• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Best Team Ever bracket: 2002 UConn team featuring Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi claims title

·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The best women’s college basketball team ever is from Connecticut.

Surprise, surprise.

The Huskies placed seven of their 11 national championship teams in the bracket, spread out from a No. 1 ranking to No. 15. They may be the game’s most successful powerhouse, but they aren’t the only ones.

It didn’t matter. The only UConn squads to lose in the bracket’s four rounds were those going against other UConn squads. The 2003 team beat the iconic 1982 Louisiana Tech team ranked No. 2. The 2014 iteration defeated the Tennessee Lady Vols teams of 2007 and 1998.

It was an all-Huskies Final Four featuring three of the four 2010s title teams Breanna Stewart led. But it was the 2002 squad of future WNBA royalty that won it all in the Yahoo Sports Best Ever women’s college basketball bracket.

How did that happen?

An ode to everyone not named UConn

We’re still in an era where a UConn team that isn’t ranked top-five in the Associated Press poll isn’t good enough and where a finish before the Final Four isn’t good enough.

Before that, though, there was Louisiana Tech. They won the first-ever NCAA title and added two more. The team that scored at least 100 in 11 games wasn’t a match for the 2003 Huskies.

Then there was the Tennessee teams of the Pat Summitt era. The Lady Vols are second in total titles with eight. The 2007 title squad with Candace Parker was crushed by the 2014 Huskies, earning only 26 percent of the vote. And then the ’98 team featuring Tamika Catchings and Chamique Holdsclaw, both Naismith Player of the Year winners, lost a tight one at 47 percent.

The next closest in titles is Baylor with three. The 2012 squad with Brittney Griner couldn’t make it out of the second round because of the ’02 Huskies.

It would almost have been worth it to put Connecticut on one side of the bracket and see which non-Huskies squads came out on top.

Why the 2002 Huskies are the best

Connecticut's 2002 NCAA Division I women's basketbal championship team and their coach watch a video Monday, April 1, 2002 at Storrs, Conn.,  of their 80-72 win over Oklahoma on Sunday, March 31. From left are: Diana Taurasi, Tamika Williams, Asjha Jones, Swin Cash, Sue Bird and head coach Geno Auriemma. The NCAA trophy and part of the net and the Sears Trophy sit in front of the platform.    (AP Photo/Bob Child)
Connecticut's 2002 NCAA Division I championship team — from left, Diana Taurasi, Tamika Williams, Asjha Jones, Swin Cash, Sue Bird and head coach Geno Auriemma — are Yahoo Sports' best of all time. (AP Photo/Bob Child)

The 2002 roster was starred by Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Swin Cash and reigned superior in the 2017 Hartford Courant readers poll for best UConn squad. They beat out their 2014 successors with 63 percent of the final vote.

That ’02 team had four first-round WNBA draft picks in Bird (No. 1, Seattle), Cash (No. 2, Detroit), Asjha Jones (No. 4, Washington) and Tamika Williams (No. 6, Minnesota). Taurasi, a sophomore in 2002, was taken No. 1 by Phoenix in 2004.

Cash retired from the WNBA in 2016 after a 15-year professional career that included three championships. Bird and Taurasi are still going, and in recent years have become spokeswomen for the league and Team USA. They’re the reason the national team went on a college barnstorming tour last fall, a way to build the team’s chemistry and bring attention to the game.

That gives them a little more voting power than a team that is still young in fans’ minds.

How 2002 vs. 2016 squads stack up

Both went undefeated. Both have Naismith Player of the Year winners. Both have future Naismith Hall of Fame selections. And both already have WNBA titles to their players’ names.

The 2016 team, the final of four consecutive title winners, was given the No. 1 seed because it has the second-largest margin of victory (39.7) in NCAA history. The team scored more points than the 2002 team (88.1 to 87.0) and allowed fewer (48.3 to 51.6). They also rattled off four consecutive titles and a record 111-game winning streak during a time when parity is growing in the women’s game.

But that also came with a switch to the American Athletic Conference, where the Huskies destroyed competitors and finished their time there a perfect 139-0. The 2002 squad played in a more competitive Big East conference.

Stewart best college player of all time

We’re also talking about team here. The team in 2002 was well-rounded and featured top WNBA talent still competing for championships 18 years later. It was the beginning of a two-decades dynasty, rather than the end of it.

Stewart led those squads and won accolade after accolade in those years, as well as during her early time with the Seattle Storm. She is arguably one of the best college players of all time, but her supporting cast — which did include Kia Nurse and 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier — wasn’t to the name recognition level of Bird and Taurasi, the WNBA’s leading scorer.

In time — say, 18 years — that could change.

More from Yahoo Sports: