STORRS, Conn. -- Back when the University of Connecticut women's basketball team was trying to win the Big East regular season championship, coach Geno Auriemma had a formula of how the Huskies could get it done.
"We played 16 games, eight at home and eight away," Auriemma recalled recently. "We'd win all of our home games and go 4-4, .500, on the road. That would get us to 12-4 and we'd be right there to win the league title."
UConn has won 23 conference regular season championships -- 19 in the Big East, four in the American Athletic Conference -- since getting banner No. 1 in 1989. Of course, Auriemma has had to modify his formula a bit. The Huskies have not lost as many as four league games since 1993 when they went 12-6 to finish third in the Big East.
And if UConn lost four games in the AAC, fans would demand an investigation. As the top-ranked Huskies start their fifth season of AAC league play Sunday against Memphis at the XL Center in Hartford (SNY, 1:30 p.m.), they bring with them an 82-0 mark against conference opponents -- 70-0 regular season, 12-0 tournament. Only one of those games has been decided by single figures (63-60 at Tulane on Feb. 18, 2017) and only once have they trailed in the second half (versus South Florida at Gampel Pavilion on Feb. 29, 2016, a one-point deficit they erased on the first possession of the third quarter en route to a 79-59 win).
"We understand what our conference is like but that is not what we're playing for," UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield said. "We're trying to get ready for the third part of our season, the postseason."
Sunday's game starts a stretch of six games in 16 days at six different venues. On deck for the Huskies is a trip to East Carolina Wednesday and to South Florida Jan. 6. They host Central Florida at Gampel Pavilion Jan. 9 before a Texas two-step -- at Houston on Jan. 13 and at the University of Texas in Austin for a non-league game Jan. 15.
But all UConn (10-0 overall) is worried about Sunday is getting to 1-0 in the league.
"It's really important to get off to a good start because we want to make a statement going into conference play," UConn All-American Katie Lou Samuelson said. "We want to make it known that we're still here. We have had such a good year to this point that we want to keep it going. A lot of times you can get lazy in conference play or just want it to be different. It feels a little stagnant sometimes, but we still want to keep getting better every day, and that comes straight from practices. We want to make sure that we are on top of our game every day in practice and that it transitions into having a great game in conference play. Sometimes if you have bad games in conference play they add up and then it's over before you know it and you don't get better. So we want to make sure we go into conference play from start to finish and have really good games."
The big question for the challengers, as it's been since the league formed, is the same: Can anyone stay with UConn?
According to www.rpiratings.com, five AAC teams are in the top 100 of the RPI: UConn (1), Houston (35), USF (48), UCF (52), and Tulane (89). But the AAC is seventh in conference RPI after finishing fifth a year ago and only UConn (1) and UCF (32) have a strength of schedule in the top 100. At the bottom end, East Carolina's SOS is 329 out of 349.
The AAC is 90-60 in non-league play with five games remaining (UConn versus Texas, South Carolina, Louisville; USF versus Ohio State; Temple versus Pennsylvania) but has losing records against four of the Power 5 conferences -- the exception being a 4-0 mark against the Pac-12 thanks to UConn's wins over UCLA, California, and Stanford, and USF's win over Washington State -- and the Big East.
And throw out UConn's 5-0 mark against Top 25 opponents, and the rest of the league is 0-8.
"I like to think this is a league that can get three or four teams in the NCAA tournament on a consistent basis," Auriemma said.
Three AAC teams received bids to the 2017 NCAA tournament -- UConn, USF, and Temple.
The jockeying for position continued Saturday with UCF, Houston, Tulsa, and Cincinnati posting opening-day league wins. In Sunday's other AAC game, USF visits Tulane.
The Huskies have been off since their Dec. 22 victory over Duquesne in Toronto. They returned to campus on Wednesday and hit the Werth Family Champions Center practice floor Thursday. The time off allowed them to get refreshed.
"It was very useful," UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey said. "This is the longest break that we've had. We had five days off, and I don't remember the last time that has happened. It's usually three or four. But to have five full days was great. We've had a long run this first part of the season. Our travel was a lot with that 10 days on the road. We traveled to Chicago. We played a lot of teams, and even when we have had home games we are traveling to Mohegan and Hartford. So it was nice to just be in one place for five days."
Memphis (5-8) has won four in a row following an eight-game losing streak with its most impressive victory coming against in-state rival Vanderbilt. Senior forward Cheyenne Creighton is the Tigers' leading scorer and rebounder while senior guard Brea Elmore also scores in double figures. But Memphis does not shoot the ball well (40.6 percent from the floor) and senior point guard Breigha Wilder-Cochran is the only player on the roster with more assists than turnovers.
The Huskies and Tigers have one common opponent -- DePaul. UConn defeated the Blue Demons 103-69 in Chicago on Dec. 8, while Memphis loss to DePaul 81-67 in Las Vegas on Nov. 24.
UConn leads the series 7-0. The teams will play again at Roane Fieldhouse in Memphis on Jan. 24.