The University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team annihilated Mississippi State in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament on Saturday, 98-38, the largest margin of victory in Sweet 16 history.
The win pushed the Huskies’ latest win streak to 72 consecutive games — they have won every game this season by double digits and haven’t lost since falling to Stanford in double O.T. all the way back in November 2014.
It’s hard to understate the program’s dominance: UConn’s women have won the past three national championships, and since 2000 the program has won the NCAA tournament nine times. They have never won four consecutive titles, but behind senior Breanna Stewart, the two-time National Player of the Year, they look poised to do so.
This sort of dominance is nothing new for Geno Auriemma’s squad, and every so often the criticism arises that what he and his team are doing is bad for women’s basketball. On Saturday, following UConn’s Sweet 16 shellacking, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy took to Twitter to express his disdain:
UConn Women beat Miss St. 98-38 in NCAA tourney. Hate to punish them for being great, but they are killing women’s game. Watch? No thanks
— Dan Shaughnessy (@Dan_Shaughnessy) March 26, 2016
Not long after, Auriemma was asked about Shaughnessy’s remarks during his postgame press conference.
“My question is, don’t watch,” Auriemma replied. “Don’t watch. Nobody’s putting a gun to your head to watch. So don’t watch. And don’t write about it. Spend your time on things you think are important. If you don’t think this is important, don’t pay any attention to it.”
“The fact that you have to comment on it, says something about you, doesn’t it? We are where we are. We are what we are. You know? We do what we do. We do what we do.”
Auriemma went on:
When Tiger was winning every major, nobody said he was bad for golf. Actually, he did a lot for golf. He made everybody have to be a better golfer. And they did that. And now there’s a lot more great golfers because of Tiger. So, there’s a lot better writers than Dan Shaughnessy, but that doesn’t mean he’s bad for the game.
For as much backlash as there has been against UConn’s women’s team over the years, there has been an equal amount of support for Auriemma’s program.
In 2008, New York Times sports columnist Harvey Araton ranked the top-10 reasons why he goes to the women’s Final Four every year. His third reason — “Dynasties” — rings especially true today in light of the recent controversy:
Don’t tell me the women’s game is only Tennessee and Connecticut, or I will have to remind you of the time when the men’s tournament was the U.C.L.A. Invitational. Besides, what’s wrong with dynasties? Who complained about the Celtics and the Lakers, the Yankees and the Red Sox, the Bushes and the Clintons? (O.K., strike the last one.)
And just last week, as a guest on Slate’s sports podcast “Hang Up and Listen”, former UConn great Sue Bird sounded off against this very issue:
I’m sorry, but these other programs, they have just as many All-Americans. There’s what, 20 McDonald’s [high school] All-Americans named? [Auriemma] has two or three. Where are all the other ones going? People always say that UConn is just more talented. Now don’t get me wrong, they are more talented. But what he does with the talent is what sets them apart. There are plenty of other talented players out there. I just don’t know that there are many other programs that demand excellence like he does.
UConn plays Monday night against second-seeded Texas for a spot in the Final Four. Should they blow by the Longhorns, expect the same debate all over again.
You can watch video of Auriemma’s remarks below:
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