Sophomore Kia Nurse holds the cards for UConn

UConn receives 2016 NCAA tournament trophy (0:40)

NCAA president Mark Emmert presents the 2016 NCAA tournament trophy to the Connecticut women's basketball team. (0:40)

INDIANAPOLIS -- Four national championships in four seasons. It is one of those feats that can be matched but never bested, Connecticut seniors Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck as secure in that legacy as a golfer who wins four majors in a calendar year.

Unless ...

With two championships in her first two seasons, Kia Nurse is halfway to matching that haul. Granted, halfway is a long way from the whole way, but when it comes to tiebreakers, Nurse earned an unbeatable one almost a year ago on a basketball court in Toronto.

The last team to beat Stewart and Jefferson during their college careers?

With Syracuse the final NCAA team to try and fail, that would be Canada with a gold medal on the line in last summer's Pan-Am Games. Stewart and Jefferson combined for 31 points for Team USA. Nurse scored 33 points for Canada and celebrated on home soil.

You better believe that has not been forgotten.

"Bragging rights are still there," Nurse said. "I don't use them very often, but now that they're not my seniors maybe I'll use them a little bit more."

She was joking, of course, and on a night that was deservedly all about them, went on to laud the seniors for mentoring her. But beyond a way to win a trivia contest, might what happened in Toronto also be a blueprint for what comes next?

No one in the Connecticut locker room was in any mood to talk about the future after the team wrapped up a fourth consecutive title. That's understandable. As the rest of us assumed all season that this night would end this way, the Huskies had to wait. They deserve the celebration.

But after the confetti is swept clean, the trophy packed for transit and sleep finally seized, the focus will shift from what this Connecticut team accomplished to how the next team will live up to the standard set by 11 title winners before them. That comes with the territory.

And assuming Tuck is headed to the WNBA rather than using her final season of college eligibility, a decision she delayed until Wednesday, no one in a Connecticut uniform next season will have played more minutes in those colors than Nurse.

She played 39 minutes in the final, more than any other player, and took only six shots. The most prolific offensive player on that Canadian team that also included WNBA starter Natalie Achonwa and UCLA's Nirra Fields, among others, she accepted a role that made her, at best, Connecticut's fourth or fifth scoring option this season. Her willingness to do so says a lot about why Connecticut wins. So does a talent base deep enough to afford the coaching staff that luxury.

Nurse was a valuable contributor to two titles. She was also, essentially, an apprentice.

"You never have to worry about how hard she plays and her toughness," Connecticut associate coach Chris Dailey said. "She's like a bull in a china shop sometimes, so being able to slow down to see the game differently, develop, become a better defender, I think those are the biggest differences with her. She struggled at times offensively but still made big 3s when we needed them. And she's grown up a lot. I think the summer was big for her, playing with the Canadian national team."

And if Connecticut didn't want to talk about the future after the game, it sure looked as if Auriemma was preparing for it while the clock still ran.

With the game almost over but Connecticut bogged down against the Syracuse pressure it largely picked apart in building an insurmountable lead, Auriemma snapped at the players who approached the bench during a break in the action. Nurse caught the brunt of the rebuke, which went along the lines of don't ruin a great game now, and was momentarily but quite visibly shaken.

With a light tap of reassurance from Jefferson, who was in the same spot countless times in her four years, Nurse returned to the court.

"Everything that he does is methodical," Nurse said. "He has a way with making sure you understand you're being challenged. He's trying to fire you up in a certain way. I missed a defensive assignment that I probably shouldn't have missed. We just moved on from there."

A few minutes later, after the three seniors had come off the court together for the final time, Nurse, too, was replaced by a sub. As she walked to the bench, Auriemma blocked her path. This time there was no criticism, no glare and no harsh words. Just a grin and a hug.

"He was laughing at me, making fun of me," Nurse joked of the final embrace. "But it was a great feeling to get another one under your belt. Obviously it's a bittersweet moment, how fast the seasons go and how you only have four of them here."

It isn't easy, but the rewards are tough to beat.

No one, not even the seniors, had a better 12 months than Nurse with two NCAA titles and a gold medal to show for it.

"I've been surrounded by a lot of great players, a lot of great programs," Nurse said. "I've gotten better from each and every one of them. The opportunities that I've been given because of this sport, because of a piece of leather filled with air, is incredible and something I'll never forget."

That's what an apprentice should say, with some bonus points for eloquence. But the fact remains that on that court in Toronto, she wasn't only surrounded by great players. She was playing against players whose greatness she helped confirm on this night months later in Indianapolis. And the box score doesn't tell tall tales. She hung 33 points on Stewart and Jefferson and handed them a loss.

No one else has come close since.

And if someone could win four titles and Pan-Am gold, well, we're getting ahead of ourselves.

But Nurse might be only be just getting started.