STORRS, Conn. - Through its unparalleled run of success that's lasted for more than a quarter-century now, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team has stayed away from catchy cliches or slogans, instead letting its actions do the talking.
With an opportunity at a history-making season, the Huskies won't change and will go with what got them here.
"There's a lot of times you hear, 'Don't play to lose,' or 'Refuse to lose,' " UConn guard Kia Nurse said. "For us it's a matter of us continuing to take nothing for granted. Just because you put on this UConn jersey doesn't mean you're going to win the game. What's special, I think, is that every player understands that we have to go out there and perform at our best each and every day to make sure that we don't lose."
The top-ranked Huskies begin their quest for an unprecedented fourth straight national championship on Monday when they open the regular season at No. 6 Ohio State.
It's not that UConn refuses to lose. It just happens to the Huskies less frequently than all the others.
UConn is 113-5 since Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck, and Moriah Jefferson arrived on campus. The Huskies have NCAA marks of 10 straight 30-win seasons and eight consecutive NCAA Final Four appearances.
Their 10 national championships, all since 1995, are unmatched.
"So many times teams that put the focus on 'Refuse to lose' would be better off putting it on 'Desire to win,' " UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "No one wants to lose. Who goes into a game saying it's OK to lose? Nobody. But not everybody goes in with the will to win.
"Some have a greater will to win. To do that you can't be afraid to lose. Sometimes teams are their own worst enemies. Coaches are their own worst enemies. At Connecticut, we don't talk about losing. We know that losing is part of the game. Anytime they keep score you might lose. If it happens, it happens. You focus on, 'What do we have to do to be successful?' It works for us."
Two programs previously have won three straight NCAA titles: Tennessee (1996-98) and UConn (2002-04). Neither team made it to the Final Four in its bid for four straight.
These Huskies are the favorites to cut down the nets in Indianapolis in April.
"We don't get in a circle before practice and go, 'Remember guys, four in a row,' " Auriemma said. "Nobody is talking about it."
But they do have to answer a lot of questions about it.
"We have to come out and prepare the way we have and approach it the way that we have," Jefferson said. "It worked the first, second, and third time. We've come out and are working harder than ever to get there and get the job done."
"It's exciting because it's a chance to be part of something that's never been done," Nurse added. "I'm more excited for Morgan, Stewie and Moriah because they can do something that's simply incredible. But you have to put it in the back of your mind and make sure you're focused on the moment and what's going on in the here and now."
Where UConn starts is with four returning starters including two-time reigning Player of the Year Stewart and the 2015 Nancy Lieberman Award winner and All-American Jefferson. Tuck rebounded from a pair of right knee surgeries that cost her much of the 2013-14 season to become a solid and dependable performer. Nurse made her mark as the 2015 American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year. But her stock went through the roof this summer as she led Team Canada to the gold medal at the Pan American Games and was the MVP of the FIBA Americas Championships as Canada clinched a spot in the 2016 Olympic Games.
Auriemma believes that all four are better than when they walked off the court at Amalie Arena in Tampa seven months ago.
"With the maturity that Stewie and Tuck and Moriah bring back, you really do have a great core group returning," Auriemma said. "What else do they know besides winning national championships? So the number one thing we have to do is make sure that there isn't that normal complacency that sets in, We have to make sure we create an environment where every day is a real important day."
Sophomore forward Gabby Williams has earned the fifth starting spot. Sophomore center Natalie Butler, the 2014 Big East Freshman of the Year at Georgetown, would have been a candidate, too, but she is out until December after surgery to repair torn ligaments in her left thumb. Junior guard Saniya Chong could have been in the mix as well but has missed time with a knee issue.
The Huskies' three freshmen - Katie Lou Samuelson, Napheesa Collier, and De'Janae Boykin - will be learning on the job, though Boykin (Achilles) will be sidelined perhaps through November.
"They're going to play early and going to play often," Auriemma said. "And I wouldn't be surprised if they're in the game late."
"This is a special freshman class," Stewart added. "They know what opportunities are at stake just as well as the rest of the team, and they want to be a part of it."
Sophomore Courtney Ekmark also hopes to make some noise and Auriemma said she has improved. Rounding out the roster are senior Briana Pulido and junior Tierney Lawlor, both of whom received scholarships from Auriemma last spring.
UConn will face four teams - No. 2 South Carolina, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 6 Ohio State, and No. 7 Maryland - in the AP preseason top 10. Its toughest competition in the AAC will come from South Florida, which is ranked at No. 20 nationally.
The Huskies could get back to the Final Four without leaving Connecticut. If they are a top-four regional seed in the NCAA Tournament, they would host the first two rounds. Bridgeport is hosting Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in late March.
The national championship game is set for April 5 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
It's time to start the ride.
"To have a class come in and win four national championships, that's a dream come true," Auriemma said. "For Stewie, Moriah, and Tuck, if it happens for them it will be one of the most remarkable things ever in women's basketball."