By Jeff Munn
I can’t believe we’re still talking about this, but here goes…
Is UConn’s streak of 100 straight wins good or bad for women’s college basketball?
You may know I’ve seen lots of women’s college basketball in the last 13 years and just because you asked, here’s my answer….
All of the above.
It’s good because….WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THE SPORT!
It’s bad because….many of the people who are talking women’s college basketball have A: never watched a game from start to finish and as a result, B: are drawing conclusions about the game that are highly inaccurate and unfair to the people who play and coach the sport.
For openers, it’s not as if UConn has NEVER lost a women’s college basketball game. They have. In fact, they lost one right under your nose. In December 2004, Geno Auriemma brought his Huskies to Wells Fargo Arena and lost to then-unranked Arizona State before 9,000 screaming fans.
The other thing the critics are losing sight of is the fact that, during this 100-game run, UConn has played the majority of their games against teams from the American Athletic Conference. Not the old Big East, not the ACC or SEC and certainly not the Pac-12. The AAC.
100!! A career-high 26 points from Gabby Williams helps No. 1 UConn to its 100th-straight win on Monday against No. 6 South Carolina! pic.twitter.com/00ITk0LHYD
— UConn Women’s Hoops (@UConnWBB) February 14, 2017
This is not to diminish UConn’s remarkable run. It should be celebrated, but go look at who they’ve played just this year.
Prior to Monday’s historic win over sixth-ranked South Carolina, UConn’s last four opponents, all in the AAC, were Temple, Tulsa, Cincinnati and SMU. Of the four, Temple got 12 votes in the most recent AP Top 25. The PAC-12? Three of their teams are in the top 11, while another, UCLA, is ranked 18th.
Prior to Monday’s game, South Carolina played Tennessee, at Kentucky, at Arkansas, and Auburn. Granted, none of those four teams are ranked either, but you don’t have to watch women’s college basketball 24 hours a day to figure out the AAC just doesn’t offer much of a threat to UConn’s win streak.
We weren’t talking 100-game win streaks in the days when UConn was in the old Big East, meeting the likes of Notre Dame, Louisville, Rutgers, Syracuse and DePaul twice and sometimes three times a year (For those who don’t follow the sport, those teams are all really good. Notre Dame was the last team other than UConn to win the NCAA Championship, Louisville is a consistent top 25 program as is Syracuse and DePaul, and Rutgers has beaten UConn not once but twice in the last six years).
UConn’s average margin of victory in the AAC: 33.8 points. Their last year in the Big East: 29.2, but keep in mind, that includes three losses to Notre Dame, and five games decided by less than 10 points.
What’s UConn’s record in AAC games decided by ten points or less? We don’t know. In the four years they’ve been in the conference, they haven’t played one.
Actually, their domination of the AAC is a testament to Auriemma’s coaching. He’s managed to keep a roster of five-star student-athletes focused while every one of their conference games is decided by the end of the first quarter (Note to critics, they don’t play halves in women’s college basketball. They play four 10-minute quarters).
Auriemma is a great coach. He’s obviously won multiple NCAA titles as well as Olympic gold medals. Lots of us think WE could coach UConn with all the talent they have, but the plain fact is WE couldn’t.
UConn is a great program, and has the hardware to back it up, but even the most ardent Husky fan knows if their team had to play UCLA, Stanford, Oregon State, Washington and Arizona State, along with the rest of the Conference of Champions (hey, if Bill Walton says it, it must be true) a minimum of two times a season, they’d still win a lot more than they’d lose, but they wouldn’t go undefeated.
Someone in Phoenix sports media suggested a large amount of Division 1 women’s college basketball coaches should lose their jobs for not being able to beat UConn. I guess that person doesn’t include ASU’s Charli Turner Thorne, Stanford’s Tara Vandeveer, Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw, Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer or Baylor’s Kim Mulkey on that list of coaches who need to go. They HAVE beaten UConn. Losing them WOULD hurt the sport.
Someday, maybe this year, UConn’s streak will end. Someday Geno Auriemma will step down, and women’s college basketball will be just fine. Attendance continues to go up – the Washington women’s team drew 6,000 Sunday night for its game against ASU – and TV ratings have never been better. You have nothing to complain or worry about.
…but it is nice of you to notice.