DALLAS— Even the upsets are bigger in Texas.
Friday night, Mississippi State’s Morgan William hit the shot heard around the women’s basketball world, dropping in a floater from the left elbow as overtime expired to end one of the greatest win streaks in the history of sports.
The shot will live on infamy as one of the ultimate examples of David slaying Goliath, and rightfully so. For 45 minutes, Mississippi State did everything right to pull off the upset. For the first time in 112 games, UConn was not the best team on the floor.
A lot of people who don’t watch any women’s basketball have said that UConn’s dominance was bad for the sport. I’m not the first and certainly won’t be the last to say that they aren’t.
UConn’s tireless pursuit of perfection has created a gold standard for success that no other sport has. Coaches, analysts and players involved with the game see what the Huskies have done and have raised their game to try and compete with the Huskies instead of backing down like so many outsiders think happens.
That sustained excellence is what generated an impressive TV rating that reached 2.7 from midnight to 12:15 a.m. as UConn and the Bulldogs squared off in overtime. For comparison, the Warriors’ record-tying 73rd win last season pulled a 2.7 rating. Kobe’s 60-point game that same night had a 2.6 rating.
But it’s not UConn losing that drew people in. It’s the fact that their nightly dominance was challenged.
People aren’t tuning in at that rate to watch any team other than UConn. Whether fans want to see the Huskies win or their winning streak toppled, viewers tuned in. If you think more exposure and more attention is bad for the sport, then you’re crazy.
Even though the last 111 games ended with a “W” for UConn, nothing is guaranteed. Is Mississippi State truly a better team than UConn? It’s hard to say. But for one game on the last day of March, they certainly were.
That’s what makes this streak so impressive and NCAA tournament so great.
Once the ball is tipped, the records don’t matter. Whoever is the best that day moves on. Friday night, it was unquestionably the Bulldogs in one of the best women’s basketball games ever. This game and William’s buzzer-beater will be talked about for years to come. Hopefully it’s because it’s the game that firmly put women’s basketball onto the national stage.
For the sake of the sport, hopefully Mississippi State and South Carolina will play an exciting and entertaining matchup Sunday night. If not, hopefully the buzz will carry over into next season.
Normally, it would be impossible to say another impressive streak is possible after such an amazing stretch. But UConn is different from the other sports dynasties. While other teams usually break apart after a successful run, the Huskies are simply reloading.
UConn will lose just one rotation player, Saniya Chong, this season. They’ll add transfers Batouly Camara and Azurá Stevens, an honorable mention All-American last season at Duke along with the nation’s top recruit in Megan Walker. Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier will only be juniors, and Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams will be seniors.
This year’s team was great- especially for a “rebuilding year”- but next year’s team should be deeper and better. It’s impossible to say whether they’ll match the historic 111-game win streak, but they’ll certainly have a chance to get off on the right foot to making it a reality.
UConn’s dominance will likely continue for years to come, and teams like the Bulldogs will rise up to take them down. Win or lose, the Huskies’ dominance will continue to build this game for the better.