At first glance, there is no Philadelphia-area connection. It’s just pure women’s college basketball dominance. South Carolina was ranked No. 1 for the entire season under head coach Dawn Staley. It’s the first time a women’s basketball team didn’t drop from the top spot since 2017.
Then there is UConn. The winningest college basketball program of all time with a record 11 NCAA Division I National Championships led by head coach Geno Auriemma.
But before they reached the peak of college basketball, they started building their foundations in the Philadelphia area.
Dawn Staley doesn’t cry, she just wins
Staley was born in the projects of North Philadelphia at the corner of Diamond Avenue and 25th Street. She attended Murrell Dobbins Tech High School in Philadelphia and was USA Today’s National High School Player of the Year as a senior.
Staley went to the University of Virginia where she led the Cavaliers to three Final Fours and one National Championship game appearance. She went on to play eight seasons in the WNBA.
In 2017, the street was renamed Dawn Staley Lane. How did she get a street named after her? A basketball career that put her in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
Some highlights of Stayley’s Hall of Fame Career:
- 3 Olympic Gold medals as a player (96, 2000, 2004)
- 1 Olympic Gold medal as a Coach (2020)
- 6 time WNBA All-Star
- National Coach of the Year (2020)
- South Carolina coaching record: 331-103 (.763) in 13 seasons
- Temple University, head coach, 2000-08 172-80 (.683) in eight seasons. Four Atlantic 10 Tournament titles.
Before South Carolina played Mississippi State in the 2017 National Championship, she was asked if she would cry if the Gamcocks won. Styaley responded:
“I don’t cry,” she had said. “I’m from North Philly.”
Geno Auriemma – from Norristown to the Naismith Hall of Fame
Auriemma was born in Montella, Italy in 1954 and his family immigrated to Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 1961. He played high school basketball at Bishop Kenrick and the first thoughts of a coaching career began to form due to the influence of Kenrick coach Buddy Gardler.
“He was a hard kind of guy,” Auriemma said recalling Gardler who passed away in 2018. “A ‘my way or the highway’ kind of guy. Very, very stern kind of approach, where everything was going to be done exactly right, the way he wanted it to be done. There was no room for any deviation. Some people thrived in that kind of environment. I was fine with that.”
Auriemma started his coaching career at West Chester State University, an assistant at St. Joseph’s University, then returned to Bishop Kenrick as an assistant with the boys’ basketball team. In 1981 he took an assistant coaching position with the University of Virginia Cavaliers women’s team and within a few years, he recruited six All Americans.
The University of Connecticut hired Auriemma to head its women’s basketball team in August 1985. They only had one winning season in their history and would finish 12-15 in Auriemma’s first season in Storrs. It was his only losing season. Auriemma boasts the highest winning percentage (.885) among NCAA basketball coaches (any level, men’s or women’s) and was the fastest coach to 800, 900, 1,000 and 1,100 wins.
Auriemma was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. He has won three gold medals as a coach of the women’s Olympic basketball team.
2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament odds
Odds to win the Women’s NCAA Championship
(Odds at FanDuel PA Sportsbook as of March 15)
- South Carolina +185
- UConn +350
- Stanford +480
- North Carolina State +1100
- Full odds listed on the app
At PointsBet sportsbook in Pennsylvania, National Championship futures look a bit different. South Carolina is +200, followed by Stanford +425, UConn +450, and NC State +750.
South Carolina beat UConn 73-57 on Nov. 2021. Aliyah Boston led the Gamecocks with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Paige Bueckers had 19 points to lead UConn.
UConn Women’s Basketball NCAA Tournament betting preview
- 2021 National Player of the Year Paige Bueckers missed 19 this season for the Huskies with an anterior tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear. She returned on Feb. 25
- Regular season record: 25- 5, Ranked No. 5
- Leading scorers: Chrisyn Williams 14.6 ppg, Bueckers 14.3, Azzi Fudd 12.4
- UConn averages 74.8 ppg, and gives up 52.5 ppg
South Carolina Women’s Basketball NCAA Tournament betting preview
- South Carolina was upset in the SEC championship game by Kentucky. Dre’una Edwards hit a 3-pointer with five seconds left to put Kentucky ahead 64-62 and s=give the Wildcats their first conference title in 40 years.
- Regular season record: 29- 5, Ranked No. 1
- Leading scorers: Aliyah Boston 16.8 ppg, Destanni Henderson 11.3 ppg, Zia Cooke 11.2
- South Carolina averages 71.3 ppg, and gives up 51.7 ppg
Lead image Sean Rayford/AP