Stop us if you have heard this one before – that UConn’s women’s basketball dominance at the collegiate level is bad for the sport.
This should elicit all of this column’s readers to be yelling, “Stop!”
We hear it virtually every college basketball season – that the dominance of the Huskies’ women’s program is practically unparalleled and that it does not bring legitimacy to the women’s game because every season becomes one of “UConn or the field.”
Let us get past the brutally obvious. When the New York Yankees were winning championships in the late 1990s and 2000s, how many think pieces were there insinuating that there is too much pinstriped dominance in baseball.
Our guess – not many.
Need something a bit more current? Sounds good. What about the past few years of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. In the NBA, it has arrived at a point where the regular season was virtually meaningless and we knew it would be Cavs-Dubs in the NBA Finals.
How many hot takes were written opining that the dominance of Cleveland and Golden State is bad for the NBA.
Our guess – not many.
In the NFL, recently, the New England Patriots have regained, to some extent, their glory days of the early 2000s when they won three of four Super Bowls. How much has been written about how the Pats are bad for the NFL?
Our guess – not many.
The common denominator among the aforementioned examples….we can’t quite put our fingers on it, but (*cough*men’s*cough*sports*cough*) but we digress.
Athletics since the beginning of time has always been about great individual players as well as great teams. Geno Auriemma has built something great at UConn just as the late, great Pat Summitt did at Tennessee. The Huskies recruit some of the best basketball players in the country and Storrs is essentially a WNBA factory at this point.
That is only one reason why UConn is good for the women’s game.
But according to some, UConn is bad for the women’s game. Look at who writes some of these “brilliant” takes and ask if they have ever watched one women’s basketball game outside of the Olympics, Final Four, or WNBA Finals. Then ask if they can name 20 current WNBA players without Googling.
The last two seasons now have brought us a couple of the most unforgettable moments in women’s basketball history – both at the expense at the Goliath that is UConn. The Huskies are favored virtually every year to hoist the national championship trophy at the end of the tournament, so when someone knocks them off, it only brings more legitimacy to their dominance – and to the game as a whole.
Women’s basketball fans to this day still remember Morgan William’s buzzer-beating jumper from last season’s Final Four in Dallas which eliminated Auriemma’s Huskies. Even casual sports fans remember because of the significance of it ending UConn’s undefeated streak. Arike Ogunbowale had a similar “One Shining Moment” this Final Four against the Huskies as her two-pointer gave Notre Dame a 91-89 in the contest’s closing moments.
And as was the case with UConn and Mississippi State last season, the Huskies had defeated the Fighting Irish earlier in the regular season. So revenge for the Irish could not have been sweeter than the chance to knock off the Huskies in the regular season.
I don’t need to learn this (expletive) two years in a row.
That quote is coming from someone who expects to win national championships year in and year out. That, of course, will not always happen, but as is the case with teams such as the Yankees, a season without being the top dog in the end is viewed as a failure.
We as true WNBA and women’s basketball fans appreciate the greatness of UConn because it gives the Mississippi States, the Louisvilles, the Notre Dames, Stanfords, South Carolinas of the basketball landscape a gold standard to set for their own programs. Meaning that if a team does play the game of its life and takes advantage of an opportunity where UConn may not be full UConn, it makes it all worth it.
Just as we appreciate the greatness today of the Minnesota Lynx and we appreciated (and still do to this day) the greatness of the Houston Comets in the early days of the W.
Let us put all of this nonsense to bed once and for all – UConn is good for the women’s game just as Pat Summitt’s Tennessee Lady Vols were good for the women’s game in her day, just as the Houston Comets were good in their day for the WNBA and the Lynx are today. Because defeating UConn or the Lady Vols or the Lynx or the Comets circa the late 1990s only makes all of the blood, sweat, and tears these women shed daily to be the best they can be for themselves, their teams, and coaches all the more worth it than it already is.