Virtual Brackets....love them, hate them. It's that simple. In wake of what we've seen lately, it's a popularity contest. ESPN's greatest college basketball player ?? No, it's not Micheal Jordan, if Kareem or Breanna Stewart was atop the list ? Then I'd say it has legitimacy. Which brings me to a creation of Hall of Fame Head Coach Geno Auriemma of the UConn Huskies.
A few weeks ago he asked members of the media to come up with his top 32 players of all time. And up popped a bracket for the public to play with on social media. I think some forget how good the players of the 1990's were. But to each their own. So here I go with my reasoning for my choices based on their UConn Careers.....Ready ??
1- Breanna Stewart v 8 Carla Berube: Easy choice with the winningest player in UConn History and 4x Final Four MOP. But Carla was a vital contributor to a National Championship team in 1995 and a Final Four team in 1996. Had they made a third straight in 1997 ?? Maybe Berube is higher up the list...
4- Gabby Williams v 5 Shea Ralph: As 4v5 matchups go, everyone on this list is brutal to pick. Shea battled injuries and still was a part of 2 Final Four Teams. 1,678pts, Final Four MOP in 2000, Consensus All American that same season and tough as nails...Williams a two time All American, 4 Final Fours, National Defensive POY and the most athletic player in UConn WBB history. 1,582pts, 5th in steals and 8 in rebounds....by a slight edge, Gabby.. And this isn't even the toughest 4-5
3-Svetlana Abrosimova v 6 Kia Nurse: Nurse had a long run in the Twitter vote, but not on this bracket. Nurse had a stellar career with 1,674 points and among the Top 10 in threes made and three pt % along with one of the best defenders in the program's history. Svetlana scored 1,865pt and would have had 2,000 of not for a season ending foot injury her senior year, along with Top 10's in three point %, FT's made and steals...Svet was UConn's first unanimous Three Time All American, three time all conference and the Regional MOP in 2000. Kia Nurse was All Conference once 2018...If you do your homework, Nurse never made an All Tournament Team in Conference or NCAA Tournament play. And at UConn, that says a lot...Svet all the way..
2-Jennifer Rizzotti v 7-Tiffany Hayes: The heart and soul of the 1995 Championship Team is the choice here over Tiffany. Yes Hayes was a great compliment to The Montgomery, Charles, Moore, Greene Teams of 2009 & 10 and four Final Fours. But when your a Two Time All American and the 1996 National Player of the year, the New Fairfield Native takes the cake...
Semi's: Stewey v Gabby...Stewey and I'm going with Svet over Jen...And I love Jen, but Svet was smooth...The best international player UConn has ever had...But 4 Natty's and 4x Final Four MOP (plus 3x All American) trumps Svets Accolades....Stewey to the Final Four
1-Tina Charles v 8 Kelly Faris: I had Kelly on my list of 32. She's one of a handful of players that scored 1,000pts, had 500 rebounds and 500 assists...And they don't win the 2013 Championship without her. But when Tina Charles owned both the scoring and rebound records at UConn with Two National Titles, Tina is the choice to advance
4-Nykeshia Sales v 5 Kaleena Mosqueda: To me, this is the best matchup of the bracket. Both scored the same amount of points 2,178 (yes Sales blew out her achilles late Senior Year) Sales the schools' steals leader while "Kay" was the NCAA Three Point record holder when she graduated. Mosqueda Lewis was a very underrated rebounder and was an integral part of three national championship teams. Sales played in two Final Fours and help the Huskies win a Title in 1995. Both two time All Americans..Who wins ? Kay..On the Regional All Tourney Team all four years played and was the MOP in 2014. But damn it's close. And Sales grew up in Bloomfield, my home town...
3-Naphessa Collier v 6- Stefanie Dolson: Wow...tough call. Stef was by far the best passer out of the post UConn ever had. And it's not close. Just shy of 1,800pts, 1,101 boards...and left with a pair of Natty's. And she has three more blocks that Phee. Collier scored 2,400pts, hauled in 1,200 rebounds and yes, had three less blocks then Stef. Collier won a title in 2016 as a freshman and along with Katie Lou Samuelson, led UConn to three additional Final Fours...It's sooo close as Dolson is underseeded. But Phee by "that much." (Love ya Stef :) )
2-Rebecca Lobo v 7 Barbara Turner: Carl Adamec of the JI said it best, when a Hall of Famer is a Two seed, something is wrong...But the one's WILL be..lol Anyhow, Turner played big roles in helping Diana Taurasi win titles in 2003 and 04. And quite frankly, if not for leg cramps v Duke in 2006, she would have gotten the Huskies to Boston that year. BUT Lobo was the key player in the 1995 Championship run...National Player of the Year....And could have been Governor had she run.Rebecca moves on..
Semi's: Charles nipps Mosqueda Lewis is a closer choice than you think...And Lobo gets a slight nod over Collier. If Phee had won a title in her Junior or Seniors Years, she would move on. Just for the record, Lobo and Collier were two tim All Americans...- Who advances in the 31 v 50 matchup ?? Wow....Tough Choice...I'm going with Lobo, why ? She set the standard...
