Sorry, UConn. And sorry, girls. But it doesn’t count.
Oh, 100 wins in a row sounds good, at least on paper. And from that standpoint the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team has the longest streak in modern sports history, a preposterous 100 games in a row. The Huskies accomplished the feat with a contested win over South Carolina on Monday night, a game noteworthy for lots of reasons. For starters, UConn won the game by a score of only 66-55, which is an upset unto itself. If there were a spread on this game — and I’m guessing that, somewhere, there was — South Carolina probably covered. So there’s that.
But the 100 wins in a row? Please. What a crock. As the New York Times noted in this thorough examination of the UConn streak, close games have been anything but the norm during the Huskies rampage across America. UConn’s average margin of victory in these games has been 38.4. More than half the victories (56 to be exact) have been by 40 or more points. (Yes, you read that correctly.) And the kicker of all kickers comes in how many close games Connecticut has played (or not) during the streak.
The correct answer, in this case, is two.
That’s the number of games decided by fewer than 10 points during the 100 consecutive wins.
Put another way, UConn has played three games decided by 10 points or fewer in its last 101 contests. One of them of was a loss to Stanford in November 2014, when UConn last lost a game. The other two are victories during the streak. When you get right down to it, that makes UConn 2-1 in “close games” over the last three years, which doesn’t sound like the kind of record that should get you ample coverage in the New York Times.
Tom Brady’s five Super Bowls? Now that’s a story. But UConn women blowing the doors off some other woebegone women’s program? Gag me. If I went down to the playground right now, I could easily win 100 straight of 1-on-1. Assuming I was playing against third graders, of course.
Defenders of women’s basketball take offense to this line of thinking, but so be it. To have a legitimate streak, well, you have to have legitimate competition. That’s sort of understood. None of that means that UConn has bad players or that the self-important Geno Auriemma (the UConn coach) is bad at what he does. Both are undoubtedly exceptional. But when more than half the games are decided by at least 40 points — and a stunning 71 of the 100 are decided by 30 or more — well, we can’t help but wonder if the deck is simply stacked.
As for the discussion of whether this is good or bad for women’s basketball, I might surprise you here: this is good. Fairly or unfairly, we don’t talk about women’s hoops much in this country. In the last few years, especially, it only really comes up in discussions about UConn’s dominance. If South Carolina played Tennessee or Notre Dame the other night, none of us would have noticed. But UConn was going for No. 100 in a row, so we all took note.
And this week, on this site, I’m obviously committing time to it.
But in terms of great American sports achievements? Let’s pump the breaks here. Last year, in the annual WNBA Draft, the first three players were all from UConn. Think about that for a minute. In basketball, often, the team with the best player wins because there are only 10 players on the floor at any given time and because one dominant player can stay on the floor for 90-100 percent of all play. UCLA under John Wooden had Lew Alcindor (or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and then Bill Walton. The UConn women had three of them… at the same time.
Is Auriemma a great coach? Probably. But if he swapped rosters with, say, No. 22-ranked South Florida and gave UConn a game, well, we might be able to buy in. But when UConn and USF played earlier this year, with Auriemma by the Connecticut bench, UConn won … by a score of 102-37.
Let’s say that again. No. 1 played, at the time, No. 20, and won by 65 points. And that game counts in the 100 straight?
Look, I get it. To pan the UConn women comes off as sexist, even misogynistic. But this has nothing to do with women’s sports, which have come a long, long way. This is about Connecticut having a monopoly in the sport. And the last time I checked, America was built on encouraging competition and challenge, not squelching it.
You want a real story?
Find me the team that beats the UConn women, preferably by 10 points or more.
Then I’ll really stand up and take notice.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.