STORRS, Conn. -- When Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck headed for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's bench with 1:46 left in the NCAA final last April 5, they took with them 5,506 points, 2,129 rebounds and 1,369 assists.
Then there's that 151-5 four-year record and the unprecedented four consecutive national championships.
While the Huskies will still put five players on the floor that can score, rebound and pass when they open the 2016-17 season at No. 12 Florida State on Monday, no one will have the experience the Big Three took with them.
"I would much rather have experience because you can get by with less talent if you have experience," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "All the talent in the world without experience, you'll come up short. Now, you might come up short with experience and not enough talent, I get that. But all things being equal, when you have that experience of having been there and done that, that goes a long way."
Juniors Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams and sophomores Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier have been there and done that. But their journey was aided by the top three choices in the 2016 WNBA Draft.
For the first time since 2013, the Huskies are not ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press preseason poll. They and their 75-game winning streak checked in at No. 3. And for the first time since 1992, they enter the season without a first- or second-team all-conference player or the league's reigning Freshman of the Year returning.
Welcome to the new reality at UConn.
"I don't think that it affects what we do behind close doors," Williams said. "People are always going to have their opinions about us. But with those three seniors ... We kind of expect it because those guys were so big but that doesn't necessarily mean the rest of us were so small. We are going to play with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder and it's going to be fun. We're going to prove a lot of people wrong."
They'll get their chance against some of the best competition the country has to offer. By New Year's Day they will have faced No. 1 Notre Dame, second-ranked Baylor, No. 6 Maryland, seventh-ranked Ohio State, No. 8 Texas, 12th-ranked Florida State and No. 21 DePaul. Waiting for them on Feb. 13 will be fourth-ranked South Carolina.
Talk about being thrown into the fire.
"You're going in with the idea that when March comes around we've been in enough situations that they've learned how to overcome what they don't have," Auriemma said. "That's a big part of what teams are supposed to do. They're supposed to start at one point and grow as the season goes on. That's my plan for this team."
Nurse has started more games (74) than the rest of her teammates combined. She also has the experience of playing for Team Canada in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. That's likely a big reason she was named the American Athletic Conference preseason Player of the Year even though she was a third-team pick last March.
Williams was the AAC's co-Sixth Player of the Year as a freshman and was even better off the bench a season ago. She started the final game against Syracuse after Samuelson broke her left foot two days earlier and just missed a double-double.
Samuelson was passed over for AAC Freshman of the Year but, really, there was no rookie in the country better the second half of the season. She was outstanding in the postseason and played maybe her best all-around half against Oregon State with the broken foot.
Collier joined Samuelson on the AAC all-freshman team even though she played with a torn labrum in her hip that required surgery in April. She was also one of the more efficient Huskies.
So Auriemma has some cards to play with.
"It's tough to replace talent, but at the same time, no one is going to be Stewie, Moriah or Tuck," Nurse said. "We don't want anyone to try to be Stewie, Moriah or Tuck. We want them to be the best version of themselves that they can be.
"In terms of experience, the only way you get more is by going through different things, right? But as much as everyone will talk about what we lost, we focus on what we have and what we have gained and what we have to do to be successful."
UConn welcomes three freshmen to the mix -- McDonald's High School All-American guard Crystal Dangerfield, point guard Molly Bent and forward Kyla Irwin.
All will get the chance to contribute from the start and have made positive impressions on their coaches and teammates.
The Core Four will have to carry them.
"In many ways we played more of a supporting role last year," Nurse said. "The other three would do whatever it took for us to win and they would help us through it every single way. This year we're the ones helping the younger guys. We've moved 180 degrees."
Then there are two veterans that if they have solid seasons would make UConn very tough to beat.
Senior Saniya Chong has been up and down throughout her career, starting the year strong and being a non-factor at the finish. She's enjoyed another strong preseason and her experience would make the adjustment for Dangerfield and Bent much easier, as well as allowing Nurse to play primarily off the ball on offense.
Junior Natalie Butler seemed ready to step right in a year ago but was derailed by a thumb injury and never recovered. No one is expecting her to put up the numbers she did when she was the 2014 Big East Freshman of the Year at Georgetown. But, at 6-foot-5, she needs to provide an inside presence. No one else has her size.
"When you take away all your points, all your rebounds, all your assists and all your blocked shots and all your defense from your team, there is a void," Auriemma said. "So naturally when there is a void, people have to fill it. In our offensive sets when you are doing things, the ball is going to end up somewhere. Somebody is going to shoot it. Generally speaking, certain players gravitate toward the ball more than others. You are going to find that Lou is going to get a lot of shots, because she is all over the court, and she can score from a lot of different places. Napheesa, Gabby and Kia, they are going to get a lot of opportunities that didn't exist for them last year."
The Huskies are the AAC favorites. If they are a top-four seed in a NCAA tournament regional, they could reach the Final Four in Dallas without leaving Connecticut.
Can they make more history?
"All we can do as individuals is to come together as a team," Williams said.
That's their best chance to take the fifth