As expected, the UConn women had little trouble getting out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The No. 1 seed in the Kingston, Rhode Island Region took care of Prairie View, 83-47, and next up is Kansas State on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.
In Saturday's opening-round matchup, freshman Kaleena Mosdqueda-Lewis led all scorers with 21 points. Her standout performances have become common place this season; KML was named Big East Rookie of the Year as well as Big East Sixth Man of the Year. And now we can add another bullet point to her ever-growing list of accomplishments: she became just the third player in UConn history to score 500 points as a freshman. Svetlana Abrosimova, Maya Moore and now Mosqueda-Lewis.
“She is going to be amazing,” UConn center Stefanie Dolson told the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla. “She is already so much better now than she was in the midseason. In a couple of years, once the coaches continue to work on her skills, she’s going to be unstoppable. She can only go up from here.
“There many shots she takes that make me believe they aren’t going in. She has a great mindset for a freshman with so much pressure on her. She’s our leading scorer now and she handles things so well.”
But it gets better (of course it does): in addition to KML, Kiah Stokes and Brianna Banks, the three players who comprised UConn's freshman class (and one of the top classes in the country), the incoming group is somehow even more highly touted.
Breanna Stewart is the best high school player in the country, and she'll be joined in Storrs by Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson. Geno Auriemma, who isn't one to pass out compliments willy-nilly, was effusive in his praise of Stewart back in November.
"She has something a lot of kids don't have," he said at the time. "She has an incredible competitive spirit about her. She is one of the greatest competitors I have ever seen. "Maya Moore was a competitor. Diana Taurasi and Jen Rizzotti were competitors. Swin Cash was a competitor. We've had a ton of them here. This kid is in the mold of the best competitors we've ever had at UConn in how hard she plays, how great she wants to be, how much she wants to impact the game. And she's just a young kid who is learning. Based on her high school career, she's as good as any recruit we've ever had at UConn."
As we noted at the time: Wow.
Four months later and nothing's changed.
“It’s unfair to have her play against those high school kids,” he said via Altavilla. “There isn’t a college team in America she wouldn’t be starting for. “God bless her, I hope she keeps getting better. I don’t think there’s ever been anybody like that in high school, that I have seen. I mean, a 6-4 kid who can do all of that and make three-pointers and pass like she does?”
This comes on the heels of a 42-point, 23-rebound performance in the New York State High School semifinals.
To recap: the Huskies will add 6-4 Stewart, as well as Tuck (6-2) and Jefferson (5-7). And they'll join the 2011 recruiting class of KML, Banks and Stokes. Those six players, half of whom haven't play a minute of college basketball, would probably be one of the 10 best teams in the country next season.
For now, though, UConn has more immediate concerns: their eighth NCAA title and that quest continues Monday night with Kansas State.