Debating UConn's Record Winning Streak

Women's basketball team ties UCLA men's consecutive win streak. But are they comparable?

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The University of Connecticut women's basketball team defeated Ohio State 81-50 yesterday at Madison Square Garden. With the win, the Huskies tied the 88-game winning streak posted by the UCLA's men's team from 1971-1974. UConn will have a chance to break the record when they take on Florida State in Hartford on Tuesday. But is it really possible to compare dominance in the women's basketball to dominance in men's basketball? Around the web, debate rages:

  • Unanswerable  This is one of those sports arguments that exists solely to rile people up, writes ESPN's Graham Hays. Those who want a definitive ruling on "Connecticut's worthiness to share a record with a UCLA team transitioning from contemporary icon to historical legend as the years pass might as well fight the hordes at FAO Schwarz." Faced with a choice between "arguing the merits of two teams and two sports" and "celebrating both of them and those like them," Hays will go with the latter. "At this time of year, in particular," he notes, "it really ought to be an easy choice."
  • More Similarities Than Differences  The Hartford Courant's John Altavilla notes that while the UCLA and UConn dynasties are separated by gender and era, they emerged under similar circumstances. "UConn's streak has come along at about the same time as UCLA's in the development of the men's game," he explains. "This season will be the 30th that the NCAA has held a women's tournament. UConn has won seven championships since 1994-95, three straight from 2002 to '04 and back-to-back titles the past two years. UCLA won the second of seven straight national titles in 1968, the 30th season the NCAA held a men's tournament. [UCLA coach John] Wooden's teams won 10 national titles from 1967 to '73." While this doesn't eliminate the apple-to-oranges dilemma of comparing a men's team to a women's team, Altavilla argues the success of the two programs at similar points in the evolution of the sport bolsters Wooden and Auriemma's standing as the "Henry Ford and Thomas Edison of their eras--architects, innovators and pace-setters."
  • Missing the Point  Reframing this story as a debate regarding the merits of men's basketball versus women's basketball "completely misses the mark," writes Time's Sean Gregory. "No one is saying the women are better than the men," Gregory points out. "A player of [UConn forward] Maya Moore's talent comes around every decade or so, but she's no match for [UCLA center Bill] Walton, who's a nearly foot taller than Moore. But sustained excellence against a set of peers should be cheered, whether you're talking about men vs. men, women vs. women, Little Leaguers vs. Little Leaguers."
  • Elephant in the Room  Never at a loss for words, UConn coach Geno Auriemma took the position that sexism was at the root of the entire debate. From his press conference after yesterday's game:
"I just know there wouldn't be this many people in the room if we were chasing a woman's record. The reason everybody is having a heart attack the last four or five days is a bunch of women are threatening to break a men's record, and everybody is all up in arms about it. All the women are happy as hell and they can't wait to come in here and ask questions. All the guys that loved women's basketball are all excited, and all the miserable bastards that follow men's basketball and don't want us to break the record are all here because they're pissed. That's just the way it is. Because we're breaking a men's record, we've got a lot of people paying attention. If we were breaking a women's record, everybody would go, 'Aren't those girls nice, let's give them two paragraphs in USA Today, you know, give them one line on the bottom of ESPN and then let's send them back where they belong, in the kitchen.' "
  • Going By Numbers, the Women Could Be a Bigger Deal  In an interview with NPR prior to Sunday's game USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan argues UConn's streak is not just comparable to UCLA's, it's actually more impressive, because it is still going on. Records are records. "We're talking basketball here," she declares. "And whether its men's basketball or women's basketball, it's the same game in terms of the rules and the regulations, and it's the college game, of course. Back almost 40 years ago, a college team won 88 in a row. And if the Connecticut Huskies win today and then win Tuesday, they will have won 89 in a row. And isn't 89 better than 88?
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