The Connecticut women’s basketball team locked up yet another Big East title last night, winning their 72nd consecutive game with a 60-32 demolition of West Virginia. Since the Huskies’ dominance over their sport is well-documented, I’ve decided to present an actual challenge to the ladies from Storrs.
With the NCAA’s spring season getting under way, let’s see how the current UConn streak matches up against two other reigning dynasties in Women’s Division I: Northwestern Lacrosse and North Carolina soccer.
Round One: Championships
Perhaps the most important metric, it’s worth getting out of the way first. Here’s the tale of the tape:
Geno Auriemma’s girls have been one of the best teams in basketball for about two decades now, but in terms of national championships, the Huskies current run is lacking. Sure, they won the title last year and will most likely win it again in a few weeks, the streak comes at the end of a four-year drought for Connecticut (an eternity for Auriemma), which included back-to-back wins by archrival Tennessee.
The Wildcats have the most impressive current streak of the three, with five straight titles so far and little signs of stopping. While they still don’t have the longest streak in their own sport (Maryland won seven straight from 1995-2001), Northwestern’s run is already impressive.
Judging North Carolina’s current streak is a bit tougher. If you want to talk about more current events, the Heels have two consecutive titles and three of the last four. But that would leave out a large part of the picture. Since their victory in the first Women’s NCAA championship in 1982, North Carolina has won 20 of the 28 championships in the sport’s history.
WINNER: North Carolina. The ‘Cats may have five in a row now, but since UNC soccer has yet to go more than two years without a title, you could easily say that they’ve been building upon the same dynasty for three decades.
Round Two: Dominance
If you’ve watched ESPN at all this week, you’ve already heard Connecticut’s story. Not only have they won 72 straight, they’ve beaten every team they have faced by double-digits. They’ve beaten 23 ranked opponents. Their average margin of victory has been over 32 points per game. And don’t forget that they broke their own record, set less than a decade ago.
The Wildcats weren’t squeaking by their opponents, either. Over their five year run, Northwestern has put up a 106-3 record, never losing more than one game per season. The Wildcats are working on a consecutive wins streak of their own, currently at 33 straight, and they haven’t lost at home over the five-year span. Not to mention that they’ve scored over 1,000 goals more than their opponents.
Again, North Carolina poses a technical challenge. Do you count only the current run of two consecutive championships, with an overall record of 48-4-3? Or do you look at their remarkable history, which includes a stretch of seven straight undefeated seasons (1986-1993), 15 national players of the year (including every one from 1989-2000), and hundreds of All-Americans?
Winner: UConn. All three teams are undeniably impressive. But 72 wins and counting by such large margins is almost obscene, especially in a competitive sport like basketball. And considering that clear leader Maya Moore still has another year left in her career, I wouldn’t expect the Huskies to let up anytime soon.
Round Three: Shock factor
It’s one thing if the team you expect to win every year does. It doesn’t make headlines when the Yankees, Lakers, and Colts make the playoffs. So I’m taking a third category into consideration, giving extra credit to teams that provide a pleasant surprise.
You could say that any team winning 72 straight is surprising, but as I mentioned earlier, the Huskies broke their own record, which they set less than 10 years ago. And ever since their first championship in 1995, Connecticut has been one of the most consistently strong teams in basketball. There’s no shock value here.
The same goes for UNC. Although you could argue that any team winning 20 of 28 championships is surprising, the Tar Heels are victims of their own success. They’ve won so many titles that it’s more of a shocker if they don’t win.
The Wildcats, on the other hand, came out of nowhere with their five-peat. Not only had Northwestern never won a title before 2005, no team from a state without an Atlantic coastline had ever done it. They not only broke into what had previously been considered a regional sport, they took control of it and haven’t let go.
And the winner is…
Northwestern. North Carolina clearly has the better history. And the Huskies are such a powerful team they could probably start competing in the men’s league. But in terms of how each dynasty stands today, the Wildcats are most impressive. Five straight titles and counting, a .972 winning percentage over those five years, and no end in sight? Now that’s a dynasty.