Three years ago: a first-round Pac-12 Tournament exit. Two years ago: a Women’s National Invitation Tournament championship. Last year: a Sweet 16 loss to Texas.
This year, if the trend were to continue, one would guess that UCLA women’s basketball would surpass the Sweet 16. However, to do so will require possibly the most monumental task in recent memory – topple No. 1 UConn, a team that has won 107 straight games.
The Huskies are quite possibly the most iconic women’s basketball program of all time. Helmed by 32-year coaching veteran Geno Auriemma, UConn has had stretches of 70 and 90 straight wins in addition its current 107-game streak.
It’s not only regular season games too. Since 2000, the Huskies have won 11 NCAA championships and are currently on a four-year winning streak.
If UConn does end up with another championship, it will be its third since last losing a game.
However, that’s neither here nor there as both the Bruins and the Huskies will have to make it out of the first and second rounds to even meet up.
At No. 4 seed, UCLA takes on a Boise State squad while the No. 1 seed UConn faces Albany.
According to FiveThirtyEight, there is a 97.1 percent chance that the Bruins will advance to the second round while the Huskies command a near-ridiculous 99.907 percent chance.
To advance to the third round, UCLA still holds a very promising 83% clip while UConn only falls to 98%. But once at the third round, where the two teams would meet, the Bruins take a tumble.
With a 96% chance to advance, UConn still holds steady but UCLA dips all the way down to 2.5%.
Purely by the numbers, the Bruins’ battle to surpass last year’s Sweet 16 milestone will be a heavily uphill one. Even if every Bruin fan’s dream comes true and UCLA topples the Goliath that is the Huskies, UCLA will, in all likelihood, still have to face a very strong Duke or Maryland team in the Elite Eight.
However, coach Cori Close’s team should not be discounted. The Bruins boast a pair of star juniors in guard Jordin Canada, who leads the team with 18 points per game, and forward Monique Billings who is averaging a double-double, 16.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.
Along with redshirt senior guards, Nicole Kornet and Kari Korver, the Bruins have a balance of younger headliners and veteran leadership.
With Close stating multiple times throughout the season that UCLA’s defense has always been one of its stronger suits, UCLA will take the continued high production on the defensive end of the court as well as a superb offensive performance to overcome, very literally, the best women’s basketball team of the decade.