Among the most dominant teams in sports—the NFL’s New England Patriots, the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, the United States women’s soccer team—the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball program stands alone. The Huskies have won 107 straight games, spanning three seasons. They have claimed four straight national titles. Even after losing Breanna Stewart, the three-time player of the year who graduated last spring, they feature three finalists for this season’s award; no other school has more than one. Contemporary comparisons fall flat: To put UConn’s current run in perspective, you’d have to turn to the great UCLA men’s basketball teams of the ’60s and ’70s, who won 10 championships, or leave the realm of athletics altogether. The Huskies are to women’s basketball as New York is to skylines, as Paris is to pastries. They are not so much contestants as standard-bearers.
Saturday morning, UConn will open its pursuit of a fifth consecutive championship with a first-round NCAA Tournament matchup against Albany. The Huskies will almost certainly win, and so will likely begin another chapter of success both expected and unprecedented. They figure to coast into the later rounds and, even if they encounter some drama there, to prevail. Their predictable triumphs have led to charges from some corners that they are bad for their sport, that they hog glory and tamp competition. But while UConn’s preeminence might prohibit some of the raw excitement that defines the men’s tournament—upsets abounding, brackets busting—it also lets fans see something much rarer: sustained and total mastery, perfection as a near-permanent state.