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UConn Women's basketball team breaks the UCLA record for longest winning streak in the NCAA.
December 21, 2010 9:24 PM   Subscribe

The UConn Women's basketball team just won 89 games in a row. Doing this broke a 36 year old NCAA record.

John Wooden's UCLA college basketball team set a NCAA record in the 70's by winning 88 games in a row. Tonight the UConn women's team broke that record by winning their 89th straight game.

The UConn coach, Geno Auriemma, talks about the significance of the winning streak. So do the former UCLA players.

If you've never seen UConn play before, they're worth a look (UConn in white). Not least because they're led by Maya Moore (Why Is She So Good?), who--in a long line of good UConn players--may be the best yet.
posted by colfax (39 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Comparing this to UCLA is sort of silly, there are llike 10 competitive teams in Womens' college hoops. I say this as a HUGE UCONN fan, and I've sent two kids there. Still a great streak and a wondeful achievement for the Lady Huskies.
posted by sfts2 at 9:28 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Shoulda watched the video before commenting...

Go Huskies!
posted by sfts2 at 9:31 PM on December 21, 2010


"Gracious sakes alive!"

/Wooden swearing
posted by Burhanistan at 9:45 PM on December 21, 2010


Yeah, but try as they might, they won't be able to get Connecticut back into New England. (Of course, that might be the only thing they can't do. I mean, wow.)
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:57 PM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can someone here explain (or link to an explanation of) why UConn is so much better than the rest of the teams in the league? Watching them play it seems to me that they're just playing at a completely different level from their opponents. They haven't just won 89 games; the majority of the time they've completely dominated. I seem to recall they've won half those games by 20 points or more.

What I can't figure out, though, is just what combination of factors has led them to where they are. Auriemma's a great coach, sure, but there are other great coaches (Pat Summitt and Tara VanDerveer come to mind). Maya Moore's clearly ridiculously good, but, again, other similarly dominant players have led their teams to great seasons -- not historic ones.

So what are the theories on why UConn has been so amazingly dominent? Is it just lucky timing? Have they figured out something new about women's basketball? Is their streak just so intimidating that everyone's decided to roll over? Any ideas?
posted by jacobian at 10:05 PM on December 21, 2010


Some people claim that women's ball today is less competitive than men's back then. (So the new record is not as impressive.)


So how competitive was men's college basketball back then? In football college at the time was dominated by a relatively small number of programs. Was basketball the same?
posted by oddman at 10:14 PM on December 21, 2010


I love Gino. That is all.
posted by rtha at 10:25 PM on December 21, 2010


re: jacobian
A lot of it is self fulfilling prophecy. Top tier programs are able to attract great players based on their track record of success, and great players help maintain that success.

More important is that the female player pool is much smaller than the player pool for men's sports. Think about how many high school boy's basketball teams there are plus the summer camps. There is a huge pool of players to select from. Girls don't have that vast and intricate foundation to start from.

The ability to attract fantastic players is a huge aspect of UCONN's success. The biggest criticism levied against Geno is that he simply brings players together and lets them do their thing during gametime, and isn't that great of a coach when the clock is ticking. I'm sure he thinks a lot about that as he counts the national titles and huge contract.

It's a shame that Pat Summit has let her rivalry with Geno ruin the Vol-Husky series. The dominance of the sport by one team is not good. For a few years, it seemed like the gap between UCONN and the rest of the sport was shrinking, but that time seems to have passed.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 10:31 PM on December 21, 2010


So what are the theories on why UConn has been so amazingly dominent?

I'm hardly a college sports expert, much less women's hoops, but I think a big part of it is in the talent recruitment process. Everybody knows that UConn is the leader in women's basketball, and if you're a good player, you're competitive and want to be on the best team, have the best teammates. Certainly every top prospect will at least listen to UConn, when State Tech or whoever will have a much harder time even making contact.

Additionally, because the school is known for its' basketball and especially for women's basketball, the sports presumably get every preferential treatment available; facilities, funding and support.

It's a positive feedback loop; the same thing that Google had (and may well still have). The smartest nerds were hired by Google, and smart nerds like hanging out with other smart nerds, so everybody starts sending their resumes in to Google, leaving Microsoft and the rest with the people who didn't make Google's cut. If you were a soul singer in 1965, Motown got your demo, and if they didn't bite, you would try elsewhere.

