“If a tree wins 100 games in the woods and nobody is there to care…” Those were the words tweeted by @billabaptiez, some troll with 10 followers, Monday night after the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team won its 100th game in a row. “The guy is right. No one cares,” replied @Gators_Doug.
The trouble here comes in two parts.
The first: that women’s basketball gets a bad rap among frat-bro meatheads who think women’s sports are worse simply because women are playing them.
The second: they’re wrong.
Plenty of people care about women’s basketball, and even more care that the UConn women won 100 freaking games in a row. That’s an absurd statistic, right up there with Joe DiMaggio’s 56 and Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,632. We may never see those marks broken. Ever.
And as the great Jay Z put it, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.”
Monday’s matchup between UConn and the No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks was a ratings bonanza. Its 0.9 overnight rating made it the highest-rated college basketball game on ESPN2 this season, men’s or women’s. It was the most online-streamed women’s regular season game in ESPN’s history and finished third in cable viewership for sporting events that evening.
The overtime thriller between West Virginia and Kansas on ESPN was top at 1.818 million; Louisville and Syracuse — a game that saw 25,000 people in attendance at the Carrier Dome — was second at 1.466 million.
And then there was UConn-South Carolina. A women’s basketball game that “nobody cares about” was at 1.229 million, beating out the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Washington Wizards on TNT (1.095 million).
And look at it this way: the West Virginia-Kansas game was happening at the same time just one channel over. And the game leading up to UConn-South Carolina, another women’s matchup between No. 8 Texas and No. 4 Florida State, went into double-overtime, moving the UConn game to ESPNNews for nearly the entire first quarter.
And despite the piping hot takes of billabaptiez, Gators_Doug and plenty of other Twitter nerds, people still watched.
Basketball fans wanted to see history. Although the UConn women set a record with their 91st win last month — breaking their own record of 90 that was broken to begin the current streak — 100 is such a magical number. One hundred games without losing. Think about that.
The Huskies haven’t lost since November 2014 — 820 days ago to be exact. They’ve won two national championships in that span and are 141-1 in the last four seasons, including the current one.
Two players have been a part of all 100 wins, and nine of those wins have been by 60 or more points.
Again, numbers don’t lie.
Plenty of people say the winning — especially the blowouts — are bad for basketball, but look at the ratings from Monday. If they’re attracting viewers to the sport, a sport that is often criticized by our Twitter friends above and many others like them, are the Huskies really bad for basketball?
Athletes choose the school that is going to benefit them the most. They want to win games, and they want to win championships. Connecticut is the best choice for both.
And 100 wins is still 100 wins. Not once have they slipped up and dropped a game. Shoot, South Carolina, the sixth-ranked team in the country, played really tough basketball Monday and couldn’t get past the Huskies. And UConn played the toughest nonconference schedule in women’s basketball this season. Still didn’t matter.
The UConn women are rolling because Geno Auriemma built a system of champions. They believe they can win, and they expect to win. And they do.
So how long can this go on? Will the streak ever end? I hope not. I hope they never lose. I hope I’m writing a column in 2030 for some speakeasy newspaper stand in a dark alley after President Trump bans all journalism, but I have to get the information to you because it’s dire that you know about the UConn women and their streak of 600 straight wins.
I’m putting the over-under at 130 consecutive wins, but I’m taking the over.
No matter when or if the streak ends, though, the UConn Huskies have eyes glued to the television. That’s good for women’s basketball.
Mike Pruden is the sports editor at The Sheridan Press.