. It is more like winning by 30 instead of 35 against American conference foes.

Our front loaded schedule also puts tremendous pressure on Geno and the players to be very productive in preseason and summer workouts. In addition Geno has less time to settle on normal lineups and rotations, he can't really afford to experiment too much early in blowouts, because he has games we could lose right at the start. Having said that, he is used to that situation and dealing with it, but the new players need to make their impression very early to get in the rotation.
 
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The frontloaded schedule strength could prove advantageous to UConn. A loss in the first 1/2 of the season does not affect ones seeding as much as a loss in the second half typically does.
 
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Thinking (hoping) that CW and ONO will be different players this year than they were in past years is very questionable. Whatever was missing in that loss to AZ, needs to be come out from others. They all need to make a complete Nika out of themselves. ….ATTITUDE. With this talented group, locker room motivation is as important on court preparation.
 
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To all of this, Geno would say: "We have to play whoever we get; no excuses."
The 2021 Model Husky is built to beat anyone by being better than anyone. If you believe, as I do, that the coaches will prepare the women for any eventuality, don't lose any sleep over the schedule.
 

UConnCat

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Here we go again.

When UConn first joined the AAC the mantra was: the team won't be prepared for the NCAA tournament playing in such an easy conference.

After UConn won four straight National Championships (3 while in the AAC) the mantra became: it's unfair that UConn has a chance to rest during it's conference season (even though the AAC travel was brutal and UConn played ranked non-conference teams in Jan and Feb).

Then, after UConn failed to win a championship since 2016 we were back to hearing that the conference schedule isn't tough enough to prepare for the rigors of the Final Four.

But wait, last season we began to hear from fans of other teams that UConn's conference schedule allows it to "rest and recover" before the tournament and that is so, so unfair.

Now we're back to the conference schedule isn't tough enough.

Like I always say, It's tough to keep up.
 
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The frontloaded schedule strength could prove advantageous to UConn. A loss in the first 1/2 of the season does not affect ones seeding as much as a loss in the second half typically does.
True but whatever hit UCONN takes from an early loss will be difficult to regain since they will receive zero credit for beating up the BE teams. Probably doesn’t matter too much anyway. They will be a number one seed one of the regions even with one or two losses.
 
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I believe it would be impossible for anyone other than UConn to win the NC this year. Why? Christyn and Evina will not allow this team to lose its focus. This is why Christyn came here, this is what Evina came here, this is why they will not leave without a NC. They will not allow this team to lose. These two will be relentless this season, so look out for some very inspiring play for these two. Go Huskies.
So why did they allow them to lose last season? Pretty sure the srs of South Carolina are feeling the same this season or Maryland's srs. At the end of the day it's who shows up and this yrs srs are feeling the most pressure of any Uconn sr class I can remember.
 

oldude

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The frontloaded schedule strength could prove advantageous to UConn. A loss in the first 1/2 of the season does not affect ones seeding as much as a loss in the second half typically does.
In addition, many of the ranked teams UConn faces early in the season are still figuring things out. UConn almost always comes out of the gate ready.

Wins over ranked teams count towards a team’s seeding in the Big Dance whenever those wins occur. So in both 2018 & 2019, UConn’s December wins over an ND team that wasn’t playing its best were important in UConn earning a #1 seed.
 

oldude

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Thinking (hoping) that CW and ONO will be different players this year than they were in past years is very questionable. Whatever was missing in that loss to AZ, needs to be come out from others. They all need to make a complete Nika out of themselves. ….ATTITUDE. With this talented group, locker room motivation is as important on court preparation.
I think we have to assess Christyn & Liv a little differently. During the second half of the season, once Geno tasked her with being the defensive stopper, Christyn played at an AA level. When she focused on defense, her offense was great, because she stopped worrying about it.

Liv is a different issue. Liv is a solid defender, rebounder and passer who can run the court and give you some points. She is not a “go to” scorer in the low blocks like Tuck or Pheesa. Frankly, low post scorers in WBB are going the way of the dinosaurs, just like in MBB.
 
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Here we go again.

When UConn first joined the AAC the mantra was: the team won't be prepared for the NCAA tournament playing in such an easy conference.

After UConn won four straight National Championships (3 while in the AAC) the mantra became: it's unfair that UConn has a chance to rest during it's conference season (even though the AAC travel was brutal and UConn played ranked non-conference teams in Jan and Feb).

Then, after UConn failed to win a championship since 2016 we were back to hearing that the conference schedule isn't tough enough to prepare for the rigors of the Final Four.

But wait, last season we began to hear from fans of other teams that UConn's conference schedule allows it to "rest and recover" before the tournament and that is so, so unfair.

Now we're back to the conference schedule isn't tough enough.

Like I always say, It's tough to keep up.
Nice points and I agree. However, you'll never get through to these people, they'll just continue to look for excuses for whatever happens.
 

oldude

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Nice points and I agree. However, you'll never get through to these people, they'll just continue to look for excuses for whatever happens.
I don’t know that anyone is looking for excuses. UConn has a unique challenge that other top WBB programs don’t have. UConn has to overcome that challenge as I outlined in my OP. With that said, I fully expect UConn to win a 12th banner this season.
 
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Battle-tested is a huge factor - both mentally & physically. Some on here refuse to admit it, saying things like "UConn wasnt good enough". I dont agree. Especially when the talent margin is slim among the top teams. When you get punched in the mouth, you have to respond. And, much of that confidence comes through prior game experiences, not X's/O's, practices, and game planning. Teams that go through these "tests" in Feb./Mar. are much better prepared for a Title run.
 

CocoHusky

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Battle-tested is a huge factor - both mentally & physically. Some on here refuse to admit it, saying things like "UConn wasnt good enough". I dont agree. Especially when the talent margin is slim among the top teams. When you get punched in the mouth, you have to respond. And, much of that confidence comes through prior game experiences, not X's/O's, practices, and game planning. Teams that go through these "tests" in Feb./Mar. are much better prepared for a Title run.
If battle tested were a defining factor then UCONN should have been more than sufficiently battle tested by the Iowa and Baylor games which were immediately prior to the Arizona game.
 

oldude

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IMO, AZ was the best defensive team UConn faced all season, ahead of both SC & Baylor. Despite a height disadvantage, AZ was also an excellent rebounding team. With that said, I think UConn had more talent that would have proved superior in a best of 3, 5 or 7 series. Unfortunately, in the Big Dance it's win or go home.
 

oldude

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Another comment on the OBE. UConn almost always beat Rutgers. But C. Viv's Scarlet Knight team was invaluable in helping the Huskies prepare for the the physical matchups to come, particularly when the games were played in that bandbox of a gym in Piscataway before a full house. The games were always physical and loaded with fouls both called and uncalled.

IMO the most physical team in the NBE is Marquette. Comparing Marquette to Rutgers is like the difference between getting hit with a snowball or a brick. A snowball stings. A brick can knock you out.
 
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