There are a few certainties this time of year. One is that the Huskies not only will qualify for the NCAA Tournament, they'll probably be a No. 1 seed. And their coach, Geno Auriemma, will likely have some thoughts about … well, everything.
On Monday, UConn got that No. 1 seed in the Kingston Region and they'll face Prairie View on Saturday. And, not surprisingly, Auriemma had some things to say, including this: “I think everyone this year is playing the tournament to see who Baylor will beat in Final Four.”
It sounds like typical Auriemma, downplaying his team's talents while talking up the opponents, but everybody understands what's going on: it's his no-so-subtle way of motivating his troops. Knowing that explains this: “With this team [UConn] there are no definites, no guarantees.”
While that might be hyperbole, at least in the first few rounds, UConn's lone senior and one of their best players, Tiffany Hayes, hasn't practiced since the end of the Big East Tournament because of a stress injury to her right ankle. The Hartford Courant's John Altavilla reports that Hayes is wearing a boot and that the team will hold her out of practice until Thursday at the earliest. As it stands, Hayes is listed as probable for Saturday's game, but to hear Auriemma, he's not concerned.
“In terms of Tiffany Hayes [stress injury] being ready to play Saturday and Monday," he said. "I don’t think that will not be an issue at all.”
And even if it was an issue, the Huskies could probably navigate their way past No. 16 Prairie View with Hayes recovering on the bench. But at some point in this tournament, her presence will be critical. Not only does she provide on-court leadership, but Hayes' ability to stretch defenses with here range helps open things up inside for Stefanie Dolson.
Presumably, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the Big East Freshman and Sixth-Man of the Year would replace Hayes in the lineup. For now, though, Auriemma sounds like Hayes will be ready. Luckily, the team will play in Bridgeport, which should give them a decided advantage, right?
“Does it help us [to be close to home for the sub-regional and regional final]? No, we got our butt beat by St. John’s at home," Auriemma said. "We didn’t need to travel any further than from our apartments to the gym.”