On preview, what QuarterlyProphet said.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:33 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


So how competitive was men's college basketball back then? In football college at the time was dominated by a relatively small number of programs. Was basketball the same?

Well, John Wooden had Kareem and Bill Walton so really you were going to lose when you played them. But an often overlooked facet is recruiting. People want to play for a good coach.
Like Red Auerbach and Phil Jackson in the pros.
My money is always on Pat Summitt and the Vols though.

Have they figured out something new about women's basketball? Is their streak just so intimidating that everyone's decided to roll over?

There isn't anything different between women's basketball and men's basketball. (Excepting dimorphism and the smaller ball) but I think that the better players are more attracted to playing for a team where they might get noticed and get to play for a living. UConn is a team that gets a lot of attention.
posted by vapidave at 10:42 PM on December 21, 2010


Can someone here explain (or link to an explanation of) why UConn is so much better than the rest of the teams in the league?

Hmmm. Maybe the whole athletic program is tainted? Hard to say.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:42 PM on December 21, 2010


My money is always on Pat Summitt and the Vols though.

Oh, how I hate her! I respect her, but I always root against the Vols.
posted by rtha at 10:54 PM on December 21, 2010


Meh. From 1953 until 1995, the Washington Generals played against the Harlem Globetrotters, winning only six games, the last in 1971, and losing more than 13,000.

And most of those games won by the Globetrotters weren't even close!
posted by three blind mice at 11:03 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Go you Huskies!
posted by eugenen at 11:28 PM on December 21, 2010


Also, this reminded me of my all-time favorite newspaper headline, and I was disappointed to learn these are not the same Husky women.
posted by eugenen at 11:29 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, how I hate her! I respect her, but I always root against the Vols.

Yeah I'm usually one for the underdog but dang: "She is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, men or women in any division".| 1044–197 (84.13%). That is better than fucking marvin (81.4%) at Nethack.
posted by vapidave at 1:04 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is a great deal of difference between the style of play in men's vs womens basketball. Women's basketball is much closer to the way that the UCLA teams in question would have played. Today? I'd say a decent D3 mens team would smoke them 99 times out of 100 and boy, I'd love to see that other game.
posted by sfts2 at 4:44 AM on December 22, 2010


Before UConn, there was Wayland Baptist University.

"... Although UConn can match U.C.L.A.’s major-college record of 88 consecutive victories Sunday against Ohio State at Madison Square Garden, the Huskies remain far short of the 131 straight games that Wayland Baptist won from 1953 to ’58 — a streak that began early in the first term of the Eisenhower administration, remained aloft as McDonald’s golden arches first appeared along with Dear Abby and Frisbees, then fell from orbit two months after Sputnik. ..."
posted by Carol Anne at 5:27 AM on December 22, 2010


Can someone here explain (or link to an explanation of) why UConn is so much better than the rest of the teams in the league?

My alma mater Rutgers is usually decent competition but they haven't been doing very well for the last two seasons when UConn got the streak. Rutgers beat UConn in 2008, and lost by only one point in the NCAA tourney that year. Since then it's not been pretty — if they hold you to 20 points in the first half, you aren't going to win the game. Like others have said, it's all about recruiting. When you lose players that now play in the WNBA and were on the USA Olympic team, that's hard to replace.
posted by smackfu at 5:40 AM on December 22, 2010


A huge accomplishment for UCONN, regardless of the debate about difficulty. Anyone with two eyes can see how hard the team worked for it.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:43 AM on December 22, 2010


why UConn is so much better than the rest of the teams

It's the mascot, obviously. Compare.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:51 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Can someone here explain (or link to an explanation of) why UConn is so much better than the rest of the teams in the league? Watching them play it seems to me that they're just playing at a completely different level from their opponents. They haven't just won 89 games; the majority of the time they've completely dominated. I seem to recall they've won half those games by 20 points or more."

For the same reason bill gate's house is bigger than yours, the same reason why duke always wins, and the same reason that the world goes 'round; money...lots of it.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:52 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Of course, that might be the only thing they can't do. I mean, wow.)

