Like a broken record
The 1970s UCLA Bruins can rest easy. The UConn women didn’t break the record for longest winning streak by a D1 men’s college basketball team. And there is no record for longest winning streak by a D1 team men’s or women’s. What the UConn women did was extend their record winning streak for a D1 women’s team to 89-and-counting.
Sorry, but 89 of one isn’t necessarily more than 88 of the other, and vice versa. I’m not interested in whether UCLA’s 88 in the early 1970s were tougher or easier or UConn’s 89 in the 2000s were tougher or easier. Let’s just say it this way – men’s and women’s basketball are both basketball, but otherwise they’re different sports.
The men play faster and much looser, which isn’t always a good thing, while the women play more controlled and a much better team-oriented game, which isn’t necessarily better or worse, it just is what it is.
Both the UCLA teams of the ’70s and the UConn teams of today were/are dominant in their eras. Both attract the top kids from across the country, and both set the standard by which all others are measured and measure themselves.
And both had/have to play with a huge weight on their shoulders in the form of the pressure of a long winning streak that everybody knows was/is eventually to be broken.
Don’t underestimate the importance of that. Or what I heard UConn star Maya Moore say after a game last week about how other teams are able to give themselves a new reason for motivation to work harder from defeat, and how she and her teammates try to replicate the same from minor defeats in practice – losing a scrimmage or making a mistake in a drill.
That next bit of motivation in the form of a UConn defeat will come – maybe this year, maybe next year, but it will come. The UCLA dynasty faded over time, as will UConn’s. Men’s basketball is better for the parity that has come to its sport, and women’s basketball … well, I think it’s better in the here and now because UConn’s success has shone a spotlight on a sport that is ready for prime time.
The next most important thing for the sport is that it gets to the point where men’s hoops is now. Nobody can imagine a men’s team winning anywhere near 88 straight games. That UCLA record will stand forever, and whatever the number gets to for UConn will likely stand forever as well.
Column by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.