Connecticut is favored to win its fourth consecutive and 11th overall NCAA championship in women's basketball on April 5. How favored? Leonardo-winning-the-Oscar-for-"The Revenant" favored. If not more.
The Huskies are the overall No. 1 seed in the upcoming Big Dance. They have been adamantly stating their case as the best team with their play ever since their opening game of the season, a 100-56 victory at Ohio State on Nov. 16. That came just three days after the Buckeyes had put a scare in the No. 2 team in the country, South Carolina, before falling 88-80 on the Gamecocks' home court.
Since then, we haven't seen much in the way of vulnerability by the Huskies. And as they start the quest for six more victories to earn yet another national championship, what can stand in their way?
It doesn't look as if there is a team in their regional that will stop them. The Huskies should be well-rested and ready to go. They've played one game outside the state of Connecticut since Feb. 15: That was Feb. 20 at East Carolina. That won't change until the Women's Final Four.
With two NCAA tournament games in Storrs, Connecticut, and two in Bridgeport, barring a monumental upset they'll head to the Hoosier state as -- what else? -- the team that everyone expects to win.
The Huskies have been to the Women's Final Four eight consecutive years. The last time they lost short of the Elite Eight was 2005. The idea of the Huskies falling in the first or second round is inconceivable.
So what about once they reach Bridgeport? Well, they actually did lose an Elite Eight game there once. That was in 2006, when Duke beat UConn 63-61 in overtime. But that was a very different Duke team, and a very different UConn team.
This time around, it's possible the Huskies could face No. 4 seed Michigan State or No. 5 seed Mississippi State in the Sweet 16. The Spartans have allowed their opponents 69.3 points per game, so it would project they would have a hard time slowing UConn's offense.
By contrast, Mississippi State is a more defense-oriented team, holding their foes to an average of 54.3 points. However, the Bulldogs likely could struggle to keep up with UConn offensively, even if they could somewhat put the brakes on the Huskies' point production.
How about No. 2 seed Texas or No. 3 seed UCLA as a possible Elite Eight foe for the Huskies? Again, it's hard to see the underdog prevailing in either case. Texas faced UConn in the Sweet 16 last year and lost by 51 points. UCLA was in the WNIT -- which it won -- last year. And what if No. 6 seed South Florida makes a run all the way to the regional final? The Bulls have lost three times already this season to UConn.
If this all sounds just way too pessimistic in regard to a UConn upset, understand that it's just realism. The Huskies lost key performers Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes off last season's championship team, yet really didn't miss a beat this season.
The "big three" of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck have gotten strong supporting help in particular from sophomores Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams and freshman Katie Lou Samuelson.
Yes, coach Geno Auriemma had to bring along these younger players to take on some of the burden carried by seniors last season. But it's kind of like a director finding out that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler aren't available for a movie, but Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong are. You're not exactly replacing heavyweights with lightweights.
It's rare you'll see the Huskies not have five viable scoring options on the floor, which makes opposing defenses have to work incredibly hard just to slow down UConn. And then try to score a lot themselves.
Add to it that Auriemma and his very experienced staff bring such a calming amount of confidence to the team. The last time UConn entered the NCAA tournament coming off a loss was in 2013, when the Huskies fell to Notre Dame in the (old) Big East tournament title game. Yet Auriemma assured the UConn players then that he could show them how they were going to win the national championship. He did, and they did.
That was when the current seniors were freshmen, and it's safe to say they've learned the tricks of the trade for themselves. Auriemma has even joked at times this season that he just sometimes needs to get out of the way and let them do their thing.
But it is a joke, because he has been masterful in getting his teams to play better in the tournament than they have during the regular season -- even when they've been perfect in the regular season.
The Huskies are going for their sixth undefeated season, which is just nuts when you really sit down and think about how many things can go wrong in any give game for a team, even a great one. Yet UConn has now won 116 of their past 117 games, including 69 in a row.
Maybe something can halt them before another championship. But right now, it's difficult to conceive of that happening.