The UConn women’s basketball team won their fourth consecutive national championship last Tuesday. During this unprecedented title-run, the Huskies had a 151-5 record and routinely blew out their opponents.
This year’s team was ridiculously dominant, winning every game by an average of 39.7 points and leading the country in both scoring offense and defense in the regular season. UConn continued to overwhelm opponents in the tournament, beating Arkansas by 60 points in the Sweet Sixteen and Syracuse by 31 points in the national championship.
Rather than celebrate these achievements, many sports columnists have criticized the UConn women for being too good. Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy recently took to Twitter to express his disgust over this once-in-a-lifetime team:
Last time I checked, the object of basketball was to win and no team does it better than UConn.
Everyone loves a winner
If being too good is so bad for a sport, how does Shaughnessy explain golf’s explosion during Tiger Woods’ early career?
In his prime, Woods was the most dominant golfer of all time and the sport was never more popular. Roger Federer was equally as dominant as Woods on the tennis court and he brought his sport to new financial and competitive heights as well.
Team sports also disprove Shaughnessy’s thesis. This year’s record-breaking Golden State Warriors have seen their television ratings double due to their dominance on the hardwood. Also, the UCLA basketball teams of the 60s and 70s, under head coach John Wooden, won seven consecutive national championships and are universally revered.
Shaughnessy’s criticism is meritless and likely based on gender bias, but it has successfully inspired public debate about women’s basketball.
UConn’s dominance could even the playing field
UCLA’s legendary run thrust college basketball into the national spotlight and inspired a generation of young men to lace up their sneakers and play basketball. The immense growth of the sport ushered in an era of parity and since 1974, only two teams, Duke and Florida, have won two consecutive national championships.
UConn’s head coach Geno Auriemma thinks his record-breaking run will have a similar effect as those UCLA teams and a former golfing superstar. He believes that the dominance of one team or player is great and can transform a sport, telling CNN.com:
When Tiger was winning every major, nobody said he was bad for golf. Actually, he did a lot for golf. He made everybody have to be a better golfer. And they did. And now there’s a lot more great golfers because of Tiger.
Believe it or not, there is actually growing parity in women’s basketball. Excluding the Huskies, this year’s Final Four included three first-time participants, Oregon State, Syracuse and Washington, none of which were top seeds.
These up-and-coming schools have much to look forward to, as UConn’s historic streak appears to be coming to an end. Senior superstars Breanna Stewart, the only four-time Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck are all set to graduate. Without these cornerstone players, the Huskies will be forced to rebuild their roster and their epic run will likely come to a close next season.
The 2015-16 UConn women’s basketball team is possibly the greatest of all time and they deserve to be celebrated. UConn’s dominance might have irked a few out of touch sports reporters, but it has put women’s basketball on the map and into the national discussion. As a result, young female student-athletes across the country now have a benchmark to strive for.
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