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It's not just déjà vu. The Huskies are, yet again, the overwhelming favorites to win it all -- a potential fourth straight for their seniors. How do they dominate on repeat? Three former stars dish on the success of the system -- and what it takes to rule college hoops.
"This team is so sure about roles and what they need to do to win games. You just see this confidence: 'We're not going to let anything get in the way.' That's a powerful feeling to have when you step on the court, because the other team feels it." -- Diana Taurasi, 2000-04
The intimidation factor that the Huskies bring is huge, and UConn has earned it through spectacular consistency. This season's seniors, led by Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck, have been to three Final Fours (so far). They already have one perfect season (2013-14) and look well on their way to another. Oh, and they hold an active 69-game win streak. More important, when they do lose (only five times in the past four years and just once since March 2013), they don't let it linger. The last time the Huskies dropped back-to-back games was in 1993 -- before anyone on the current roster was even born! When players come to UConn, they know there is one goal: winning a title.
"They play with a maturity beyond their years. The poise is really cool to watch, from the young players ... to the upperclassmen. They don't get rattled, no matter how the other team comes out. They make it look easy, but it's really hard to do." -- Maya Moore, 2007-11
Watch everything the Huskies do outside the 40 minutes of action: the precise formation for the anthem, the attentive postgame handshakes, the look-you-in-the-eye interviews. Players understand that maturity equals discipline -- off and on the court. Take shot selection: The Huskies, currently shooting 52.5 percent, have not finished a season below 47 percent in 10 years. Then there's UConn's defense, which is efficient and clinical. Jefferson, the AAC's defensive POY, averages a league-leading 2.7 steals per game (with a 2.7 assist-to-TO ratio). Another mark of that discipline: During this senior class's four seasons, UConn has held foes to 31.5 percent shooting while committing 498 fewer fouls.
"When I go to other teams' shootarounds, I'm like, 'Oh, man, this is so slow and lackadaisical.' With UConn, whether they're doing shootarounds or walking in the park, it's crisp. But I don't think any player came here with that pace; you learn it." -- Sue Bird, 1998-2002
When teams play UConn, there's no easing into the first quarter. The Huskies start at warp speed and stay there -- which is why they have the NCAA's top scoring margin (87.6 ppg, compared to 47.9 allowed), more than 15 points better than the second best. Connecticut makes even other highly ranked teams look slow: In a hyped February matchup between No. 1 UConn and No. 2 South Carolina, USC scored just eight points in two of the four quarters -- UConn had 17 and 19 -- and the Huskies won by 12 behind Stewart's 25 points and 10 rebounds. The Huskies' speed forces mistakes (21.2 TOs forced per game this season) even as the team avoids making its own: In the past four seasons, UConn has 907 fewer turnovers than its foes.