You may not have heard, but the UConn Women’s Basketball team is on a quest for their unprecedented 5th straight National Championship this weekend, and the school’s 12th overall. After winning four in a row, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for a team full of a young cast of characters taking on undefined rolls. They weren’t supposed to carry on the winning streak from the previous two years, a streak that’s now ballooned to 111 straight wins.
Head coach Geno Auriemma made sure they wouldn’t. He put together a rigorous non-conference schedule to test his young Huskies, never expecting his team to win them all.
They had to squeak by in a few, but they never dropped a game.
Friday, UConn Women’s Basketball team will play in its 10th straight final four appearance against newcomer Mississippi State. UConn is once again the heavy favorite to take home the trophy on Sunday. No one expected this young team to dominate the way they have, to pick up right where last year’s historic senior class left off.
But aside from the UConn faithful, instead of celebrating this team’s greatness, scores of people say they’re ruining the game. They say that Coach Auriemma gets all the best players and that’s why they steam roll over their competition.
This is what I have to say to them:
UConn gets good players, there’s no doubt about that. But so does Baylor. So does Stanford, and Notre Dame, and South Carolina. Next year, UConn has 2 of the top 15 recruits joining their squad. Tennessee has 3. In 2016, ESPN ranked UConn’s recruiting class at #14. They were 3rd the year before, behind Louisville and Duke. Connecticut gets good players, but so does everyone else.
I promise that there are not only 10 great basketball players playing college basketball at any given time. Even if there were, they’re not all punching their tickets to UConn. Washington’s Kelsey Plum just ended her senior season in the NCAA tournament as the highest scoring Division I player. Alum Maya Moore is the only UConn player in the top 12 scoring list. Brittney Griner, a prolific shock blocker out of Baylor a few years ago, comes in third.
What I’m getting at, is that other schools have the same talent that UConn has. What they don’t have is the same commitment to perfection. They don’t have the day in and day out grind that has made UConn into the team, the dynasty, and the legacy that they are today. Coach Auriemma has created a culture at the University of Connecticut that is unlike anything that has ever been done. And we should celebrate that! We celebrate the Hawks dynasty. We celebrated Michael Jordan’s prolific years with the Bulls. Why should this school’s accomplishments be any different?
I know that blow out games aren’t the epitome of entertainment. But I’ve always enjoyed watching good basketball. Watching a team who gets drilled into the floor at practice go out and play beautiful basketball is, well, beautiful. Watching UConn win games isn’t boring – waiting for the rest of the field to catch up is.
Don’t knock UConn for being an unconscious display of what it means to come as close to perfection as you can get. UConn is setting the bar for every other team, and it’s up to them to match it. It’s up to them to start demanding more of their players, to be as persistent and detail oriented as the UConn Huskies coaching staff. Duke, South Carolina, Stanford, Notre Dame, Baylor, and Maryland have all been right there. They have the talent and drive, but are missing the one factor that has completely separated UConn from the rest of the field for the past decade: an unrelenting determination to get better Every Single Day.
Can any of us actually understand how difficult it is to win 111 games in a row? To not have a single off night against opponents who want nothing more than to knock UConn off it’s thrown? Can any of us comprehend the enormous amount of pressure that is on these women when they put on a UConn uniform? They walk into this program knowing that they are not just expected to win, but that they are expected to never lose.
Those kind of guts deserve to be lauded.
What this team has done is remarkable. And it all comes down to Coach Auriemma and his staff’s incessant commitment to excellence and the pursuit of perfection.
111 and counting.