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Sports Then and Now

Connecticut Women’s Basketball Team is in a League of Their Own

Posted on December 22, 2010 by Dean Hybl

The Connecticut women's basketball team raised their winning streak to 89 games with a dominating victory over Florida State.

Much has been made of the Connecticut women’s basketball team passing the 1971-74 UCLA men’s basketball squad for the longest winning streak in college basketball history.

It is truly an amazing accomplishment and one that should be celebrated and given significant publicity.

However, instead of simply recognizing the greatness of coach Geno Auriemma and the Connecticut program, many (including Auriemma himself) can’t get away from the gender issues related to this being women’s basketball.

Some former UCLA players, sensitive to the legacy of their beloved coach John Wooden, said in advance that they hoped UConn would lose. Other have been quick to assert that since this is women’s basketball, UConn hasn’t been challenged every night the way I guess they think UCLA was.

While I can understand the first reaction by UCLA players, it reminds me of the members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins who crack open  a bottle of champagne every year once all NFL teams have lost a game. Much like the 1972 Dolphins, the legacy of Coach Wooden’s Bruins is secure and not in doubt just because another team has broken one of their records.

The argument that really frustrates me is the one about the Connecticut record not being as meaningful because they are playing against women.

In my opinion, for that argument to have any relevance the Connecticut women would have to really be a bunch of men out there in drag. But of course we all know that isn’t the case.

Just like UCLA did nearly 40 years ago, the Connecticut women are consistently beating everyone they play. However, unlike UCLA, Connecticut isn’t just winning games, they are demolishing the opposition. Of the 89 games, only twice has the margin been less than 10 points. The first time was last April in the NCAA Championship game against Stanford and the second time was earlier this season against #2 Baylor.

During their streak, UCLA won 15 games by single digits and twice won games by a single point. The Bruins defeated their opposition by 30 or more points an impressive 28 times during their streak. However, that number pales in comparison to the 52 times Connecticut has eclipsed the opposition by 30 or more.

And it isn’t like Connecticut is playing a bunch of low-caliber opponents. The Huskies have defeated 16 top-10 teams during the streak and many others have been in the top 25. It is difficult to compare eras and caliber of play, but UCLA did not face nearly as many ranked teams during their winning streak.

Please don’t think that I am arguing that the Connecticut women’s basketball team of today is better than the UCLA men of the 1970s or even that their streak is more impressive.

Simply put, the streak by UConn is different and doesn’t need to be compared or contrasted with UCLA or any other long winning streak. They all are different and deserve their own recognition.

Like the UCLA streak of years ago, someone will eventually defeat Connecticut. Heck, they have 10 games remaining in the regular season against ranked teams including at #8 Stanford (the last team to defeat them) and at #15 Notre Dame.

However, with two straight national titles and 89 straight wins the place for the Huskies in history is secure. Just like it was for John Wooden and UCLA long before they lost to Notre Dame to end their 88 game winning streak.

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