Column: Twitter trolls and the UConn women’s basketball standard for greatness

UConn seniors Kia Nurse (left) and Gabby Williams (right) answer questions from the media following a 91-89 overtime loss to Notre Dame in the Final Four at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on March 30, 2018. (Photo by Olivia Stenger, Photo Editor/The Daily Campus)

UConn seniors Kia Nurse (left) and Gabby Williams (right) answer questions from the media following a 91-89 overtime loss to Notre Dame in the Final Four at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on March 30, 2018. (Photo by Olivia Stenger, Photo Editor/The Daily Campus)

It’s amazing how many times you’ll see people on social media crying for more competition in the game of women’s basketball when the UConn Huskies blow out an opponent.

“They’re bad for the game,” the trolls proclaim. “Is this even fun to watch when UConn is demolishing an opponent by 80?”

“It’s just women’s basketball anyway, who cares?”

It’s even more amazing when those same people who “don’t care” clearly ignore UConn’s almost legendary non-conference strength of schedule and cry out that the Huskies have an unfair monopoly on recruiting.

For what it’s worth, they don’t. Sure, head coach Geno Auriemma has acquired nine No. 1 overall high school recruits since 2000 – including 2018 prospect Christyn Williams and excluding Elena Delle Donne who transferred before school started – but teams like Baylor, Tennessee, Texas, Notre Dame and South Carolina have had comparable recruiting classes throughout the years.

Those same folks on social media revel when UConn loses. Even if the proof is there that the competition gap in women’s basketball is closing, Twitter trolls care not. They get pure enjoyment of having the opportunity to ridicule Auriemma and his Huskies for two consecutive Final Four losses, suggesting the American Athletic Conference or weak competition in women’s basketball are to blame for failure at the biggest stage.

Cue the preeminent UConn women’s basketball troll, Dan Shaughnessy, who tweeted just that.

A whole host of people who follow Shaughnessy added their own takes on why UConn is bad for the game and that this Notre Dame game didn’t prove anything regarding the competition level of the women’s game. Some came to UConn’s (and the rest of the sport’s) aid, but a ton of trolls seemed to be in the majority.

It’s not as if I really need to make the following point, but I’m going to do it anyway: UConn isn’t bad for the game in the slightest – look at its growth over the last 20 years. The Huskies don’t play the weakest schedule – you can take a look at all the ranked teams they play. They don’t get far better recruits than everybody else – look at the last four or five years of recruiting rankings.

That’s not the attitude the sport of women’s basketball deserves, let alone UConn, the sport’s most dominant team. The Huskies have set a high bar throughout the years, one that certainly fuels the haters on social media who have nothing better to do.

But this standard has also encouraged, even forced UConn’s rivals – Notre Dame, South Carolina and Mississippi State, among others – to raise their bar and improve themselves to a point that they can beat a team as “unbeatable” as the Huskies.

And that is sadly ignored by a large percentage of people who think they’re women’s college basketball experts even when they saw Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale knock UConn out in the semifinal and later do the same to Mississippi State.

UConn might not have won the title this year, and might lose out again next year, but it has set the standard for success – no, the standard for greatness – for years to come. The type of standard that the Boston Celtics set in the 1950s and 60s and the UCLA Bruins set in the 60s and 70s. The standard that people will forever remember when looking back in history, that forced other teams to catch up and make for a more competitive game.

When we look back at history in a world where women’s basketball continues to grow, these Huskies are going to be remembered as nothing short of the standard for dynastic play.

When we look back at history, those same trolls that wasted their time degrading a bunch of college kids and a Hall of Fame coach won’t be remembered even for a second.


Chris Hanna is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball and football. He can be reached via email at christopher.hanna@uconn.edu. He tweets @realchrishanna.