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Saturday, April 20, 2024
Many getting carried away with Huskies' win streak

Doyle

Many getting carried away with Huskies' win streak

They are being compared to the likes of the Jordan-era Bulls, the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins and even the UCLA basketball dynasty of the 70s. No, I'm not talking about the Patriots of the past decade, the late 90s Yankees, or any other great team—it's not even a men's squad. It just so happens that the latest reign of dominance in sports belongs to the UConn Huskies women's basketball team.

78-game winning streak and two straight undefeated seasons topped off with an NCAA championship has the talking heads of the sports world, well, talking: Talking about where the record-setting Huskies belong among the greatest teams of all time. Surely a team that bludgeoned opponents and, minus the championship game against Stanford, beat everyone by at least double digits is in contention, right?

Well, not exactly. UConn's win streak is jaw-dropping, but it's hard to be impressed when they simply roll over opponents year in and year out. Yes, it may seem counterintuitive claiming they aren't the best team ever because they stomp everybody, but in my eyes, the dominance of the Huskies represents the lack of parity in women's basketball more than the sheer talent of UConn.

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This is why they are simply one of, if not the greatest women's college basketball team of all time and nothing more.

The lack of depth in women's basketball is no more apparent than in the NCAA Tournament. Filling in a bracket basically consists of picking the top four seeds in each region to advance to the Sweet Sixteen and penciling in a combination of UConn, Stanford, Duke, Tennessee and Oklahoma for the Final Four.

For example, look at this past year's tournament. 12 of the top 16 seeds advanced to the regional semifinals and none of the Final Four teams were lower than a No. 4.

Compare that to the men's bracket, which had only eight of the top 16 teams advance to the Sweet Sixteen and two No. 5 seeds in the Final Four. Granted, it was an exceptional year of upsets on the men's side, but deep runs in the tournament by mid-majors like Butler are not unheard of.

One only has to look back four years to George Mason's remarkable Final Four appearance as an 11 seed to be reminded that Cinderellas, to some degree, are quite common in men's tournament. Further, three of the four teams in this years women's Final Four were present in the previous—UConn, Stanford and Oklahoma.

Now I'm not saying those three teams aren't deserving of their success, but one would think some other team in the field of 64 could pull off an upset somewhere. Here's where the argument of, ""Nobody can beat them so they belong in the category of greatest teams of all time,"" comes into play. But with talent spread thinner than Nicole Richie on a diet, there are too few teams able to knock off a powerhouse like the Huskies.

Who other than the other No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament could possibly get a ""W"" against a team that humiliated its opponents by an average of 35 points per game? Certainly not another team in the Big East, so it would have to be a scheduled non-conference opponent or their foe in the NCAA title game.

And, just for a moment, it appeared Stanford was about to do just that—upend UConn and its 77 consecutive victories. The half-time score? Stanford: 20, UConn: 12. You read that right: the Huskies scored a pitiful 12 points in the first half. And this is supposed to be one of the greatest teams ever across all sports?!

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they let it slip through their fingers and allowed UConn to jump to a 26-7 run out of the break en route to a 53-47 victory, thus solidifying their second straight perfect season. Maybe if undefeated seasons were rarer—there are six total, with UConn claiming four of those—I would be more impressed. But with the Huskies' third unbeaten campaign since 2001-'02, it seems they are becoming all too commonplace.

Year in and year out UConn attract the best recruits in the nation, which results in the same repetitive women's basketball tournament. Credit goes to head coach Geno Auriemma for establishing such a dominant program, but the winning streaks and perfect seasons are more of a, ""Let's see if we can beat our own records,"" sort of thing rather than witnessing history.

Are this year's Huskies one of, if not the best women's college basketball team of all time? Yes. Just don't start comparing them to Bulls quite yet.

Are you impressed by Connecticut's win streak? E-mail Jack at jpdoyle2@wisc.edu.

 

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