I agree with you regarding UConn over the last few years, and maybe the next few years with Beanna Stewart. But I am not so confident about their program for the long haul.
The ACC will a be conference with excellent WBB. From a recruiting perspective you have, on the one hand Geno at UConn, on the other you have excellent academic institutions with very fine WBB programs. Not to mention Baylor, Stanford, etc.
The collapse of the Big East throws a big obstacle in front of UConn. They may do well, but to my mind it's not a given.
(w/edits for grammar and typos)
UConn is likely one SEC, Big Ten, or Big 12 raid on a couple of ACC schools from being invited to join the conference. The ACC discussed bringing in UConn last time.
Hopefully, the ACC will win the lawsuit over Maryland's exit fee, so there will less tempation for ACC schools to bolt for better offers, and so UConn can just boil in its own juices for awhile.
UConn might well be next in line, but I wouldn't count on it happening unless there are one or more additional defections from the ACC. And such additional defections would be a sign of further instability in college athletic conferences, so who knows what ripple effect they might have.
I think UConn's current conference situation is more of a long-term problem than a short-term one. UConn should be able to cobble together a reasonably competitive schedule for each of the next three years. For one thing, Louisville will be in their conference next year, and I'm sure they'll play home-and-home. It's possible that if UConn is stuck in the AAC for a long period of time, the conference's weakness (once UL leaves) could negatively impact UConn. But it's also possible a strong UConn will make the rest of the AAC stronger as well -- as was the case with the Big East over time.
Geno retires from coaching. He's got a resume better than all the ACC WBB coaches put together.
But when he can no longer coach, that's when UCONN WBB will begin to suffer from being in a weak conference. Jen Rizzoti is the most likely heir to Geno's position, but she's inexperienced as head of a major national program and during the transition phase, I could see UCONN losing top talent in the recruiting wars. If she weathers the transition and succeeds on the court with whatever talent she inherits and gains on the recruiting trail, she could regain UCONN's recruiting edge and extend UCONN WBB's dominance beyond Geno. But by then, WBB talent pool may finally be large and deep enough to have multiple dominant programs and some "Wichita States".
Lord knows 3 intensely close games this year toughened up and battle tested both UConn and ND prior to the tourney. If UConn blazes through an 18 game conference schedule filled with weaklings, that could lead to a lot of over-confidence. Had Dolson not banged the hell out of Anchowa and Wright three previous times, and had Mosqueeda-Lewis not been hounded by our defense earlier in the year, they wouldn't have been so prepared for the National Semi-Final game. They'll still be able to recruit at will, but it will be much harder to develop their talent against a bunch of nobobys in conference.
I do think Baylor would have beat UConn last year when they were on a mission (40-0) but had ND not stopped them in 2011 (when they couldn't beat us a fourth straight time in a season) then clearly they would have won 4 of 5 NCs and be seen as a dynasty already with more to come.
Still I think ND should be given more credit. As I read this Yahoo/AP article I wondered how ND could not even be mentioned as another Big East rival with all the love for UConn and Louisville. For God's sake we were 5-1 against them and were the last to beat both of them this season. Now they are predicting a UConn dynasty with Stewart just being a freshman. She had an outstanding run and I had posted my fear of how well she was playing. I agree with Rick Pitino who called her "one of the best freshman in basketball" in the article. Still Lloyd was consistently the best freshman starting all those games on arguably the second best team in the country that beat the National Champs 3 times and deserved her FOY award.
I actually think next year's ND team should be better than this year's despite losing Skylar. If our upcoming freshman class can grow up quickly combined with the 4 other starters returning (with already some strong back-ups) I think that team can seriously compete with UConn as long as they don't rely too much on one player. That was our Achilles heel this year. Although Kayla, Loyd, and Achonwa made some awesome plays and took over certain runs they still seemed to need Skylar's heady leadership and heart to inspire them. In some ways Skylar was the "head" of the team and if truly made completely ineffective, the team mostly struggled. Next year without Skylar they can focus on being a team with no one true leader and become more effective.
Essentially this is what UConn became to win the NC. With Dolson, M-L, Faris, and eventually Stewart they had several players who could step up and be the focal point and clearly were multidimensional by the NCAA tournament. My belief is ND brought that out of them during the second half comeback and their eventually lead at the Big East championship. I don't think we would have won had there been OT. Stewart showed what she could be once the pressure was OFF her and they were in desperation mode. Geno used that to create a much more complex team for the NCAAs whereas ND still operated with Skylar as the "one to see" who had to make her mark. She was still their focal point, coach on the floor. That was too much responsibility for one player.
Let's see what happens when Stewart is "the one to see" next year. She may not be up to it and they still need to develop a point guard. Also losing Faris cannot be underestimated as she made lots of things happen through her defense and truly was a champion. My hope is the 4 starters step up more as a group next year, bring those talented freshman along and keep UConn from becoming that Dynasty. I see Loyd as an incredible talent who can be the glue, quiet leader, but shouldn't become the "coach on the floor" like Skylar became.
Given your UCLA reference I do believe it is up to ND to stop UConn. Remember it was ND that was both the last to beat UCLA before there 88 game winning streak and we were the one who stopped it. That was my favorite athletic moment at the ACC as I attended my Freshman year. Women were just being admitted to ND then so I didn't get a chance to cheer on the women's teams yet. It's nice we can catch them on TV now being west coasters.
For all of UConn's dominance on Sunday, we shouldn't forget that ND has stood toe-to-toe with Goliath and come out victorious more often than not (recently speaking, of course).
It's also to forget the number of UConn fans that were telling us to enjoy our little run last year because after losing Peters, Mallory, and Novacel, that we'd have to regroup and face UConn's dynamic freshmen. Well, we found a way to do that somehow.
It is disappointing not to have cashed in on one of these Final Fours, but it's telling that aside from UConn, we've been the only other team to have made the last 3 final fours.
As ND fans, we're prone to believing we have short windows to take advantage of opportunities. Muffett is doing a nice job reloading with her program.