Trey Lower, Staff Writer
This weekend was the end of one of the greatest winning streaks in sports history, as the UCONN Lady Huskies women’s basketball team was stunned in overtime by Mississippi State in the Women’s Final Four.
Surely you heard about the amazing streak, which was the longest in the history of Division I college basketball. The incredible streak of 111 games started so long ago that when it began Barack Obama was still president, The Force Awakens hadn’t been released, and The Big Bang Theory was still funny.
In this parity-filled sports world, there has been one consistency over the last few years, and that is UCONN women’s basketball winning streak. It’s the most dominant stretch that I can think of since what I like to call the “Decade of Dominance” by UCLA in the late 60s and early 70s, when it looked like the Bruins would never lose the championship. Women’s basketball was slowly gaining more attention, but thanks in part to UCONN, the game has had more awareness than ever.
When a team goes on a roll like UCONN, people take notice. An accomplishment of this scale requires more coverage than the women’s game would receive if there was more parity and the landscape was more like the men’s game.
UCONN did things that had never been done before in sports and people like seeing history being made. Whether they rooted for UCONN and wanted to see history in the form of the longest winning streak ever or they hated the Huskies’ dominance and wanted to see history in the form of David taking down Goliath, the streak had captured people’s attention.
The question of “would UCONN ever lose again” became a talking point. It made its way through mainstream sports media and made a whole lot more people aware of what Geno Auriemma and his basketball team were accomplishing.
There were comparisons and debates about how this streak stacked up against other historically great streaks and other sorts of media coverage for this unbelievable team. Regardless of people’s feelings about UCONN and its accomplishments, they had feelings and that is what mattered. People like seeing history being made, and with each extension of the streak, the Lady Huskies were making history.
The cold irony for the Huskies was that with all the attention it had gathered for its incredible and unprecedented winning streak, the climactic moment of the whole thing was always going to be the upset that put an end to it.
The inevitable finally occurred on Friday, when Mississippi State beat the Huskies in the Final Four, 66-64. The game and its remarkable finish drew levels of viewership rarely seen in the women’s game.
It was deemed one of the greatest upsets in basketball history and the best moment of the entire college basketball season, men’s or women’s. Despite the fairy-tale ending for Mississippi State, the magnitude of this moment was a direct result of UCONN’s streak.
If the longest winning streak on planet earth wasn’t at stake, this game wouldn’t have had the historic implications that it did, and as a result wouldn’t have drawn the gaudy viewership numbers it achieved. According to ESPN Public Relations, the game was the most streamed game in women’s Final Four history.
Sports is ultimately about storylines, and the UCONN Huskies gave women’s basketball one of the most interesting ever. The most dominant team in the history of time, and the inevitable Cinderella story that would come from its defeat provided a level of intrigue that had not been matched this year by any of the more widely popular sports leagues.
Photo source: UCONN Women Basketball website
Edited by: Brea Childs