The Connecticut Huskies are going for their 100th win against the South Carolina Gamecocks. No team has ever won a hundred in a row; no team, in men’s or women’s college basketball, has ever managed to run the table to triple digits.
It’s absurd, and unbelievable, and, ultimately, the least surprising sports record that could ever be established. The Connecticut Huskies are the best college program to ever exist, and that will not change with a win, nor with a loss. It’ll simply be another footnote; perhaps a paragraph or two in their long history of dominance.
However, a loss would be something, wouldn’t it? The closest thing I can approximate would be the story of the 2007 New England Patriots, who won their first eighteen games before being upset by the 9-7 New York Giants in the Super Bowl. But even that pales in comparison; it was a gigantic upset, sure, but it was also not unthinkable.
There is a reason only one team in the nearly 100-year history of the NFL has finished a season undefeated, and the Patriots first loss just happened to be at the literal worst possible time. However, again, that’s just one season; just one blip on the radar, not a years-long streak.
Perhaps the only thing that really makes sense to me, as a sports fan, is Tiger Woods. Even when Tiger wasn’t at his best, it was assumed that he was going to win anyway.
If, anytime during 2000 - 2008, a spaceship had come down and aliens came out, demanding we play them in golf to save ourselves from extinction (an idea reformatted from Bill Simmons), you’d pick Tiger Woods one million times out of a million.
This Connecticut team is the same; even though their peripheral numbers aren’t as dominant in years past, and they don’t quite feel the same as those Breanna Stewart teams (understandable, as they lack Breanna Stewart), I would still pick them to save our skins.
And now, that continues on against South Carolina.
This is not a pushover team; this is not some random, slap-ass team that happened to fall, unfortunately, in the Huskies way. They have been one of the best teams in the last five years, sitting at 22-2 this year, after having won the SEC championship (regular season conference) the last two years in a row, (and won the regular season SEC the year before that), and are coming of a three-year run of Sweet Sixteen, Final Four, and Sweet Sixteen.
The Gamecocks have the 9th-best offense in the country, scoring 1.080 points per possession, and the 9th-best defense, giving up .766 points per possession. They have a top 15 true shooting percentage, at 55.4%, and give up the 6th-best effective field goal percentage, at 38.5%. They have a legitimate shot at a one seed in the NCAA tournament, and are title contenders.
But the issue is this: everything that I mentioned, save for defensive effective field goal percentage, is outdone by the Huskies. Obviously, Connecticut has had a better five-year run; that’s kind of the premise of this piece. They are at the top of the chart in offensive points per possession, second in defense; I could go on, but you get my point.
The only thing that I, noted genius and person who never gets predictions wrong, think could trip the Huskies up is the weight of history. You’re asking them to do something impossible; something that has never been done before. At least, when breaking the last streak, they had other Connecticut teams in front of them to show them that it was possible; but this is uncharted waters.
Will they press? Will they try to be perfect? Breaking the first record was crazy; this would be something much more. South Carolina is a really, really good team, and should the Huskies feel that 100th victory crushing down, the Gamecocks will have a good chance to deny them their place in the record books.