Point/Counterpoint: Which team will go farther, UConn MBB or WBB? 

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UConn men’s basketball suffer a 85-74 loss against St. Johns at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. following a noon matchup on Sunday, Jan, 15. In front of a sold-out crowd, the Huskies added another defeat to their record making it their fourth loss in the past five games. Photo by Sofia Sawchuk/The Daily Campus.

For the first time since 2014, the No. 15 UConn men’s and No. 5 women’s basketball teams are both having seasons that could end in national championships. The women’s squad has been a top 10 mainstay all year, even through injuries, and are only looking to get stronger as they get all their pieces back. They’ve lost two games so far and look unlikely to lose too many more as the year goes. The men started off red hot at 14-0, climbing from unranked all the way up to No. 2 in the AP Poll. Since then, they’ve dropped four of five games, but the pieces are still there for a deep run. With the dual excellence of the university’s basketball teams, the question arises — Which one will make it further in March? Associate Sports Editor Stratton Stave and Campus Correspondent CJ Dexter discuss in this week’s Point/Counterpoint. 

Stratton: I’m going to say that the women’s team has a better shot at making a run late in March. When things were clicking in the early portion of the year, there was no team that looked better. In their first five games, they notched three wins against then-top 10 teams, with one such victory coming by 22 points against NC State. They dropped a pair against now-No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 11 Maryland, both without star Azzi Fudd. Every player has faced some sort of injury so far, making it hard for the team to get any positive rhythm or momentum. Not to say that excuses are good, but there is a legitimate excuse for every poor performance or loss the women’s team has faced. With Aubrey Griffin and Caroline Ducharme coming back soon from concussion protocol and Fudd’s recent knee injury hopefully not being too bad, this team has a serious chance to take home their 12th championship. They looked completely dominant when healthy and should be able to put the pieces back together and get good pre-tournament experience with the Big East schedule and a game against No. 1 South Carolina looming. 

CJ: It’s very easy to give up on a team after a recent 1-4 slide, but I believe the men’s team has all the pieces necessary to propel them deep into March, and even further than Geno Auriemma’s squad. With the team reeling from their fourth loss in the last five games on Sunday, many fans have been quick to rule out the men’s team from any sort of magical run. But, this same squad was sitting at 14-0 with blowout wins over current No. 4 Alabama, No. 12 Iowa State and other quad-one opponents just a couple of weeks ago. This team surged to a 14-0 start behind dominant inside scoring, improved 3 point shooting, suffocating defense and exceptional play from the bench. They’ve shown just how dangerous they can be when they are playing their best, and I do believe they have the talent and leadership to return to form. Despite the rough stretch, a mid-season slide isn’t out of the ordinary for previous championship teams within the program. Before Kemba Walker’s magical championship run with the Huskies in 2011, the team collapsed at the end of the regular season, losing seven of their last 11 games before winning 11 straight en route to a national championship. I think people are writing off this year’s team too early. There is still a lot of basketball left to play and a lot of talent on this team. 

The UConn women’s basketball team defeats Georgetown 65-50 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. on Sunday, Jan. 15. Photo by Sofia Sawchuk/The Daily Campus.

Stratton: While this is true, you can’t argue with history. The women’s team has made the Final Four for the past 14 years. The men have accomplished such a feat just five times ever. Although it is getting more and more difficult to succeed in women’s college basketball, the skill gap between UConn and the teams below them is still greater than the equivalent gap on the men’s side. Even if the women’s team breaks their streak and only makes it to the Elite Eight, to equal that production, the men have only made it that far the same number of times the women have won the championship. The men’s team is very strong this year and I’m a full believer that they can and will make the necessary adjustments to go as far as they have been in the Dan Hurley era, but men’s basketball as a sport is just so much more unpredictable. I just trust the consistency of the women’s team more, and even with the injury risk, I believe that they have a better shot of making it far — not to take anything away from the great run the men are having.  

CJ: There is no denying the impressive streak of 14 straight final four appearances by Auriemma’s squad. I also agree with the point about the skill gap differential in women’s versus men’s college basketball. But we have never seen a UConn women’s team so decimated by injuries. Paige Bueckers, the face of the program, won’t be seeing the floor this season due to an ACL tear, leading scorer Fudd has been dealing with a knee injury all year, Ducharme suffered a concussion last week and many others have missed time with injuries as well. While I do believe that this unit can repeat another Final Four run when fully healthy, the lack of continuity will play a role and could catch up to them. As for the men’s team, when they are playing their best brand of basketball they are one of the deepest and most talented teams in the country. The Huskies are expected to get 6-11 center Samson Johnson back from injury within the next week, which could lead to Adama Sanogo and Donavan Clingan sharing the floor more. When this team cleans up its foul problems and Hurley figures out the best rotations to produce victories on the court again, I believe this team will be a powerhouse once the calendar strikes March.  

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