STORRS, Conn. -- Ten of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's 11 national championship campaigns included winning at least a share of its league's regular season title.
The only miss came in 2013 when Notre Dame beat out the Huskies, thanks to a one-point win at Gampel Pavilion and a triple-overtime victory in South Bend.
"For us, every single year, you have goals and they come in waves," UConn guard Kia Nurse said. "The first goal is the first part of the schedule (non-league) and you get that complete. The second goal is winning the league and that's where we're at right now. We always want to accomplish that.
"Why wouldn't it be important? You want to win your league every single year, just like you want to win the tournament at the end. You get that goal and then you move on to the next one."
With their last non-league game against Louisville behind them, the Huskies complete the regular season schedule with four American Athletic Conference games in a nine-day span starting Sunday against Temple at the XL Center in Hartford.
UConn (25-0 overall, 12-0 AAC) leads second-place South Florida (10-2) by two games in the race. The Bulls go to Orlando Sunday to face Central Florida. A Huskies' win and a USF loss would give UConn a share of the regular season title with a week still to play and the No. 1 seed for the AAC tournament to be played at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
"It's important to us because there is a standard we have at UConn," All-American Napheesa Collier said. "We play a certain way and we win championships. If we play our game, I don't think anyone can beat us. We need to play as well as we can and when we do we win games and championships."
If UConn wins the regular season title, it would begin its bid for a fifth consecutive AAC tournament crown on Sunday, March 4, at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of the 8-9 first-round game being played on Saturday, March 3.
The first four AAC tournaments were held on a Friday through Monday schedule. The 2018 event will start Saturday as there is a Kid Rock concert scheduled for Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, March 2. Also, the No. 1 seed had played its quarterfinal game at 2 p.m. in the past but will play at 6:30 p.m. this year. And the No. 1 seed will play the second semifinal game instead of the first with a 7 p.m. start on Monday, March 5. The championship game on Tuesday, March 6, is also a 5 p.m. tip instead of the usual 7 p.m. start from the past.
UConn enters Sunday's play at 94-0 against AAC opponents since the league formed.
"Winning the regular season is one of our goals, something on our checklist, and we take it seriously," UConn All-American Gabby Williams said.
According to RPIratings.com, the AAC is ranked eighth in conference RPI behind the Power 5, the Big East, and the Mid-American Conference. Four league teams -- UConn (1), USF (24), UCF (46), Houston (59) -- are in the RPI top 60 and all but Houston (136), Cincinnati (143), and East Carolina (242) have strength of schedules in the top 100 with UConn third behind Notre Dame and Oklahoma.
The Huskies are 8-0 against ranked opponents and their non-league slate included wins over Atlantic Coast Conference co-leaders Louisville and Notre Dame, Pac-12 co-leader Stanford and third place UCLA, Big Ten leader Maryland, Big East co-leader DePaul, and the second-place teams in the Big 12 (Texas), Southeastern Conference (South Carolina), and Atlantic-10 (Duquesne). But the AAC picked up a big win last Sunday when USF routed then-No. 13 Ohio State at the Sun Dome.
"I watched that whole game," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Our conference gets a bad rap a lot of times, 'We're not this, we're not that. We don't have this, we don't have that.' Our conference is not as bad as people think. We have teams that at the bottom really struggle. You know what? So does every other conference. I like our teams at the top. If you haven't played USF before and you don't know what they're going to do, they're tough to play against. I was happy for them."
The Huskies took two days off after the Louisville game and returned to practice Thursday. With All-Americans Williams (hip) and Katie Lou Samuelson (ankle) along with point guard Crystal Dangerfield (shin splints) dealing with injuries, the break was welcome.
Samuelson missed the first meeting with Temple on Jan. 21 but has performed at a national Player of the Year caliber since. Dangerfield missed the Feb. 4 game against Cincinnati and the Feb. 9 game at UCF but her lack of practice time may be showing up in her shooting. The Murfreesboro, Tennessee, native was among the 3-point leaders nationally at the start of the month but in her last three games she is 7-for-27 from the floor and 3-for-15 from behind the arc.
"It's just getting into the gym more and getting extra workouts in when I can, strictly shooting," Dangerfield said. "Yeah, my shot has been off."
But she is confident she can handle the final nine-day stretch of the regular season.
"It will just mean more ice," Dangerfield said with a smile. "They're not limiting minutes or anything like that. I'll be OK."
UConn already owns a 113-57 win over Temple at McGonigle Hall in Philadelphia from four weeks ago. The Owls (10-15, 2-10) have lost three in a row and 10 of their last 11. They have struggled with injuries throughout the year starting in the preseason when they lost all-league guard Alliya Butts. Coach Tonya Cardoza, the former UConn assistant, could start four freshmen Sunday. The one non-freshman, senior and Connecticut native Tanaya Atkinson, has enjoyed an outstanding season and leads the AAC in scoring (22.0) while ranking second in rebounds (9.3).
A victory Sunday would also be the 100th for juniors Collier and Samuelson since they came to UConn in 2015. They would make up the third consecutive junior class (Nurse and Williams in 2017, Saniya Chong and Tierney Lawlor in 2016) and fourth overall (Tiffany Hayes in 2011) to get to 100 wins in 101 games.
"It's cool to hear about that now," Samuelson said. "But each season, or when you're out there playing each game, you never think about that stuff. We're concerned about playing well each and every game."
That continues Sunday with UConn looking to move a step closer to another title.
"Winning the regular season sets you up for the AAC tournament," Dangerfield said. "Then winning that sets you up for the NCAA tournament. But what's important is that we have to make sure we're playing our best basketball when we get to that point."