88 is the magic number for UConn
I grew up in Los Angeles. My mother is a UCLA alumna. My parents' second date, way back in 1965, was to the first game at the new Pauley Pavilion (my Dad was such a romantic). In my house, John Wooden's UCLA basketball teams were the standard against which all college basketball teams should be judged. And rightfully so.
Seven straight national championships (and 10 of 12 from 1964 to 1975); 88 straight wins from 1971 to 1974; a commitment to pure team play; a dedication to excellence and perfection.
Just like today's UConn women's basketball team: a true team in every sense of the word, winners of their 88th consecutive game today.
I was privileged to be sitting in the press "ramp" at Madison Square Garden to witness the UConn women's victory, an 81-50 thrashing of No. 10 Ohio State in the Maggie Dixon Classic. Though I was at the game as an accredited member of the media, I couldn't help but get the chills as the crowd rose to its feet and chanted "88! 88! 88!" in unison while the seconds ticked down. This was a momentous event in college basketball history, regardless of gender and almost regardless of rooting interest. Eighty-eight wins in a row. The team received a thunderous ovation from the decidedly pro-UConn crowd, but even the Ohio State fans in the crowd of 15,232 applauded the achievement. How could they not? Think about how long it's been since the UConn women last lost a game. On April 4, 2008, George W. Bush was still the president and the Yankees had just started their final season at the old Yankee Stadium. Why haven't people given the UConn women their due?
Perhaps even more impressive is the margin of victory throughout the entire streak. Just two of the 88 victories were single-digit wins, and a mere seven more were won by a margin between 10 and 19 points. That leaves 79 victories that were won by 20 or more points. That's more than a winning streak; that is a streak of complete domination -- one blowout after another.
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma, rarely shy about stating his opinion, had this to say in the postgame news conference: "It's women's sports, so people aren't going to give it the respect that it's due. ... I just know that there wouldn't be this many people in the room if we were chasing a women's record. The reason everybody's in this room, the reason everybody's having a heart attack the last four, five days is women are threatening to break a men's record. 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, give 'em one line on the bottom on ESPN and let's send them back where they belong -- in the kitchen.' But because we're breaking a men's record, we got a lot of people paying attention."
Whoa, Geno, tell us how you really feel. I could have devoted more than 1,500 words to Auriemma's postgame news conference alone.
Many have written and will write about why this winning streak should or shouldn't be accorded the same respect as the UCLA streak. I, for one, while not a devoted women's basketball fan, fully respect the accomplishment of this UConn women's basketball team. The Huskies consistently deliver solid team play every day, regardless of the competition. Sunday, UConn made a top 10 opponent look positively silly en route to victory.
As Auriemma said, "One thing that's non-negotiable is the one thing we have in common [with UCLA] is that we settle for nothing less than the absolute best we can give you, every single night, every single day and there's very few people that do that. They did it and we're doing it. Everything else, to me, is meaningless."
Anybody have any questions?