Since UConn wrapped up the American Athletic Conference championship on March 10, the Huskies have been doing their own thing at their own pace. Preparing for the NCAA Tournament is something the Huskies are obviously quite familiar with.
It was trying to figure out where the NCAA Tournament selection committee would place them that was the confusing part this season.
But now the mystery is solved. The No. 1 Huskies (34-0) have been assigned to the Lincoln, Neb., regional and will open defense of their national championship against No. 16 Prairie View (14-17) on March 23 at Gampel Pavilion.
Prairie View made it to the tournament by sweeping through the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament.
LaReahn Washington and Jeanette Jackson combined for 42 points pacing the 63-58 upset of Texas Southern in the title game on Saturday. Jackson had 22 points, including four free throws in the final 30 seconds to clinch the team’s fourth straight conference title and sixth NCAA appearance.
However, they began the season less auspiciously, losing their first 11 games and did not win their first game until Jan. 6. The Lady Panthers are shooting just 35.8 percent from the field and 29.5 from three-point range and have 61 turnovers more than assists.
The programs also played in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The Huskies won, 83-47.
UConn’s likely second-round game will be against the winner of No. 8 Georgia and No. 9 St. Joseph’s. That will be played March 25 at Gampel.
St. Joseph’s (22-9) will be making its second straight NCAA appearance at Gampel Pavilion. They were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament. Georgia (20-11) lost in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament to South Carolina.
The Huskies have not played St. Joseph’s since Dec. 21, 2003. They last time they played Georgia was in the Sweet 16 in Bridgeport on March 26, 2006
The debate about where UConn would be assigned centered around either Lincoln and Louisville, Ky., since it was clear Notre Dame and Stanford would be assigned to their home regional host arenas.
Neither Geno Auriemma or Louisville coach Jeff Walz wanted UConn in Kentucky for obvious reasons; the Huskies have already handed the Cardinals three of their four losses and a fourth game would most certainly have prevented Louisville from reaching the their second straight Final Four.
It turned out the committee thought along the same lines, ignoring an “unofficial” provision, agreed to by the coaches, that the No. 1 seed should be sent to the regional site closest to its home. For UConn, that would have been Louisville.
But for Auriemma, the big issue is always the path. And for UConn, it involves a possible Elite Eight game against No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Texas A&M or No. 4 Nebraska. And the possible national semifinal could be against Stanford.
The Huskies, on a 40-game winning streak dating the beginning of last year’s NCAA first-round win over Idaho, have used the time to tighten things that didn’t look very loose to begin with during the AAC Tournament.
UConn blew open its semifinal games against Rutgers and Louisville with first-half performances Auriemma called the best of the season.