On a cold January night in 1974, on the campus of The University of Notre Dame, one of the greatest streaks in all of sports history came to an end when the Fighting Irish beat UCLA 71-70 in college basketball. UCLA’s improbable 88 game winning streak was halted by Dwight Clay’s jump shot with 29 seconds remaining that night and a record that would never be broken was officially set.
Fast forward to December 21st, 2010 and the unbreakable is about to be broken. Tonight in Hartford, CT, on the campus of The University of Connecticut, the UConn women’s basketball team aims for their 89th consecutive victory. This feat has not gone unnoticed, that’s for sure. Media outlets all over the country are discussing this incredible achievement and how it stacks up to others of its kind in history. It brings to mind such feats as Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak, Cal Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive baseball games played and Oklahoma’s 47 game football winning streak in the mid-1950’s. But it’s impossible to have a conversation about this streak without comparing it to that of the Bruins in the early 1970’s.
As the Uconn women slowly approached this hallowed record, the discussion of how the two teams compare began to grow legs. Many argue that the two records cannot possibly be mentioned together because women’s college basketball is not on the same level as the men’s game in terms of talent. Others argue that what the Huskies are doing is even more impressive than the Bruins streak because of the level of sustained dominance. I’ll keep my opinion to myself on this one and instead, show you some statistics about both streaks that may surprise you a bit. Let’s dig a little deeper now shall we?
During UCLA’s run of 88 straight wins, they played a total of 10 teams ranked in the top 10 in the nation. In comparison, the Huskies of UConn have played 16 teams ranked in the top 10.
UConn’s average margin of victory during their streak is an astounding 33.3 points while UCLA managed a 23 point margin of victory during their run. In fact, only twice in their 88 wins has UConn been held to a single digit victory. It happened 16 times to UCLA.
These statistics speak to the dominance of the UConn Huskies over the past several years and, at first glance, appear to make a case for their record being greater than that of UCLA. Here is another statistic to consider however.
Over the course of the last 100 years, only 13 men’s basketball teams have ever won more than 35 games in a row. Of those 13 streaks of 35 or more, UCLA owns 3 of them (their 88 game record being the best, obviously). In comparison, UConn holds 5 streaks of over 30 games in the last 16 years alone. Does this stat confirm that their dominance has been greater than UCLA’s or does it show the disparity in talent level that exists in women’s basketball? Tough one, huh?
The point of all these stats is simply to show how incredible both of these streaks are. Comparing the two is virtually impossible when you consider the different eras, rules, and players involved. For all those looking for ways to decide which streak is more impressive, use the stats above to help you in your task. For the rest of us that simply love sports, check out the game tonight as there is a very good chance you will witness history.
One final note for all you historians out there. While the achievements of both UCLA and UConn should be noted and applauded, there is another record out there that remains to this day. Between 1953 and 1958, while earning 4 AAU women’s basketball national titles, the women of Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas won 131 consecutive games. 131 games in a row! So good luck tonight Huskies but remember, you still have a long way to go to catch Wayland.