women’s basketball Huskies don’t care where they play

March 16, 2019

UNCASVILLE — When the 64-team bracket for the NCAA Tournament is unveiled Monday, the UConn women may find themselves in a familiar position — seeded atop the Albany (N.Y.) Regional.

It’s where the Huskies landed the last time they rolled through both the regular season and American Athletic Conference Tournament.

“If we’re not, who cares?” guard Crystal Dangerfield said. “We’re going to have to play basketball either way, whether in Albany or wherever else those three places are. We’re going to go play basketball. It’s March Madness. That’s all that matters.”

The Huskies have been a No. 1 seed 12 straight seasons. Should that streak continue, they’ll likely have the built-in advantage of chasing the Final Four from the comforts of their own home — or reasonably close to it.

“People think we get breaks. We earn our breaks,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Monday following a 66-45 win over UCF in the AAC final. “We win every (darn) game and then we go where we’re supposed to go. That’s what the rule says.”

While the odds are against the Huskies getting the top overall seed — that’ll likely go to No. 1 Baylor, which handed Auriemma & Co. one of their two losses — chances are they land in Albany over the other regional sites of Chicago, Greensboro (N.C.) or Portland (Ore.).

“The No. 1 seed in the country goes someplace close — someplace close in Albany or Bridgeport,” Auriemma continued. “When it was Trenton, we went to Trenton. When it was Dayton, we went to Dayton. How far east you gotta go?

“I don’t care if they put it in the freaking Middle East, we’ll go there.”

The Huskies rolled to the Final Four last year as the No. 1 seed out of Albany, a roughly 140-mile drive from Storrs. The two years before that, they did so out of nearby Bridgeport.

Truth be told, though, the Huskies don’t care where the NCAA selection committee places them this time around.

“I don’t think any of us are paying attention to that,” guard Katie Lou Samuelson said. “I think people are going to do what they want to do, judge us the way they want to judge us. That’s not anything we can control.”

The Huskies, who are currently ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll, will tip off the first round either March 22 or 23 on campus. The ultimate goal, of course, remains a 12th consecutive Final Four and a 12th national championship.

Notre Dame and Mississippi State — the last two teams to eliminate the Huskies on buzzer-beaters in the Final Four — are both strong contenders to land No. 1 seeds after winning their respective conference tournaments.

The Huskies maintained their dominance in the AAC (120-0 all-time) by beating East Carolina, South Florida and UCF on consecutive days. And they did so without Samuelson, who has missed the last four games with a back injury.

“We had a lot of people step up this weekend,” Dangerfield said. “We’re going to need that even when she comes back. It’s just going to make our team that much stronger when she comes in. People can’t revert back to what they were doing when she was in before. They have to keep that going.”

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour