Why is it that women’s basketball gets no attention? Is it that we don’t see high flying dunks, spectacular passes and excessive showboating? Perhaps fundamentals are out of style. But the answer is that it’s predictable. Every year in April we see the usual suspects: UConn, Notre Dame, Baylor, did I mention UConn?
The bottom line is that UConn women’s basketball is the most dominant sports team that has ever stepped on the field of play and nobody wants to admit it.
Since taking over as head coach in 1985, Geno Auriemma has a combined record of 951-134, all at UConn. For those of you grabbing your calculators, that is a win percentage of 87.6%. Let’s see how this unfathomable number compares to some of the other coaching greats of the last 70 years. John Wooden coached 27 seasons (1948-1975) at UCLA and compiled a win percentage of 80.4% (620-147). Urban Meyer has a win percentage of 85.1% over 14 years (2001-2015) at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, and Ohio State. Mike Krzyzewski boasts a winning percentage of 78.8% over a 36 year span (970-261) at Duke. Heard enough?
The most impressive part of this unprecedented success is that it came out of nowhere for the Huskies’ program. When Auriemma came to campus in 1985, his first team finished at 12-15, which was good for 7th in the Big East and involved no post-season play. It took him a mere 6 seasons to reach his first Final 4 and only 10 seasons before his first NCAA title. That may sound like a while, but is pretty impressive considering he inherited a no-name program in lonely Storrs, CT. Since the beginning of the 1995 championship season the team’s record is 759- 53; a winning percentage of 93.5%. That is no typo. That includes 10 National Championships and 15 Final Fours along the way. Only 5 times in the last 20 years have they failed to make the Final Four. To put this in perspective, the men’s college basketball team with the most Final Fours IN THEIR HISTORY, is North Carolina with 18. North Carolina has had a team since 1910…
So what is this success attributed to? Is it coaching? Recruiting? Well UConn does attract great high school prospects, but prior to the 2015/2016 season they only signed on 2 players from the ESPNW top 10 and only 3 from the top 25. To put that into perspective, Duke’s men’s team has 3 top 11 recruits coming to Durham next season, including the top 2 overall, and Kentucky’s men’s team has 4 of the top 15. They are also very dominant programs, but not nearly on UConn’s level. This is partially due to the “One and Done” nature of men’s basketball as well as the talent gap in the women’s sport. However, it is crucial that Auriemma has the opportunity to coach these fantastic athletes for 4 years each, allowing them to mature under his coaching style and buy into a system of winning. The culture he has created at UConn has now become synonymous with championships and banners, which he is able to uphold year after year. His ability to capture and develop talent seems unmatched at the college level and is a huge part of his team’s success.
So the big question still remains why do the Huskies not get the attention they so rightfully deserve? I think it is just a matter of boredom. Fans love parity, they love upsets, they love to root for the underdog. UConn simply doesn’t lose, so most of the country has nothing to look forward to with the women’s game. Even when UConn has lost in the past few seasons it has come at the hand of a worthy adversary. For example, their last 4 losses, which spans 4 full seasons including this year, have come to Stanford, Notre Dame (twice), and Brittany Griner. Excuse me, Baylor. None of these teams finished the season outside of the top 4 by the end of the year. UConn is simply a machine and takes no prisoners when it comes to winning. They are the greatest program in sports, and that’s the bottom line.