With whatever apologies are due to the 101-match, 3-straight times NCAA champion Penn State volleyballers I recently lauded, an over-achieving NY Jets team that is truly better than the sum of its parts, or even Boise State's undefeated Broncos, I have seen greatness, and there is NO doubt that Geno Auriemma's crew is the butt-thumping best team anyone will get to witness for the foreseeable future. Their current win streak is now 57, and having already laid waste to every other major program this season, most insiders expect they'll tag their dozen remaining games on handily, then beat the previous record of 70 straight (by the 2001-02 team) in the Big East tournament.
No less esteemed a basketball expert than John Wooden has been quoted as saying the women's game has a sort of purity, where teamwork supercedes individual efforts, and having witnessed back-to-back demolitions of #3 ranked Notre Dame on Saturday and #7 Duke on Monday, even the most pedestrian watcher of sports would have to be impressed with UConn's surgical dismantling of both. If there was a pass to be made to a post player, it was made; if a shooter was open at the 3-point stripe, you knew she'd get the kick out in rhythm and bury it.
UConn got off to a 24-4 start against Notre Dame Saturday, and Tina Charles looked like she could make layups any time she wanted, finishing with 23 pts. and 13 rebounds and performing like the #1 WNBA pick that everyone expects she will become shortly after she and her compatriots get their NCAA championship. On Monday it was Maya Moore's turn to excell, knocking down six of UConn's 13-3s as Duke went down in flames 81-48.
I'm not getting on the UConn bandwagon late in the game--I've always been a fan of the women's basketball that is played at the highest levels of the collegiate game. Sorry, but I have to say the WNBA product is not nearly as entertaining. I was present when the Charlotte Sting began life, even felt some local pride that they made it to the finals against Cynthia Cooper and the Houston Comets, but there's definitely something different between the two. Just *maybe* its that funky orange-and-white ball that seems to be filled with helium where shots just don't come off the iron right, or that it seeks to emulate that 'grind it out in the box like the guys' game too often. When you watch Pat Summit (Tenn.), Geno, Trish VandeVeer (Stanford) or the sainted Kate Yow of NCState coach, and yes, the former two have a seemingly endless supply of talent running through their programs, you KNOW that the guards will run the plays and forwards will rebound like they've been told. There's not enough prima donna in ANY of their players to risk icy stares and bench time for thinking they knew better, and that fact alone makes for a better TEAM game. If your job is to nail the trey, you *don't* pump fake and try to go to the hole.
Before UConn ran away with the game early, and lets face it, kept their collective sneakers on the back of Notre Dame's neck all the way, there was talk of the ND 'jinx'--Notre Dame having put an end to several significant winning streaks in their storied sports history. They were responsible for ending Oklahoma's 47 game football wins; almighty UCLA's 88-game streak came to an end at South Bend behind Adrian Dantley's 26 points, and their women's soccer team was responsible for stopping North Carolina's 92 game skein. Right...but only if that jinx could stop Charles and Moore (20 pts) and Kalana Green (13) while breaking the press and scoring 50 itself.
As one commentator asked his female color counterpart, is this version of UConn the best of all time, better than those Tennessee teams of yore, or some of the early greats like Immaculata, Louisiana Tech, Cheryl Miller's 2-time champs at USC, or even the legendary Rebecca Lobo team of 1994-95? "Well," came the answer, "Rebecca really put UConn on the map, and honestly, the 2001-02 team (holder of the 70 in a row record) is probably the only one that could beat this team, because they had amazing depth." Uhh, no kidding on depth--four of the top six picks in that WNBA draft were Lady Huskies, including Player of the Year Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.
I know lots of people who wouldn't watch a women's game of ANYTHING, but when you're faced with an avalanche of sports throughout the year, there are certain things you come to appreciate just a little more. I'll cheer my butt off for old man Favre to throw 4 TDs this weekend (even if I hope Drew Brees throws five and the Saints finally taste the sweetness of a Super Bowl trip), but as a long time player and watcher of sports, there is something magical about spotting an opening and immediately seeing a team take advantage of it via a definitive pass or a dagger-in-the-heart jumper. With UConn you know exactly what you're going to get every time-- a 180 degree clean sweep of all that belongs in an athletic contest and a 'W' withot an ounce of attitude. For me, that sounds like perfection.