March 22, 2014
STORRS, Conn. - No. 1 UConn begins its pursuit of a ninth National Championship on Sunday when it hosts 16 seed Prairie View A&M at 8p.m. ET. The matchup will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN, with radio coverage provided by the UConn IMG Radio Network. UConn (34-0) captured the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship to earn the automatic bid after a 72-52 win over then-No. 3 Louisville in the Finals on March 10. Prairie View A&M (14-17) defeated Texas Southern by a score of 63-58 to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Tournament and automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Sunday evening marks the second time in the last three years UConn has welcomed Prairie View A&M to Connecticut in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. In 2012 the Huskies faced the Panthers at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. in an opening round matchup. UConn triumphed in an 83-47 win en route to the program's fifth consecutive Final Four appearance.
UConn in the NCAA Tournament
The Huskies are making their 26th consecutive NCAA Tournament and eighth-consecutive appearance as a No. 1 seed. UConn's NCAA Tournament appearances streak ranks third nationally behind Tennessee (33) and Stanford (27), though the Huskies enter NCAA competition with the longest overall active win streak of 40 games that began in last year's National Championship run.
Since the first UConn team qualified for the NCAA Tournament under Geno Auriemma in 1989, the program has posted an all-time record of 91-17 in the big dance. The 91 victories ranks second only behind Tennessee's 115 NCAA wins. Monday's selection show marked the 17th time Connecticut has been chosen as a No. 1 seed. When playing as the top seed, the Huskies are 73-9 all-time and captured National Titles in seven of those seasons.
Perhaps no program has been more dominant in NCAA Tournaments in the last 14 years than UConn. Since, the Huskies have gone 66-7, advanced to 11 Final Fours and captured seven National Championships.
The Huskies completed a sweep of the Associated Press Top-25 Poll, finishing right where they started at No. 1 in the final tally on March 17. The Huskies were the unanimous choice for top dog in every poll except for one week. The stretch marks the fifth time in program history Connecticut remained the No. 1 all season long. The other teams to accomplish the feat included the 1999-2000, 2001-02, 2008-09 and 2009-10 teams. All four squads saw their seasons culminate in National Championships.
Dominance in the polls reflects UConn's statistical dominance on the court this season. The squad boasts NCAA-bests in assists (21.6 per game), blocks (8.2 per game), field-goal percentage defense (30.4 average), points allowed (47.0 per game), and scoring margin (35.7 average). The Huskies also sport a team assist/turnover ratio of 1.82 and a field-goal percentage of 50.5, both of which rank second-best in the country.
Moriah on Fire
Sophomore point guard Moriah Jefferson (Glenn Heights, Texas) has been exceptional for the Huskies this season. One of five finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award and a First Team American All-Conference selection, Jefferson leads the conference in field goal percentage (57.7). She currently boasts a team-high 170 assists on the season, which ranks second-best among UConn sophomores behind Diana Taurasi's 208 from the 2001-02 season. Moreover, her stellar assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.9, which ranks 12th in Division I, is on pace to shatter numbers posted by some of UConn's most accomplished point guards in their respective sophomore seasons, including Diana Taurasi (2.51 in 2001-02), Sue Bird (2.00 in 1999-2000), and Renee Montgomery (1.72 in 2006-07).
No Sophomore Slump for Stewart
American Athletic Conference Player of the Year Breanna Stewart (Syracuse, N.Y.) has been exceptional on the court this season with remarkable consistency. The 6-4 forward leads the team with 19.7 points per game, 94 blocks and pulls down an average 8.1 rebounds per contest. Stewart has been named a finalist for the Naismith Trophy, awarded annually to the nation's top collegiate player, and was named the National Player of the Year by espnW.com. Stewart's numbers this season have been consistently impressive, as she has reached double-digits in 25 consecutive games dating back to Dec. 1 and posted 19 20-plus performances. On the season, Stewart has nine double-doubles and recorded three or more blocks in 17 contests.
Last season Stewart posted one of the best-ever performances by a freshman in the NCAA Tournament, finishing with 104 points in five games to earn Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four. She became just the fourth freshman to earn the honor.