UConn women’s basketball boasts 94-game win streak

Elise Covert, Sports Co-Editor

It doesn’t seem to matter who is on the bench for UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma. Every team of five he puts on the court is a winning combo, and has been for 94 straight games as of Jan. 24.

Connecticut women’s basketball is arguably the one of the most successful collegiate athletics programs in history. Their current 94-game winning streak breaks their own previous NCAA record of 90 games without a loss. The team’s last defeat was against Stanford University on Nov. 17, 2014. That’s over 800 days ago.

Since then, the team has won 94 games. Ninety-one of those 94 contests were won by double-digit margins, and 34 of them were won on the road. Two of them were NCAA National Championships. The team’s average margin of victory is 38 points. Its largest deficit in that time was only 11 points, which they rallied back from to secure a victory. The numbers are absolutely astounding.

Despite all this success, UConn’s biggest critic and doubter might just be their very own coach, Auriemma. The team’s three top players from the 2015-2016 season—Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck—moved on to the WNBA, going 1-2-3 in the 2016 draft, respectively. It was the first time that athletes from the same university swept the top picks. These losses left Connecticut with a team of young talent entering the 2016-2017 season.

Auriemma purposely scheduled a challenging start this season, securing games against eight ranked teams in the first 15 games.  He was hoping that the team would be pushed to its limits, maybe even suffer some early-season losses to prove that winning in college basketball isn’t as easy as previous UConn contingents have made it seem. However, his team overcame the obstacles he set out and beat them all. They just keep winning.

The team looks for its fifth consecutive NCAA Championship this spring, which would break their own record for women’s basketball consecutive national titles. The most in NCAA basketball history is the UCLA men’s program with seven in a row during the golden years of famous head coach John Wooden.

So why isn’t there more national hype over this team’s success? It’s often said that women’s sports don’t receive enough attention, whether at the collegiate or professional level. But it might just be that this team’s dominance has become old news. They hold the top four longest winning streaks in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history. And since 2000 they are 84-7 in the NCAA tournament, winning 10 national titles.

Another theory for the underappreciation of UConn’s success surfaces when it’s considered what audiences look for when watching Division I college basketball: intense competition, constant drama, and late game heroics. We all want to watch games that keep us begging the commercial breaks to move faster and hold us precariously on the edges of our seats until the final buzzer sounds. Maybe the lack of hype is simply caused by the unfortunate fact that all of Connecticut’s blowout games just aren’t that exciting to watch. Not many people want to watch blowout games, even if that game showcases remarkable individual and collective performances, and even if that game is a slice of history.

This argument was brought to light after the team’s latest championship win in March 2016, when The Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy tweeted, “UConn Women beat Miss St. 98-38 in NCAA tourney. Hate to punish them for being great, but they are killing women’s game. Watch? No thanks.” Harsh and sexist criticism for such success, indeed, but his words ring true: the 2016 championship was watched by over 33 percent fewer households than the 2014 national championship game, according to CBS.

It’s unfair to attack perfection, but that’s exactly what Shaughnessy and countless others have done to this Connecticut team. That’s not to claim that this team and its historic run hasn’t secured its legacy and place in the basketball history books. There’s no denying the level of skill, dedication, and excellence that Auriemma’s teams have contributed to the game. But it does raise questions about how the presence of such a dominant program can negatively affect the women’s basketball fan base, game viewing numbers, and the competitive integrity of the game.

Nevertheless, real sports fans should realize that teams and streaks like this only come around once in a lifetime. You’re witnessing one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time. You’re witnessing history. Embrace it. Give credit where credit is due.

They always say that the real challenge in sports isn’t getting to the top; it’s staying at the top. Auriemma and his throngs of women’s college basketball legends have built a legacy at UConn, and they’re only looking forward. They can’t be deterred by the criticism. Ninety-five, anyone?

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