Dunk.
posted by timdicator at 6:16 AM on December 22, 2010


Money? Duke always wins? I guess.

Its recruiting, and the nature of women's basketball. The talent pool is shallower (larger standard of deviation), and the number of competitive programs is vanishingly small. Early on, with some small success, UCONN, like Tenessee, made this sport a priority, which attracted the best players and its become a self-fulfilling prophecy. All of the best players are going to flock to the 4-5 (not 10 - witness the margin of victory vs Ohio State currently ranked 10th) programs that actually have a chance.

NCAA championships by school
Wins School Championships
8 Tennessee 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007, 2008
7 Connecticut 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010
2 Louisiana Tech 1982, 1988
Southern California 1983, 1984
Stanford 1990, 1992
1 Old Dominion 1985
Texas 1986
Texas Tech 1993
North Carolina 1994
Purdue 1999
Notre Dame 2001
Baylor 2005
Maryland
posted by sfts2 at 6:17 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wake me up when they all graduate. Then I'll send my congratulations their way.

Will also send congratulations if the team graduates within one standard deviation of the rate for the general student body, while being held to similar academic standards.
posted by schmod at 8:00 AM on December 22, 2010


Oh that Connecticut--it's just trying to redeem itself following their shameful exclusion from New England.

Seriously, though, these ladies can play.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:16 AM on December 22, 2010


Dunk.

False.

Wake me up when they all graduate. Then I'll send my congratulations their way.

Will also send congratulations if the team graduates within one standard deviation of the rate for the general student body, while being held to similar academic standards.


The 2010 Graduation Success Rates published by the NCAA report that the UConn Women's basketball players posted a 92% graduation rate (the national average for athletes is 79%. UConn's general graduation rate is 78%. It's not due to UConn's lowered standards, either: the UConn Men's basketball team is ranked 4th in the nation, yet their graduation rate is only 31%.)

That they do that while also excelling at sports is impressive, I think, considering how many students don't even participate in clubs.

Any other dismissiveness towards women athletes and this accomplishment that we want to get out of the way?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:27 AM on December 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


If I play Madden NFL on Easy, I can go 16-0 every season. The 2033 Dallas-Mexico City Cowboys have won 19 straight Superbowls and 22 of the last 23. Thier QB, Troy RomosmithIrvin, just made his 17th straight Pro-Bowl at age 44, breaking his own NFL record (set in 2031) with 79 touchdown passes.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:29 AM on December 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


God, I hate the Cowboys.
posted by grubi at 8:48 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Any other dismissiveness towards women athletes and this accomplishment that we want to get out of the way?

This x 1,000

UConn has not lost 2 games in a row in 17 years. You'll note that a number of other teams have won the championship in that time. The conclusion I draw from this is that there are a good number of teams that can beat them at any given time.

Indeed, while they're ranked number 1 right now, there's a reasonably good chance that #2 Stanford is going to soundly thrash them in a week or two. The team is pretty young right now.

Solon and Thanks mentions the UConn men's 31% graduation rate. That is with tutors. UConn women's basketball players have to study the hard way like everybody else. Academic excellence is expected of the players.

Maya Moore (featured in Salon and Thanks' Dunk link) is the most recent remarkable athlete in a program that has featured more than its share of remarkable athletes, including Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, and Rebecca Lobo. She scored 41 points in the win last night.

This program's achievement is remarkable. The "yeah, well its not so impressive because men are better neener neener" attitude is pure sexism.

Coach Wooden, of UCLA winning streak fame, apparently held a fairly high opinion of this achievement. The top link isn't opening for me, so here's the NYT link. Quote in question:
Greg Wooden, a grandson of the legendary U.C.L.A. coach, who died in June, attended Tuesday’s game and said his grandfather would have been “absolutely thrilled” to see the Bruins’ streak broken by a women’s team, especially one as unselfish as UConn.

Late in his life, Wooden said, his grandfather “thought the best basketball was played at the collegiate level and it wasn’t by the men.”
Wooden, presumably, would know what sort of basketball he was playing during his streak. He apparently believed this achievement was comparable.

I'd say he was a bit more of an expert on enormous winning streaks at college level basketball than the rest of us.

