John Harbaugh said, “We make no comparisons. Somebody is going to be devalued.” Wise words to live by. As far as comparing the current winning streak owned by the UConn women’s basketball team to the one achieved by the UCLA men anyway.
It’s difficult enough to compare men vs. men from different eras. Now people seem to think it’s necessary to demean the UConn streak because it appears they’re going to surpass the mark of the late John Wooden’s Bruins. Although it’s the same game, i.e. basketball, it really isn’t the same.
Compared to (there’s that nasty word) intercollegiate men’s basketball, the distaff version is in its infancy. There has only been a women’s NCAA tournament since 1982 (prior to that, the women’s game was under the auspices of the AIAW). In that time there have been only 35 different teams represented in the Final Four. The men’s side has had 35 different reps since 1992. In addition, the women’s game has just recently gone through the upheaval of traditional powers being eased out of the Top 20 poll. In the 1940s, CCNY, Dartmouth, Duquesne, NYU and Holy Cross were dominant squads just as in the early ’80s, Louisiana Tech, Cheney State and Old Dominion were all Final Four participants, but whose programs haven’t kept pace with today’s powers.
Since 1982 there have been six women’s teams go undefeated while hoisting the championship trophy (Texas and Tennessee once each and UConn four times). On the men’s side, that feat hasn’t been accomplished since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, and because so many more of the men’s games are televised - and so many of the male coaches want to be on TV (not to mention how much money is paid by the networks), television dictates much of the power teams’ schedule. Play enough of those games and any club is bound to drop one. If not, they lose the contest prior to, or following it. That’s called human nature.
Add to the fact that because the men have been playing so much longer, there are, as a former boss of mine, Don DeVoe, was fond of saying when discussing a great vs. an average team, the better one has “more better players.” Because the female game is, in comparison (can’t seem to stay away from it) to its male counterpart, in its infancy, there aren’t yet “more better players” from which to choose. Therefore, the fan never sees a non-top 20 team upsetting a powerful women’s squad, much less a number one, a la Chaminade beating Virginia when the Cavs were the nation’s #1. So, while the UConn women have defeated more top 10s than the Bruins did on their way to 88 straight W’s, Geno Auriemma’s recruiting prowess has more to do with the mega margins of victory his teams have posted along the way.
To sum up this post, when discussing the two streaks, sue the teenagers new motto:
“Don’t hate; appreciate.”