PHILADELPHIA (AP) — For the seventh and final time Geno Auriemma and UConn were the unanimous choice to win the American Athletic Conference in the preseason poll.
Next year things will change as the Huskies head back to the Big East.
The Huskies have simply dominated conference play, winning all 120 regular season and postseason AAC games since the conference was formed in 2013.
Only once has a conference team come within single digits of UConn when the Huskies only beat Tulane by three in New Orleans a few seasons ago. Auriemma wasn’t ready to be nostalgic about the conference that the Huskies have run through without a loss.
“The one thing I learned over the last number of years is that I can’t keep track of all the records. I can’t keep track of all the numbers that people throw at me, Auriemma said. “It ends up being that the only records that matter are, do you go 6-0 in March? Other than, when you walk into our building and practice facility, all you see are the 11 national championship banners. Any of that other stuff there’s no sign of that anywhere.”
UConn received 11 first-place votes from the other coaches in the league Monday. Auriemma picked Central Florida to win since he couldn’t pick his own team.
“It’s all I’ve known so yeah it would be cool to go out with another championship,” said UConn’s Crystal Dangerfield, who was picked as co-preseason player of the year with Kay Kay Wright of Central Florida.
With the Huskies leaving that will open up opportunities for other teams to realistically win a conference title.
“It’s definitely an amazing position to be in. I think myself as a head coach I try and sell championships,” said Cincinnati coach Michelle Clark-Heard, whose team was picked third. “A lot of programs will be that way. I think now you go back to that stage where you can sell your program to win a championship. That really excites me.”
South Florida coach Jose Fernandez was sad to see the Huskies go having spent the past 14 years in the same conference as UConn.
“Anyone who thinks them leaving our conference is good for women’s basketball doesn’t really know what they are saying,” Fernandez said. “It’s made us better playing them and I hope to continue to play them.”
Conference commissioner Mike Aresco echoed Fernandez’s sentiments.
“They’ve elevated our women’s league. We’ve prided ourselves on being the best women’s basketball conference because we have UConn,” he said.
Aresco understands the business and holds no grudge toward the Huskies for leaving. The AAC will have to find a new home for its conference tournament after this season as Aresco said they won’t be back at Mohegan Sun after this season.
“We are talking to the arena in Fort Worth,” he said. “We have some alternatives. The men will be there for the next three years. We’ve been lucky because you get spoiled with UConn at Mohegan when you get 30-35,000 fans for the tournament.”
TIP-INS: Houston, Temple, Tulane, Memphis, Wichita State, Tulsa, ECU and SMU rounded out the preseason poll. … Conference play will get an early start this season with UConn visiting Temple on Nov. 17 because the Huskies have too many nonconference games after the New Year to fit it in.
Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg