TAMPA — They have the Wade Trophy winner in Breanna Stewart. They have the NCAA's top three-point shooter in Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. They have three WBCA All-Americans (Stewart, Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson) and WBCA high school player of the year Katie Lou Samuelson coming in next season. Their conference's best defensive player — Kiah Stokes, who is in the top 10 in the country in blocks — comes off the bench.
The UConn Huskies have dominated opponents, averaging a 41.9-point margin of victory en route to a 36-1 record and their eighth straight trip to the Final Four.
It is their 10th straight 30-win season. They have lost one game in the past two seasons and won the last two national titles, and coach Geno Auriemma is going for his 10th title, which would tie him with legendary UCLA men's coach John Wooden for the most NCAA basketball championships.
They will play Maryland (34-2) Sunday at 9 p.m. at Amalie Arena in the national semifinal game. They haven't played the Terrapins yet this season but they have beaten the other two Final Four teams, Notre Dame and South Carolina, by 18 and 25 points, respectively.
This is after losing two key starters, Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, from last year's national championship team.
"Early in the season, I was like, 'This team's pretty good,'" ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo said. "Then against South Carolina [which UConn beat 87-62], I was like, 'They're really good.' And then as I've seen them since the post-season started, I'm like, 'Wow, this team could be great.' They're playing really, really well."
Of course, great is measured by national titles in Connecticut. It's hard to talk about how great a team is until the season is done and the NCAA trophy is on the already crowded trophy shelf.
"That's how everything is determined in Connecticut," Lobo said. "To be in the conversation with the other nine, you have to win the championship."
The undefeated and national champion 2002 team is usually the benchmark used to determine a great UConn team. When the five starters left for the WNBA, Diana Taurasi willed the next year's team to a national title, too, and then did it again her senior year in 2004. In 2001, Shea Ralph and Svetlana Abrosimova both got hurt, effectively squelching the championship run and Notre Dame beat UConn in the national semifinal game.
So UConn has never won four titles in a row. This team could. The Huskies lose Mosqueda-Lewis and bring back everybody else.
But first, there is Sunday, and then Tuesday.
"This is a UConn team that I think is beatable but won't get beat," ESPN analyst Doris Burke said. "One thing I think is being overlooked here — everybody acknowledges it's not the deepest team in UConn history, but what adds depth to this particular unit is the versatility and consistency of Morgan Tuck. She has the ability to play the 3-4-5 positions on both offense and defense.
"So, to me, I would put Morgan Tuck — though the post-season recognition hasn't played out this way — I would tell you Morgan Tuck is one of the best players in the country and not getting the recognition she deserves. Her versatility and her ability to play multiple positions gives UConn depth in a very sneaky way. Their ability to move her around when they play the big lineup, is like adding a high level elite player to that bench."
Tuck, a redshirt sophomore forward who missed all but eight games due to knee surgery last season, is averaging 14.2 points and has started all but two games this year. Tuck is shooting 60.5 percent for the season, fourth in the country.
Auriemma said Saturday that his team has surprised him this season, mostly because of its youth.
"When you think about some of the great teams we've had, I would have to look back and go, 'Which ones relied on so many young players to play so many key roles?'" he said. "Kaleena's a senior, the other two guys [Stewart and Jefferson] are juniors. Tuck didn't play [last year]. Kia Nurse didn't play. Gabby [Williams] hadn't played. Kiah Stokes played a little bit. Saniya [Chong] didn't play last year in the NCAA tournament.
"So I don't know that we've been in that situation in a while, but ever since January, for whatever reason, this team just keeps surprising me. Just when I want to think, 'Man, it's going to be tough. Man, it's going to be hard. I don't know if we match up well with this team or that team' — they keep surprising me. They're a very resilient group."
As for the players, they are living in the moment. They are not thinking about legacies or if their team is better than the 2002 team or last year's team. They just want to win the next two games. They can look back when they're older.
"I think, while it's happening, we don't reflect," Stewart said. "Once the season is over, whether it's looking back on last season or looking back on this season, you're able to realize what an impact we've made and what we've done with this team and for women's basketball.