There has been talk throughout the season that Geno Auriemma has done his best job of coaching the University of Connecticut women's basketball team in this his 32nd year. Considering the Hall of Fame coach has led the Huskies to a record 11 national championships and is the game's all-time leader in winning percentage, that's saying something about what UConn has done so far this season.
The Women's Basketball Coaches Association has noticed and on Thursday it named Auriemma as its 2017 Coach of the Year. He will be presented with the Pat Summitt Trophy, named for the late legendary University of Tennessee coach, during the 2017 WBCA Convention to be held in conjunction with the NCAA Final Four in Dallas.
"Geno continues to raise the standard of excellence in the coaching profession," WBCA executive director Danielle Donehew said in a statement. He is a teacher of the game, and the development of his student-athletes both on and off the court this season has been remarkable, a masterpiece. Geno is very deserving of the WBCA's highest praise for the coaching profession, as confirmed by the vote from his respective peers."
The top-seeded Huskies (34-0 and winners of 109 straight games) will continue their bid for a fifth consecutive national championship Saturday when they take on No. 4 UCLA in a NCAA Bridgeport Regional semifinal game at Webster Bank Arena.
Auriemma, who turned 63 years old on Thursday, owns a career record of 989-134 (.881). A win on Saturday would tie him with Summitt for the most wins in NCAA tournament history at 112. He would also tie North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell for third in coaching wins all time. Hatchell owns a 990-374 record.
UConn enjoyed its ninth unbeaten regular season and qualified for the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 for the 24th straight year Monday with its win over Syracuse at Gampel Pavilion. On Jan. 14, the Huskies defeated SMU 88-48 at Moody Coliseum in Dallas for their 91st consecutive win, breaking their own NCAA record set seven years earlier. UConn owns four of the top five winning streaks in NCAA history.
The WBCA honor for Auriemma is his second straight and seventh overall (1997, 2000, 2002, 2008-09, 2016-17).
COLLIER IN RUNNING FOR WADE
UConn sophomore forward Napheesa Collier is one of four finalists for the 2017 Wade Trophy as the WBCA Player of the Year, the organization announced on Thursday.
Collier is joined in the final four by Ohio State junior guard Kelsey Mitchell, Washington senior guard Kelsey Plum of Washington, and South Carolina junior forward A'ja Wilson. The Winner will be announced April 1 in Dallas.
The St. Peters, Missouri, native was named the American Athletic Conference Co-Player of the Year alongside teammate and classmate Katie Lou Samuelson earlier this month. Collier ranks in the league's top 10 in scoring (second at 20.2), rebounding (fourth at 8.9), blocked shots (first at 2.0), steals (10th at 1.8), field-goal percentage (first at 69.3), and free-throw percentage (sixth at 83.6).
She had her career high of 39 points in a win over South Florida at the Sun Dome in Tampa on Feb. 27. She has reached 20 points in 18 games and has recorded 14 double-doubles.
Breanna Stewart won the Wade Trophy the last two years. Other Wade Trophy winners from UConn are Rebecca Lobo (1995), Jennifer Rizzotti (1996), Sue Bird (2002), Diana Taurasi (2003), and Maya Moore (2009-11).
UCONN TRIO NAMED ALL-REGION
UConn's Collier, Samuelson, and junior forward Gabby Williams were selected to the All-Region 3 team on Thursday, the WBCA announced. The 52 all-region picks from around the country are now eligible for selection to the 10-player WBCA All-America team.
A maximum of three players from a team that can be chosen to an all-region.
Samuelson leads the Huskies and the AAC in scoring at 20.9 points per game. She also ranks in the top 10 in the league in assists (10th at 3.3), assist-to-turnover ratio (seventh at 1.9), field-goal percentage (eighth at 49.2), free-throw percentage (fifth at 84.0), and 3-point percentage (second at 43.0). The Huntington Beach, California, native became the sixth UConn sophomore to reach the 1,000-point plateau on Feb. 27 at USF.
Williams, the AAC's Defensive Player of the Year, is averaging a career best 13.7 points and ranks in the league's top six in field-goal percentage (third at 57.7), rebounding (sixth at 8.4), assists (fourth at 5.3), assist-to-turnover ratio (fifth at 2.4), steals (third at 2.7), and blocked shots (fourth at 1.4). The Sparks, Nevada, native posted the fifth triple-double in UConn history at East Carolina on Jan. 24 and reached 1,000 points for her career on Feb. 22
Other Region 3 selections were Texas' Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty, Baylor's Kalani Brown and Nina Davis, Temple's Feyonda Fitzgerald, USF's Kitija Laksa, Kansas State's Breanna Lewis, and West Virginia's Tynice Martin.