Here's something you might not here from a lot of UConn fans: I like Gregg Doyel. The Cbssports.com columnist is outspoken and when he has an opinion about something, he's willing to share it, no matter how unpopular. In 2005, when he was CBS's basketball columnist, he did an absolute hatchet job on Jim Calhoun, because Doug Wiggins decommited from St. John's to come to UConn. I disagreed with that column, but I could see where he was coming from and I could understand why he thought what he did.
So i get Doyel, and I understand that the whole abrasive thing is part of his schtick, but usually he at least takes the time to make sense. That's not what he did today with his spectacularly misinformed and misguided column, "UConn streak is telling, and not in a good way."
I've read through Doyel's column a few times now, and I'm still not entirely sure what he's saying, so you'll have to bear with me. He starts by saying UConn's dominance is bad for the game, then shoots off on a tangent to talk about Geno Auriemma's sexism remarks, and then comes back around to saying the young women who play for Auriemma must be actively avoiding competition.
However, I'll do my best to keep up with Doyel. Join me after the jump if you dare.
First, let's take on Doyel's bad for the game argument:
Somewhere else, people can celebrate the achievement. Here, I'll mourn it for what it is:
The death of competition.
UConn isn't winning games by savvy and pluck. The Huskies are demolishing teams, running them off the road like an angry tractor-trailer. You there, in the sedan? Get the hell out of UConn's way.
Geno Auriemma has an embarrassment of riches, and it makes a mockery of women's college basketball. (AP) To win its 88th game in a row, tying the UCLA men's streak from 1971-74, UConn beat Ohio State on Sunday by 31 points. Ohio State was ranked 11th nationally, and probably deserving of that ranking. And UConn won 81-50.
Which means it was one of the Huskies' closer games of the season.
He goes on to do what you'd expect, listing UConn's most lopsided victories, pointing out that they've won 86 of the 88 games in their streak by more than 10 points and complaining about talent disparity. Here's the thing: no one disputes that there is a massive gap between the haves and have nots in women's basketball (a gap that, by the way, existed when UCLA was tearing off it's own streak). What people who don't follow women's basketball (and I count myself as a follower only in the most marginally sense) don't get is that no one cares about the disparity. No one gets amped up to watch a top team beat someone by 80. The fans are there to watch the elite teams battle it out -- and while yes, UConn has a lot of talent, they aren't alone. Stanford, Baylor, Duke, Tennesse and a another dozen schools or so can play some damn fine basketball. It just happens that they can't do it against UConn, which is where the real beauty of this streak lies.
If winning 88 straight games was simply a matter of talent disparity, then Tennesse probably would have done it sometime in the 90's. Or an even more talented UConn team wouldn't have lost after 70 when Diana Taurasi was around. Or that Candace Parker's Tennessee teams would have come close. If it was simply a talent issue, the top teams in women's basketball would be pushing 50-game win streaks all the time. But they don't, they don't even come close. And by the way, the fact that UConn has won 88 games means that 89 games ago they lost. In fact, as Doyel may be surprised to learn, UConn's massive talent disparity doesn't mean they even get to be champions every year. They even lost four straight after losing Diana Taurasi and before getting Maya Moore. Look it up. It's true!
Doyel continues this point by pointing out that UConn has an "embarrassment of riches" because there are eight McDonald's All Americans on the Huskies roster. Yes, UConn did get three McDonald's All Americans this year. Of course, Duke got three as well, and Maryland got two, but still massive disparity. Fun side note, since the women's game is so imbalanced in recruiting. Anyone want to guess how many McDonald's All-Americans Duke has pulled in the last four years? Seven. Doyel, anytime you see fit, feel free to explain how the one extra recruit changes this from "something to be expected of the nation's premier program" to "embarrassment of riches."
The top programs in any sport are going to get the best players -- but by no means does UConn have a monopoly on elite talent. It might just be that Auriemma gets more out of his players than Pat Summitt does out of hers.
Doyel then briefly lashes out at Auriemma, and his comments about gender from Sunday. Doyel interpreted what Geno said to be "if you don't care about the streak, you're a sexist pig," which is, you know, not what Auriemma said. I'm going to address Auriemma's comments in more detail later, so I'll leave it at this: Was Auriemma hyperbolic? Yes, certainly. But he wasn't saying Doyel or his ilk are sexist. He was saying no one would care about UConn breaking a women's record, and that gender was an issue here. That's true by the way. When UConn won their 71st in a row, it merited a brief national mention. Today, going for 89, they're getting five hours to themselves on ESPN.
Finally, Doyel circles back around to launch an ad hominem attack on the UConn players themselves:
I'm mystified by the way the top women's recruits rush to Storrs. Whatever happened to seeking a challenge? To wanting to compete?
Practice is the only competition the typical UConn signee will ever face.
I guess it's possible that a bunch of super-elite competitors only want to duck competition, so they come to Storrs. Or, I suppose, maybe they want to play for the best coach in the nation and someone who will challenge them to perform on the absolute highest level each and every night, whether they're playing Holy Cross or Baylor. You know, the type of coach who'd hold his team to the highest possible standards so they actually do something like win 88-games in a row. Also: the type of a coach with a proven track record at getting players into the WNBA where they can continue to follow their passion and compete while getting paid for it.
Of course, most of that stuff is just misguided, because Doyel was saving the profoundly stupid for the end:
And they might never lose again.
I guess you might believe that if you're a crazy person, but a whole lot of reasonable people, including Geno Auriemma think the Huskies will lose, and a lot of them think they might lose THIS WEEK when they head on the road to take on No. 2 Stanford.
For the cherry on top, Doyel ends his nationally read column by saying the best thing he can do for the women is to ignore them. Okay Gregg, sounds good, I only wish you had thought of that before you sat down at his keyboard.