It only took a minute of the third quarter Saturday afternoon before the Connecticut Huskies’ women’s basketball team had doubled up Albany in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Gampel Pavilion.
The score by then was 65-32. It would end 116-55. The only surprise, as always, was that the margin wasn’t bigger.
It was the Huskies’ 108th win in a row.
Think about that: 108 wins. In a row.
There has arisen a notion among the contrarians of sports that this winning streak somehow isn’t as meaningful as it seems, that because the Huskies are so much better than just about anyone that they should carry an asterisk next to the number. I suppose the people who believe this have their theories, and they actually believe them. This is what I see:
I see 108 wins in a row.
I see that it will be 856 days since they have lost a game (to Stanford, in 2014) by the time they play their second-round NCAA Tournament game Monday night.
I see that Geno Auriemma already had assembled an astonishing record of 880-134 before the streak began, which means if he had gone on a 108-game losing streak instead, he still would hold a lifetime winning percentage of .784, which is 19 points higher than Mike Krzyzewski’s lifetime percentage, 12 points higher than Dean Smith’s, 75 points higher than Bob Knight’s.
Instead, he has won those 108 in a row, so that winning percentage sits at .881. The highest winning percentage among men’s coaches? That belongs to Sam Burton, who won 83.3 percent of his games at West Texas A&M and coached his last game two weeks after Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated for the first time on March 4, 1933.
I see all of that, and it is hard — it is impossible — to reach any other conclusion than that this is one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of American sport. Tell me how much better UConn’s talent is than everyone else’s, and I’ll agree with you. Point out that women’s basketball at the collegiate level is terribly top-heavy, where just 12 or 14 teams ever have a chance of reaching the Final Four, and I’ll back you up on that.
But 108 is 108. A streak is a streak. And instead of finding ways to lob stink bombs at that streak, we really should be shaking our heads in wonder at it. Especially because the last 33 of those games have been collected by this year’s Huskies, a team that still is stuffed with great players — but a team that also lost three key players from last year’s national champions.
And, oh yes, those three players — Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck? They went 1-2-3 in the WNBA draft. Connecticut lost, arguably, the three best players in the nation.
And is still 33-0.
And has a streak that still stands, 108 in a row and counting. But sure, by all means, diminish the number because of all the blowouts that have been part of it. Ignore the fact that, despite playing in the AAC, UConn still schedules all comers in the non-conference schedule and beats them, too. Conveniently forget this was the year they looked to be “vulnerable” — and that still may be proven in the NCAA Tournament.
It is crazy to do any of that. You don’t have to be a fan of women’s basketball to be a fan of excellence, and perfection. It has been 41 years since a men’s team went undefeated. These Huskies will be trying to do it for the third year in a row in a few weeks. The ’72 Dolphins still are lauded. The ’71-’72 Lakers — winners of 33 in a row in the NBA — and ’71-’74 UCLA Bruins (winners of 88 straight) still are revered.
So, too, should these Huskies. Saturday was No. 108 in a row. Someone, somewhere, at some point will snap that streak. For now, it is intact. And it should be recognized for what it is: one of the great sporting achievements. Ever.
Whack Back at Vac
Kenneth Schlapp: Gregg Popovich is by far the best coach in basketball, but may have single-handedly ruined the league by starting the resting players trend.
Vac: It would be like finding out Connie Mack were responsible for September roster expansion, or that Vince Lombardi invented the Tuck Rule.
John Roque: Geometry doesn’t win basketball games, players do.
Vac: You now have the epitaph for the Phil Jackson Era. And it’s catchy.
@JoeStatMan64: Verne Lundquist makes any sporting event worth watching.
@MikeVacc: The moment you saw Verne on the call for Notre Dame-Princeton was the moment you knew there was a 99.4 percent chance the game would be a classic. Bless his heart.
Jack Beglane: Snow is coming and people are scrambling to buy shovels. What did they do with the shovels from the last storm, throw them away? How many shovels do they buy in a lifetime?
Vac: I mean, it’s a fair question.
No matter how you feel about that call at the end of the Seton Hall-Arkansas game, I think we can agree on this: No fan base deserves to have two important games in their rooting lifetime so critically affected by an official’s whistle. I suspect John Clougherty’s ears were burning a bit around 3:30 Friday afternoon.
It isn’t easy to write a book-length mea culpa, but that’s exactly what the great Scott Raab has done with “You’re Welcome, Cleveland,” a terrific bookend answer to “The Whore of Akron” that every sports obsessive fan on earth will relate to.
No team left standing in the NCAA Tournament plays harder than the Rhode Island Rams, and nobody in any gym anywhere coaches harder than Danny Hurley.
I know the Yankees’ spring training record isn’t supposed to mean anything. But there’s no way that it means nothing, right?
Don’t miss Double Play, an exclusive live conversation with Joel Sherman and Mike Vaccaro on Wednesday, March 22 at 6:30pm at Lucille’s at BB King in New York City. Click here to get your ticket.