STORRS - Geno Auriemma isn't all that concerned about March right now. Not that it's not important. When you've won as often as UConn women's basketball has, the overall success of a season is determined by what happens in March, but Auriemma has bigger things to worry about right now.
"There's too many things we have to work on short-term to think about where we're going to be long-term," he said.
This is different from the past five seasons where the UConn team that showed up for the preseason was pretty much the same once March came around. There weren't a whole lot of questions that still needed to be answered at this point in the season.
"There's a certain level that you have to be at come tournament time and when the tournament starts, you have to be playing your best basketball and you have to have everything covered by the time the tournament starts," Auriemma said. "Some years we start the season and by the end of November, we have everything covered. And there's nothing that's going to happen the next couple months that's going to change that."
But with this year's team, there are times it seems the Huskies have more questions than answers. Can freshman Christyn Williams regain the form she had earlier in the season when she dropped 28 points on Notre Dame's home court? Will sophomore Megan Walker finally find the consistency she's lacked for most of her career? Is someone -- anyone -- on the bench going to step up and make an impact?
It's almost February and none of those questions are anywhere close to being answered. But they don't need to be answered right this minute, either. UConn just needs to start building to that point.
"We have to continue to get better, we have to continue to work to get better," Auriemma said.
But for all the uncertainty surrounding those underclassmen listed above, they have that amount of certainty in their senior leaders -- Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson. One of the two has led the team in scoring every game this season and their leadership styles complement each other well.
"The way Pheesa plays, I think she's an example for every kid watching that aspires to be a really good college player...You've never in four years come out of [a game] saying "Pheesa didn't work hard tonight. She didn't compete. She didn't mix it up the entire game all 40 minutes."...There aren't many players in the country like her. And that's the way she leads," Auriemma said.
"I think she and Lou complement each other pretty well. Lou can talk to the guys about 'This is what we want, this is what we need to do.' They both have their own unique ways of doing it, but one's more quiet than the other."
While this season hasn't featured the typical UConn team that Collier and Samuelson -- along with most fans -- have come to expect at this point in the calendar, the two have embraced the challenge of trying to improve on a daily basis.
"The past two years, with the exception of the beginning of sophomore year, we knew we were going to get stuff from people, we knew what everyone did," Samuelson said. "We're still learning and figuring that out every day with this team and we're still trying to find out what it is that we're all best at. Because if we can all do the thing we're best at and contribute at that, knowing that if you can pick it up in the other ways you're not as good, we can play off of each other."
"It's hard each year to put the pieces together and I think we're figuring it out and we have a lot of young people which is different but I think they're figuring it out too," Collier added. "We're just trying to figure out how to play with each other and what works best for us."
On top of the seniors, UConn also has junior Crystal Dangerfield, who has emerged as one of the best point guards in the country this season. Regardless of if the Huskies' glaring issues get fixed or not, Auriemma knows that Dangerfield will give UConn a shot in the NCAA Tournament.
"As long as you have a really good point guard, I think you have a chance," he said. "We have a chance to be really good because we have a terrific point guard."
The past few years, UConn rose to a level above everyone else in women's college basketball. Auriemma often spoke about how difficult and draining it was to sustain that level of excellence. But now that the Huskies are back to being mortal, Auriemma isn't sure how to feel.
"I think that we've kind of normalized a little bit," Auriemma said. "That's the way most coaches in America operate. I've always wanted to be in that situation again and here I am. Got to be careful what you wish for."