PORTLAND, Oregon — In just the third week of the women’s college basketball season, six of the top 10 preseason teams have already lost. In fact, the Tennessee Lady Vols have had four losses. In the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend tournaments, more upsets wouldn’t be surprising.
That’s the way things should be, says coach Geno Auriemma, the No. 3 UConn Huskies who will play the Duke Blue Devils in the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament Friday at 6 p.m. ET.
“You will see this happening more and more,” said Orima. Hell, that’s what everyone says, right? It happens all the time in men’s basketball.
“What we don’t need is when that happens, let’s go, ‘Uh, this team is no good. How could they lose to this team? Well, damn it, you can’t have it both ways. Either the favorites win all the time and there’s no par, or everyone else wins and you go, ‘Let’s celebrate those guys who win and don’t get upset about the guys who lost.’ This is what we all strive for.”
The Texas Longhorns, Tennessee, and Louisville Cardinals were ranked 3, 5, and 7 in the preseason women’s poll. They now have nine losses combined, five of which were unclassified at the time. Texas and Tennessee both fell from the Charlie Cream flag in brackets this week, though they are expected to make their way again.
There is plenty of time for all three teams to pick up steam due to the quality of the schedules they play. Losses, however, caused quite a stir at the start of the season. The 3-0 Huskies, No. 6 in the preseason poll, had wins against the Texas Wolfpack at NC State, who were in the preseason top 10.
Also in the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament are the No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes, who lost at then-unranked Kansas State last week. They meet the Oregon State Beavers at 8:30 p.m. ET on Friday on ESPNU.
In the Phil Knight Invitational, which starts here Thursday, the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels meet the No. 18 Oregon Ducks (5 p.m. ET) and the No. 5 Iowa Hurricanes take on Michigan State (7:30 p.m.), with both games on ESPNU. All four of these teams are undefeated.
“I don’t know if there were many great teams that were there before, but there are definitely more good teams that are able to beat other good teams,” said Orima. “And they come from places you wouldn’t have expected in years past.”
The extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the 2020-21 season, immediate transfer eligibility and continued transfer gate activity has affected women’s basketball, Auriemma said, as they had the men’s game.
“I think there’s a bunch of things,” he said. “The training has improved a lot and the players are more confident. There is no concession or anything [thinking] “We never beat them.” Creighton proved that last year [making the NCAA Elite Eight as a No. 10 seed.] Did not matter. You just have to be good, man.”
Auriemma also provided an update Wednesday on longtime UConn assistant head coach Chris Dailey, who collapsed before the Huskies game in Hartford, Connecticut on Sunday. Dailey was taken to hospital but was released that afternoon.
“I think she’s on a plane tomorrow to come out here,” said Orima. “I just stayed there to make sure they checked everything. They said, ‘You’re OK, clean bill of health.'” “
We kept in touch the whole time. [her texting] With everyone in the crew and certainly the players. She wasn’t here physically, but she was here.”
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