Thursday, January 5, 2017

UConn lady express rolls on

One just about runs out of superlatives when attempting to describe the UConn ladies basketball team, and head coach Geno Auriemma.

Are they the greatest dynasty ever in the entire world of sports?

Geno's won 11 national titles there, to eclipse John Wooden's former UCLA mark of 10.

The last four years in a row they've captured the crown and are highly favored to five-peat this year.

Currently, they're riding an 89 game winning streak. A few years ago, UConn and Geno ran off another 90 in a row for the all-time record, again outdoing Wooden's former mark of 88.

Auriemma's .870 career winning percentage is the highest of any coach, in any sport -- ever.
To put that in perspective, consider the Golden State Warriors from last season. They also set an all-time record by posting a 73-9 regular season mark. True, that equates to a winning % of .890, slightly higher. But they only did it for one year. Auriemma's career spans thirty.

It's quite likely the above mentioned winning streak record will not only be broken, but shattered this year. Barring unforeseen events, such as a rash of injuries, UConn appears poised to keep rolling for some time. Up next, they face #22 ranked South Florida. A good team, but likely not nearly good enough to knock off Geno's bambinos, especially when the latter will be playing at home.

Then they get a streak of nine games playing against unranked teams. That collective outcome is fairly predictable. Blowouts. If they get that far, then they'll face South Carolina, currently ranked #5. That should be a test, but again, UConn will have home court advantage. It's entirely possible, even likely that the Huskies will roll to another undefeated regular season.

And who's going to beat them in the NCAA playoffs?

Further, it's not like they've played a schedule made up entirely of patsies. The closest they've come to suffering defeat was in the opening game of this season. A close 78-76 win on the road at then #12 Florida State. It was almost to be expected. After all, this was the first game in four years that Geno and UConn were without the services of Breanna Stewart, who graduated last year and was the #1 pick in the WNBA. In her four years, they were national champs every time, and Stewart hadn't tasted a single defeat in well over 2 years before she left. The first couple games figured to be ones of adjustment without her.

After FSU, next up was a match on the road at then #2 Baylor. UConn prevailed 72-61, a comfortable win.

Then they started rolling and the competition didn't seem to matter. Again, they weren't all patsies. Games included #14 Texas, and then #2 Notre Dame. They were handily dispatched, with the ever-proud Fighting Irish getting taken down at home. A bad day in leprechaunland.

As could be expected, those games against unranked teams were indeed blowouts. But hey, they can only play whoever they're scheduled to play. And UConn, being a rather small school compared to many of the huger institutions across the land, plays in the American Athletic Conference. Therefore, their conference schedule could be looked at as weak. However, it's not like they duck anybody on the non-conference part of their schedule. By most accounts, Auriemma's more than willing to take on all comers, but a lot of the larger schools are no doubt wary of putting UConn on their schedule, for fear of the awful beating their team might take, be it at home or on the road. Any high-profile match-up would likely be televised, perhaps nationally, and other coaches/administrators at other proud universities could be understandably gun shy of the embarrassment they might be made to suffer. So it is what it is, certainly through no fault of Geno and UConn.

Auriemma's closing in on 900 career wins (898). The all-time record holder was the legendary and recently deceased Pat Summitt with 1078. Not far behind her is Coach K at Duke, with 1056 (including his first 5 years at Army). Just one more year with the Blue Devils and he'll take over the #1 spot. When he will retire and what his career grand total will be is anybody's guess.

At first glance, Auriemma being so far behind Krzzewski (158 wins), and with Duke a perennial powerhouse, one might think Geno will never catch him.

But there's a major catch. Coach K will turn 70 next month. Auriemma is a full decade younger at 60. With college hoop teams typically playing about 30 regular season games a year, plus the tournament, and further factoring in UConn getting 5 star recruits every year from the prep ranks to reload, it's no stretch to assume Auriemma will chalk up at least 25 wins a year, likely several more.

If he decides to hang out until he's coach K's age, another ten years, that's certainly upwards of another 250 wins, maybe over 300, in the career category. Even 5 more years and he'll be breathing down the neck of coach Pat's mark.

Of course, one never knows what Auriemma has in mind for his future. Maybe he'll hang around until he puts the mark so far out of sight that it will never be approached again. Or in a few short years, he could decide to retire at a fairly young age and go on to enjoy other things in life, such as travel. Even if he stepped down after this year, not likely, he certainly has no financial worries. Besides the big bucks he's made at UConn, there would be no shortage of other offers. Tons of endorsement offers would roll in if he wanted to take them. He could get behind a microphone for one of the networks as an analyst. Lots of things that pay quite handsomely.

But for now, and the foreseeable future, coach Geno Auriemma and his Lady Huskies are something to behold indeed, and have been for quite some time.

So with all due respect to all the others out there over the years, and there are many great ones, are both this coach and his teams the best of all time at what they do?

It's truly difficult to argue against it.

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