Anyhow, sorry to go off here, but it irks me that so many otherwise intelligent people seem to feel the need to place a "but [women /= men]" at the end of "they're an impressive program."
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:54 AM on December 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


So what are the theories on why UConn has been so amazingly dominent?

Because they won't play Tennessee (or vice versa).
posted by madajb at 9:30 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Auriemma smirked when someone wondered if it was Summitt on the line. Then he told President Obama: "We have not lost since you were inaugurated."

The Trinity College squash team could say that to Obama and Bush. Sure, small sport, but still, 12 years of dominance. Dang.
posted by Etrigan at 10:05 AM on December 22, 2010


Is there some kind of service that will alert me when UConn plays Texas A&M?
posted by Wolfdog at 10:41 AM on December 22, 2010


@Solon and Thanks: I've never been happier to have been pwn3d.

I incorrectly assumed that UConn's women's team was held to the same miserable academic standards as their men's team. I am very happy to stand corrected. This is truly an accomplishment for those ladies.
posted by schmod at 11:12 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Joey

Your superior empathy and egalitarian spirit is acknowledged. You're clearly grinding an axe here, one can only guess why. I didn't see anything even approaching the attitude that you allude to in this thread. BTW, many college athletes at all levels are tutored, including UCONN womens basketball. My son played D2 baseball and has tutoring etc. They all travel, thus its not so much of an advantage over the rest of the student body. By the way, he is on the Dean's list while playing sports (2 years at UCONN btw), and I do sense a dismissive attitude towards male scholastic athletes of all stripes. It takes an incredible amount of dedication to play at any level of college sport and go to school.

I went back through this thread quickly and didn't see anyone dismiss the streak because it was men versus women. I did dismiss the comparison to UCLAs streak. Its just not particularly apt. Wooden enjoyed the cerebral game involving ball movement, and defense, which is not often a focus in todays men's play, which is often above the rim - as they say. John Wooden was such a classy guy, he would have said that even if he didn't think it probably, and I wouldn't be surprised if he did feel that way, because his teams played that way, AND were above the rim. Hence the streak.

Anyone who thinks today's women's and men's basketball are remotely comparable games has most likely never stepped on a court. I know I believe that is an incredible streak, but it would be a lot more incredible if 80% of their schedule wasn't simply and obviously not competitive, more like UCLA.

As far as the man/woman thing goes, let me put it like this. I'm 6'5". I could play the best 5'3" 12 year old one-on-one player in the country, draining threes, ankle breaking cross-over, the whole nine yards. I would kill him and I sorta suck. Thats the level of difference between the average male basketball player, and the best women's. Its just height and strength, maybe some level of quickness and generally the amount of time the average player spends on the court in the prior 18 years. Nothing more. Now thats for a hypothetical average team.
posted by sfts2 at 11:13 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


"As far as the man/woman thing goes, let me put it like this. I'm 6'5". I could play the best 5'3" 12 year old one-on-one player in the country, draining threes, ankle breaking cross-over, the whole nine yards. I would kill him and I sorta suck. Thats the level of difference between the average male basketball player, and the best women's. Its just height and strength, maybe some level of quickness and generally the amount of time the average player spends on the court in the prior 18 years. Nothing more. Now thats for a hypothetical average team."

Anyone interested in reading more about the women vs. men physical ability divide should put it upon themselves to read "Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan." There's a chapter in there that shows just how big that divide is.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 11:56 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, and there is a reason that flyweights don't battle heavyweights, but that doesn't make a flyweights record less impressive than a heavyweight record.

I apologize if I come across as having an axe to grind here. I have been reading a week of sports blog comments dismissing this accomplishment and its a sore point. Furthermore, I really wasn't trying to posture as better than anyone. The UConn team just accomplished something amazing (and are still in the midst of doing it).

I recognize that the comments here have been comparably mild, but man the "who cares they're just girls" sentiments that you'll find elsewhere online... Well, they have me pissed off and a tad oversensitive.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:19 PM on December 22, 2010


Last year's NCAA tournament final was pretty close. The streak could have easily ended there since UConn played pretty terrible in the first half.
posted by smackfu at 12:23 PM on December 22, 2010


And Stanford has broken UConn's 90-game streak, 71-59.
posted by rtha at 8:46 PM on December 30, 2010


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