UConn women using No. 2 NCAA seed as motivation

It's the first time the dynastic team hasn't been atop a regional since 2006.

UConn Women's Basketball
UConn's Napheesa Collier smiles at teammate Katie Lou Samuelson after the Huskies won their sixth (in six years of the conference) American Athletic tournament championship. –AP Photo

STORRS, Conn. — UConn comes into this year’s NCAA Tournament feeling a little disrespected and that could be bad news for the rest of the field.

The Huskies (31-2), who have been to 11 consecutive Final Fours, open play Friday evening in the Albany Region as a No. 2 seed against No. 15 seed Towson.

The Huskies expected to be the region’s top seed with a No. 2 ranking in the polls, four wins over top-25 teams and losses only to top-five opponents Baylor and Louisville on the road.

“Obviously we don’t agree with it, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” said UConn forward Napheesa Collier, who is averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. “I think it does put a little bit more of a fire under our butts just because, like I said we don’t agree with it, and we just want to prove to everyone that we should have been a one. We can be, and we’re going to come out swinging.”

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Coach Geno Auriemma notes that his teams have lost in the NCAA Tournament when they were a top seed and have won the national championship when they were not.

Being seeded second rather than first, means little more than having to pack both white and blue jerseys if they make it to Albany, where they could meet No. 1 seeded Louisville again.

“I mean, we’re not in one of those conferences that perennially wins women’s basketball national basketball championships, so we can’t be expected to lose two games and not be dropped,” joked Auriemma, who is hoping to guide the Huskies to a 12th national title. “I’m just happy they kept us at two instead of four.”

No one in that conference, the American Athletic, has been able to beat UConn in its six seasons of existence. Literally: The Huskies are 120-0 in conference, including six tournament titles, since the league splintered off the Big East in 2013.

Friday’s game will mark the return for UConn of All-American Katie Lou Samuelson, who sat out the Huskies regular-season finale and the entire AAC Tournament with a back injury.

Auriemma said the senior’s shooting form has returned, but she not back to full mobility.

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He said he never considered sitting Samuelson, who is averaging just under 19 points per game, in the first round.

“If I tell coach I’m good, then he’s going to trust me,” Samuelson said. “He’s going to believe me and he’s going to let me do what I need to do.”

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