Just this past Saturday, the Tulane Green Wave gave the UConn Huskies women's basketball team a scare they haven't felt in quite some time. Although the Huskies came out on top for their 101st consecutive win, a legitimate question was raised regarding whether or not the Huskies need to experience a loss before the NCAA tournament. Staff writers Andrew Morrison and Chris Hanna give their takes in this week’s edition of Point/Counterpoint.
Andrew Morrison: 101 consecutive wins is an astounding feat, and each win only adds to the team’s unprecedented dominance. But with the streak comes a ton of added pressure. When a team has not experienced a loss in such a long time, there is a tendency to play not to lose, rather than playing to win. A loss would be a humbling moment for the team, considering that many of the players have not lost a game in their entire collegiate careers. Given head coach Geno Auriemma’s ability to motivate this team, a loss would not be a significant blow to their confidence. Instead, a weight would be lifted from their shoulders, and the team could shift their focus from the streak to a more important ultimate goal: an NCAA championship.
Chris Hanna: While there may be increased pressure with each new win, pressure has never stopped the Huskies from performing in the past. UConn has come out of every challenge over the last 101 games, each with increasing pressure, with a win. Regardless of how close games like those against Florida State and Tulane were, winning games that close was just as humbling as taking the loss. Auriemma undoubtedly takes the close wins as something for the girls to improve on in future games. The way he studies the game is so detailed and so precise that even if the Huskies keep winning, he’ll find something wrong for the team to work on and keep them humble. He’s done it for years and he’ll continue to do so, such that UConn doesn't need to lose on their quest for their fifth consecutive national title.
Andrew Morrison: I agree that Auriemma’s persistence on improving prevents the team from getting too complacent during the streak. However, I don’t think a close win can compare to a loss, especially if dealt by an unexpected opponent like Tulane. We have never seen how good this team can be once a fire is lit underneath them by a loss. Not only would a loss relieve some unnecessary pressure, it would inspire the team tremendously. As great as Auriemma is at finding flaws within a winning performance, nothing can make a team hungrier than being upset. Once the tournament begins, it’ll be too late to take a loss. And let’s be honest, this team is going only to be better next year. When one streak ends, another begins, and I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be as successful as this one. I’m enjoying this record-breaking streak just as much as anyone else, but a loss would motivate this team more than consecutive wins.
Chris Hanna: Truthfully, I don’t believe taking a loss would be of any help to this team, which has seen it all at this point. The way UConn prepares for opponents game in, game out is like no other team in the nation. A loss might stoke a fire in them, sure, but the Huskies definitely do not need a loss to relieve pressure or be inspired for the remainder of the season. This women’s basketball program has managed to inspire itself after being doubted at the beginning of the season, and has carried on the legacy of those who came before with incredible poise and maintained that passion for the game despite all the winning.
Having seen first-hand how hard each and every one of the players practice and how they have talked about the streak in interviews, it seems like they treat each game like it’s just another game. It is cliché, but that’s the mentality to have when “under pressure” like this. And if the players stick to that belief, I don’t believe for one minute that they need a loss to fire them up come tourney time.
Ultimately, we’ll just have wait and see what happens as the UConn women’s basketball team will, for all we know, enter the postseason undefeated on their journey for five consecutive national championships along with a 101-game win streak, and counting.