Column: Women’s basketball dominance far from boring

United States' Diana Taurasi, left, Tamika Catchings, center, and Sue Bird, right, celebrate with their gold medals after their win in a women's basketball game against Spain at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016.  Taurasi and Bird are UConn alums. (Eric Gay/AP)

Sometimes, the best part of sports is the unpredictability. As a fan, there isn’t much more exciting than watching something that was supposed to never happen in a million years unfold in front of your eyes. The Red Sox’ improbable comeback from three games down in the 2004 American League Championship Series, the Bruins’ come from behind 5-4 win in Game 7 in 2013 and the Music City Miracle are just a few that come to mind. Middle Tennessee State’s upset over Michigan State in the first round of this past year’s NCAA tournament is up there too.

Well, maybe not the Michigan State game. Tom Izzo isn’t always at his best in March.

Anyways, as exciting as unpredictability can be, sometimes the polar opposite can be just as thrilling. It’s truly a sight to see a team or athlete roll over their opponents and compete at the sport’s highest level.

This was on full display at this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Michael Phelps blew the competition away on his way to five gold medals in Rio and 28 in his career. Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles and Usain Bolt followed suit just a few days later, and America loved every minute of it. They were without a doubt the stars of the summer games, and none of their respective wins were even remotely close.

But the purest display of dominance wasn’t by Phelps, Biles or even Ledecky. It was by the United States women’s basketball team, who beat opponents by nearly 38 points per game as they cruised to their sixth-straight gold medal.

Of course, people around UConn aren’t strangers to this type of dominance, Storrs serving as the mecca of collegiate basketball and the most dominant women’s basketball program in Division I athletics. Heck, five Huskies suited up for the red, white and blue this summer to play under their old coach Geno Auriemma.

Those five Huskies – Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart – were some of the most important players on the team. In fact, the UConn alumni accounted for nearly 48 percent of Team USA’s total points in Rio. As if UConn’s role in the U.S. team’s path to victory wasn’t clear enough, an all-UConn lineup rattled off a 16-3 run late in the game against Spain to seal their sixth-straight gold.

To have a team composed of so many players from one school is certainly unique, although not for UConn. To have them all on one of the greatest basketball teams ever assembled is something that might never happen again.

As a program, UConn dominates women’s basketball and even, to a degree, Olympic basketball. The US does the same at a worldwide level. Just because they are simply better than everyone else for now does not mean they are bad for the game like a certain Boston Globe columnist once wrote.

Yes, none of the games the US women played in the Olympics were close for more than a quarter. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun to watch. Good basketball, whether it’s at Gampel Pavilion or at the Summer Olympics, is exciting to watch, and there isn’t much better basketball than how the U.S. women’s team played for two weeks in August.

These discussions about whether the U.S. team’s domination makes the sport boring is ridiculous and takes away from their success and accomplishments. Eventually, this reign of dominance for both UConn and the U.S. women’s team will come to an end. Other teams will improve and rise to the level and depth of talent that United States currently has.

This is truer than ever in a sport like women’s basketball. While the game has been around for nearly as long as the men’s game, it didn’t truly begin to draw global interest until the early 1970s and was not an Olympic sport until 1976. As the game spreads out to more countries, parity will increase. Success like we are seeing now will be much harder, if not impossible.

There’s no timetable as to when that day will come. But for now, it’s not important as to whether Team USA’s dominance in Rio is bad for the sport. It’s more important to appreciate the skill and talent of likely one of the greatest teams in the history of basketball and the beautiful way they played the game.


Dan Madigan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering women's basketball. He can be reached via email at daniel.madigan@uconn.edu. He tweets @dmad1433.