Quick Take on UConn's Winning StreakGeno Auriemma's University of Connecticut women's basketball team has won 88 straight games and they are going for win 89 tonight versus Florida State. This is obviously a tremendous accomplishment but it is foolish to compare UConn's record with UCLA's record 88 game winning streak in Division I men's basketball (set from 1971-1974). Anyone who is honest and objective realizes that there is a huge gap between the level of play in Division I men's basketball and Division I women's basketball; UConn's team certainly could not even compete with any top 25 Division I men's team and, because of the significant differential in size and talent, they could not beat even the worst Division I men's team.
I have heard some people say that UConn is setting a basketball record and that therefore UConn's record can be compared with UCLA's record by that standard. That makes no sense. Bobby Fischer set a likely unmatchable standard by winning 20 straight games without a draw versus elite Grandmasters in Interzonal and Candidate Match play (that is roughly equivalent to an NBA team sweeping five straight series at the Conference Finals and NBA Finals level or an NFL team winning three straight Super Bowls); I am a strong amateur chess player (USCF Expert level, which is approximately 95th percentile among U.S. tournament players) but if I win 20 straight games against players rated Expert and below I have not come close to equaling Fischer's accomplishment even though both streaks would be chess streaks. Perhaps one might counter that UConn is competing at a higher level in the women's game than I am competing at in the chess world, so consider this analogy: if a Grandmaster wins 20 straight games at events like the World Open, National Open and Chicago Open that would be a great accomplishment but it still would not be the same as winning 20 straight games against elite Grandmasters (the hypothetical Grandmaster at the World Open, National Open and Chicago Open would have faced some non-GM players along the way, while Fischer faced nothing but the best during his streak).
Auriemma understands this very well; he recently recently told Time magazine, "...it shouldn't be that I'm eclipsing John Wooden. It shouldn't be Geno Auriemma, and the University of Connecticut, owns the longest winning streak in the history of basketball. No. It's men's basketball, and women's basketball. But we've accomplished something that most people can only dream of accomplishing."
Auriemma and his players deserve tremendous praise for setting a great women's record and for raising the bar of excellence in women's basketball--but it is wrong to suggest that their accomplishment has anything to do with the record set by Wooden's UCLA teams.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:15 PM