Following a heartbreaking Final Four weekend, it is time to look at the winners and losers of the sports world.
Winner: UConn Women’s Basketball
After just 45 minutes, 865 days could easily be forgotten. Eight hundred and sixty-five days unbeaten for the Huskies, and with one shot, it goes back to zero.
But it is important to remember all of the thrills that Geno Auriemma’s squad brought UConn this year, and throughout their 111 game winning streak. They defeated countless ranked opponents, with players making individual accomplishments that are seemingly unattainable on NCAA courts. All of this was highlighted by their 100th consecutive victory against the eventual national champion South Carolina Gamecocks.
While UConn appeared to be an unbeatable giant prior to playing Mississippi State, to start the year they were not even ranked No. 1 overall. Rolling through opponents all season long, the uncertainties from the beginning of the year quickly dissipated.
Beating teams by insane totals made it seem like it was an easy ride for the Huskies. The reality is that this year’s team had to come together and work earnestly in order to ensure UConn’s success did not die with the loss of so many seniors.
UConn was not supposed to carry their winning streak into 2017, nor were they expected to take it to triple digits. Looking at how heavy of a favorite they were in this year’s NCAA Tournament, it can be hard to believe that they exceeded expectations early on.
Their ability to extend their streak to unchartered waters drew interest to women’s college basketball that never would have existed otherwise. Some will say that the lack of competition ruined the game, but what it really did was raise the bar to improve it. UConn’s dominance made people care about the sport, and it forced each of the other Division I programs to find a new level.
Mississippi State exemplifies this, as their performance against UConn in 2016 compared to 2017 is night and day. They were embarrassed by the Huskies 98-38 in the Sweet 16 of 2016 tournament. Mississippi State spent a year with that catastrophe stuck in their minds, working toward the standard that UConn set in that game. A year later, all of the storylines changed.
If the Huskies never fulfilled the role of a dynasty, their loss would not have sent such shockwaves across the sports world. People would not have been tuning in to ESPN for the Final Four matchup. Morgan William would not be etched into history and would never have made any headlines.
UConn makes people care about women’s basketball. Their streak and records are ingrained in history forever. Their impact on the game may not be matched by any team across sports, and for that, they will certainly always be recognized as winners.
Loser: UConn Women’s Basketball
While they remain winners in many respects, the Huskies returned from Dallas as losers. They did not bring back their fifth consecutive national championship.
Mississippi State proved to be the better team in their Final Four matchup. Starting right at tip-off, the Bulldogs were fiercer, playing with no fear against a team that supposedly could not be defeated.
They made UConn’s inexperienced players crumble, forcing them into uncomfortable situations. Winning so handily every game, they seem unprepared to win when the competition and the magnitude of the games got steeper. Auriemma called his team “too immature.”
The one in the loss column means much more than the 36 in the win column.
The Crimson won their first NCAA men’s hockey tournament game in 23 years as they took down Providence 3-0, before beating Air Force 3-2 to advance to the Frozen Four.
It is encouraging for Harvard to see success on the ice again, as hockey is one of the school’s top sports. They rolled into the tournament as the No. 3-overall seed of the 16 teams selected to participate, poised to make a championship run.
They will face Minnesota-Duluth next in Chicago, hoping to reach the national championship.
Winner: The Carolinas
The North Carolina Tar Heels men’s basketball team captured its sixth national championship, taking down the Gonzaga Bulldogs 71-65 on Monday night. After losing the 2016 national championship game against Villanova on a buzzer beater, they were able to get redemption.
Meanwhile, the South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball team won its first national championship.
Loser: The NHL
The NHL announced this week that its players will not be allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. From a business perspective, it is understandable why the NHL made this decision, but it leaves many players and fans angered.
Players usually only get the opportunity to go to two to three Olympics, so missing one can be very disappointing. They love representing their countries and being able to potentially win a medal.
As the Olympics offer a place for the best talent in the world to come together, hockey fans will be missing out. The 2018 Olympics will mark the first time the NHL will not go to the Olympics since 1994.
Dylan Barrett is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.