1-Diana Taurasi v 8 Jamelle Elliott: Well, Dee played with the best team in program history and took two teams that you'd never think could win to Natty's in 2003 & 04. Clutch performer, made big shots...and was unstoppable in the 2003 run. One of the best three point shooters at UConn and until Moriah Jefferson broke it in 2016, was the programs' assist leader. Geno will tell you she's the best player in program history. JJ was the glue, along with Jen Rizzotti to the 95 Title and 96 Final Four. 1,000pts, 1,000+ rebounds...solid performer and deserving of a top 32 showing...Dee the pick
4-Moriah Jefferson v 5 Asjha Jones: Jefferson was as tough as Jones....seriously !! Mo was a hell of a defender, a two time All American and yes, four time champ...(yes, she should have been the Final Four MOP in 2015) - Jones was a tenacious rebounder and played a huge role in the Huskies 2000 and 2002 Championships. Mo is the school's all time assist leader. Yep, the Texan gets it..
3-Kara Wolters v 6 Morgan Tuck: Again a tough decision, especially as both have done games with me !! lol Kara was the 1997 National Player of the Year and Tuck was an All American in 2016. Wolters third in blocks and top 10 in scoring average, field goals made and FG %...Tuck was just an all round solid player who did everything well. Other than Maya Moore, Morgan likely as consistent a four year player as UConn ever had. But Kara's transformation to where she was when she arrived in Storrs to where she was when she left is unprecedented. The Big Girl get the nod...
2-Swin Cash v 7 Kalana Greene: Hmmm personally KG started the "lucky socks" and maybe the coolest kid I've ever met...Swin Cash however gets the best of KG in this poll by Cash's All American Status and Final Four MOP in 2002. Greene helped turn the tide in the 2010 Championship Game and was the MOP in the 2010 Big East Tournament. And it's likely KG will hold a record that will never, ever fall....Games played with 157. Both two time Natty's but Cash gets the Nod
Semi's: The top two assist leaders of all time and frankly both were clutch in different ways. Yes Dee hit bigger shots, but Moriah had the knack of hitting buzzer beaters to end quarters...Yes, I know quarters are different than end of games...And Yes, Dee gets the call Kara v Swin....Hmmmm tough choice. I'm taking Swin...She played in three Final Fours, Kara played in two...But when the Soph gets the ball to slam the door in the 2002 Title Game, Dee wins the bracket anyway
1-Maya Moore v 8 Tamika Williams: Maya Moore is the most relentless player in the History of UConn WBB. Endless motor that made up for her weaknesses...All Time Scoring Leader, Second in rebounding..made over 300 3's and Top 10's in assists, steals, blocks and is #1 in scoring average. Williams is the schools all time Field Goal percentage leader, only made 70% of her shots, was a solid rebounder and defender. But when you're the only four time First Team All American, well you know...
4-Renee Montgomery v 5 Kerry Bascom: Again, brutal choice to make. Bascom was UConn's first All American, scored 2,178pts, led UConn to it's first Final Four...Montgomery got to two and was the nation's top point guard in 2009 as the QB to a team that went 39-0. And she was 10pts shy of joining Club 2k...And Kerry is still in the top 10 in scoring at UConn. BUT, Renee is the choice because she was a tenacious defender.
3-Katie Lou Samuelson v 6 Bria Hartley: Bria Hartley, like Stefanie Dolson were thrown to the wolves to help Maya Moore in her senior year to try and win a title...But she did get a pair in 2013 and 14. Like Montgomery, just shy of 2,000pts and sixth on the all time assist list and in the top 10 of three's made. Lou, along with Collier the top scoring duo for one class in school history, played a role in the 16 Title run as a freshman until she broke a bone in her foot in the Semi's. And they likely don't get to Tampa unless she scores 27 in the Elite 8 last season. Lou number two all time in three's made...and #4 in FT %...LOUUUUUUUU
2- Sue Bird v 7 Ann Strother: The one player I would have left off the list was Strother and replaced her with Laura Lishness. Lishness is a 1000-500-500 gal...Strother was fearless in helping the Huskies win the 2003 national championship. But had she made even one three in the regional final in her senior year, maybe the Huskies were playing in Boston instead on Duke. Bird was the National Player of the Year in 2002 while leading the Huskies thru the Regionals (MOP) and their second National Championship. Oh yeah, she hit one of the biggest shots in UConn lore as well. Bird is my pick :)
Semi's: Maya v Renee. Maya has the numbers, Renee has some of the intangibles...they played well together. Maya of course...And it's Sue over Katie Lou even though Lou had better numbers. But remember, Bird played roughly three years as UConn due to an ACL tear. And Bird won a pair of Natty's - The Final ?? Two relentless individuals who hate to lose. Both won a pair of titles....Maya, barely
So one half of the Bracket is the 4x National Champ v the Hall of Famer...The Other is Dee & Maya...From a player standpoint, this is your UConn Wbb Mount Rushmore...Stewey beats Rebecca and Dee edges Maya. However I take Dee, and not Stewey as your winner. Yes Stewey has four titles to Dee's three. BUT the Huskies of 2003 & 04 had so many question marks around Taurasi when they won those Titles. During Breanna Stewart's time, other than 2013, UConn was the best team with the best players. It just wasn't Stewey right ?? Taurasi's 2003 NCAA Tournament is one for the ages and the reason the first #3 is the Top Dog in this bracket...
Argue if you'd like...It's great we have a team with this much success to argue about...Stay Safe People :)