How to watch
When: Sunday, March 21, 8 p.m. EST
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Radio: UConn Sports Network (97.9 ESPN and affiliates)
High Point Panthers
Record: 22-6 (17-3 Big South)
Location: High Point, North Carolina
Head coach: Chelsea Banbury (Second season)
For just the 11th time in his 36-year career, Geno Auriemma be on the sidelines when UConn women’s basketball takes on High Point in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The coach is still in Connecticut after testing positive for COVID-19 last Sunday, meaning he’ll have as much of an impact on the game as everyone else tuning in.
“Watching a game is way harder than coaching a game, just like coaching in a game is way harder than playing in a game,” Auriemma said. “The less control you have, the less effect you can have on the game, the more angst you feel.”
Since he’s relegated to spectator status, Auriemma hasn’t decided if he can bear to watch the action unfold live on television.
“I might not watch Sunday’s game,” he said. “It might be better if I was sitting in a school bus outside St. John’s waiting for one of the managers to run out and tell me the score. I might need to hide down in the basement and have somebody come down and give me the update or like the ticker tape for back in the old days. Have somebody read it out, make it up and make it sound like we’re winning.”
In Auriemma’s stead, Chris Dailey has taken over head coaching duties in San Antonio. Though she’s spent her entire career — save 10 games — as an assistant coach, being a head coach has always felt natural to her.
“I think the first time I did it I was surprised that I did have a feel in the game for it, more so because I had never done it,” she said.
While Auriemma’s absence shouldn’t affect how the program operates as a whole, Dailey’s day-to-day role changes with the added responsibilities of speaking to the media and becoming the decision-maker on the bench. The latter is a tough adjustment but it’s one she enjoys.
“You’re part of it in a different way,” Dailey said. “Instead of making the suggestions, you’re making a decision. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s challenging. It’s all of those things and it’s an experience.”
With a 10-0 record as a head coach — including two Big East Tournament titles, Dailey clearly knows what she’s doing on the sideline. But if she does need any help, assistant coach Jamelle Elliot has nine years of experience as a head coach with Cincinnati. Plus, it’s not like Dailey needs to re-invent the wheel at this point in the season.
“I feel confident in what we’ve prepared. See that’s the funny part: This preparation didn’t start Monday or Tuesday after Geno got sick,” she said. “This preparation started in September...this has been a year long process and we’re just looking to be able to put it all together in a 40 minute game on Sunday.”
Scouting the Panthers
This will be the first-ever meeting between UConn and High Point.
How they got here
High Point enters its first-ever NCAA Tournament having claimed the Big South regular season and tournament titles. The Panthers finished one game ahead of second-place Campbell but rolled through the conference tournament with ease, winning each game by at least 16 points.
UConn went 24-1 in the regular season, didn’t lose a single game in Big East play and is the second overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
First round flashback
UConn hasn’t been a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament since 2018. That year, the Huskies played the Saint Francis Red Flash in the first round and put on a historic beatdown.
UConn set NCAA Tournament records with 55 points in the first quarter, 94 points in the first half and 140 points total while the Huskies’ 88-point victory was the second-largest in program history. Azura Stevens led UConn with 26 points while Napheesa Collier had 25. Overall, six different players reached double-figures for the Huskies.
Saint Francis took 57 threes and made just 10.
This will be just the third time UConn won’t play its opening NCAA Tournament games in the state of Connecticut. Typically, the Huskies host the first two rounds in Storrs, doing so 25 times in the past. They’ve also played their first games in Bridgeport (3 times) and Hartford (once). The two others years that UConn left the state were in 2010 (Norfolk, Virginia) and 2006 (State College, Pennsylvania).
San Antonio is hosting the Final Four for the third time. UConn won the national championship the two previous times in 2002 and 2010.
By the numbers
51.7 — UConn has played a 16-seed 21 times and has won every game by an average of 51.7 points. The closest game came back in 1994, a 19-point win over Brown, while the largest was in 2018, the aforementioned 88-point rout of Saint Francis.
121 — UConn has won 121 games in the NCAA Tournament, all of which have been with Auriemma on the sideline.
2 — The Huskies are 27-2 in the first round. Their last loss came during Rebecca Lobo’s sophomore year in 1993.
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- Notebook: Plenty has changed for UConn women’s basketball since last NCAA Tournament
- Chasing Perfection: NCAA Tournament predictions