For the last three seasons, UConn has run roughshod through their regular season schedule despite playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation. That is no different this season and the Huskies have arguably a more difficult slate this season with just three home games before the calendar flips to 2019.
Here’s how UConn’s opponents break down this season:
These are the teams that all have a real chance at beating the Huskies.
at Notre Dame (Dec. 2): The Fighting Irish knocked off UConn in the Final Four last season en route to their second national title. This season, Notre Dame returns nearly everybody from last year while also getting All-American Brianna Turner, senior guard Mychael Johnson and sophomore center Mikayla Vaughn back from torn ACLs. Add in the Irish’s size advantage and their home-court advantage in South Bend and we’re looking at the first game in five years the Huskies aren’t expected to win.
at Baylor (Jan. 3): The Bears haven’t been true national contenders since Brittney Griner graduated, but they’re always a difficult team to play. The two teams last met during the 2016-17 season with the Huskies earning a 72-61 win. If not for foul trouble on Baylor’s bigs and a raucous Gampel crowd, the game easily could’ve turned out differently.
The Bears will have the advantage in the post once again with 6-foot-7 All-American Kalani Brown and the 6-foot-4 Lauren Cox (an honorable mention All-American herself). UConn will need one of Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Batouly Camara or Kyla Irwin to contribute valuable minutes down low, similar to Natalie Butler in the 2016 meeting.
USF (Jan. 13, Mar. 4): Do the Bulls have the same chances at beating UConn like the other three teams in the this group? No, but they have one advantage the others don’t: They play the Huskies more than once. The two teams have played twice in the regular season and then met in the AAC Tournament final every year since 2015-16 and that doesn’t appear like it will change this season. If UConn isn’t as good as expected, USF might be able to catch the Huskies on an off-night.
at Louisville (Jan. 31): Last season, UConn jumped on Louisville in the first quarter to the tune of a 24-6 lead but tied the final three quarters. The Cardinals return First Team All-American Asia Durr and get to host the Huskies on their home court this year. If they can prevent UConn from getting out to a quick start, it’s going to be a game that comes down to the final possessions.
Good Games But Easy Wins
Ohio State (Nov. 11): The season opener is always tricky, especially with so many pieces up in the air for UConn. The Buckeyes went 28-7 last year before getting upset by No. 11 Central Michigan in the NCAA Tournament but lost standout guard Kelsey Mitchell to graduation.
DePaul (Nov. 28): Blue Demons head coach Doug Bruno always brings a trick up his sleeve when he faces off against his friend Geno. They usually give the Huskies a good game but UConn is a perfect 15-0 against DePaul. That likely won’t change this season.
Cal (Dec. 22): In their home opener last season, UConn handled Cal without Katie Lou Samuelson for much of the game. The Bears return honorable mention All-American Kristine Anigwe and will be on their home court, where they lost just three games last season.
South Carolina (Feb. 11): Last season, UConn beat the A’ja Wilson-led Gamecocks by 25 and 29. Wilson is gone and South Carolina doesn’t have another generational talent like her coming in. Combine it with the fact that Auriemma seems to be in Dawn Staley’s head and the Huskies should run away with this one.
Back of the Bench Showcases
Vanderbilt (Nov. 17), Ole Miss (Nov. 22), St. John’s (Nov. 23), Purdue (Nov. 24), at Saint Louis (Dec. 4), Seton Hall (Dec. 8), at Oklahoma (Dec. 19), Cincinnati (Jan. 9, Feb. 2), at Tulane (Jan. 16), at Temple (Jan. 20), SMU (Jan. 23), UCF (Jan. 27, Feb. 17), ECU (Feb. 6), Memphis (Feb. 20), at Tulsa (Feb. 24), at Wichita State (Feb. 26)
If any of these games are within 20 point, it will be a shock. Most of these teams finished below .500 last season or are just generally not good. UConn will blow through them with their starters for the first three quarters and then see what the bench can do for the final 10 minutes. Rinse. Repeat.