McCollum’s Column: UConn, Kansas and college basketball drama

On Valentine’s Eve, we saw the heart of why many of us love college basketball.

 

Simultaneously, the UConn women and the Kansas men provided us the equivalent of a box of chocolates — with different coatings and flavors.

The UConn women rather routinely disposed of the No. 2-ranked South Carolina women (who were 21-2) for their 100th straight victory.

The Huskies established themselves as one of the greatest dynasties in basketball.

Correct that. One of the greatest dynasties in sports.

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are pretty darn good but Geno Auriemma and his ongoing cast of great players are on a level separate from anyone else.

For those who hold to what happens involving women’s basketball a lesser achievement, consider this:

The Huskies, who have won four straight NCAA titles, last lost on Nov. 18, 2014, to Stanford. What is overshadowed is Stanford broke UConn’s 47-game winning streak at the time.

So, UConn has won 147 of its last 148 games.

And they weren’t feasting primarily on cupcakes.

During the current 100-game streak, the Huskies have 27 wins (more than a fourth) against top-10 teams. Nine of them were against top-5 teams.

Only two of those victories were in single digits. Fifty-six games were triumphs of 40 or more pooints, 10 by 30 or more.

Name every established power in women’s college basketball. The Huskies have conquered every one at one point or another. They consistently are at another level — at steamroller with a Hemi.

And this year? UConn lost its top three players off last year’s champions (including Breanna Stewart, one of the top players in women’s history) and they were consecutive one-two-three choices in the WNBA draft.

And this was supposed to the rebuilding year for UConn — the year the Huskies were highly vulnerable to challenges to their championship run. Auriemma, one of the great coaches in sports history, has developed a demanding system that yearly invents itself based on preparation, pride and unyielding sense of purpose and tradition.

Many of us sports fans appreciate excellence, even with no attachment to the team on the pedestal.

“People tell me they can’t get their heads wrapped around the streak,” said Auriemma. “I’m in the middle of it and I can’t either.”

Now to Kansas.

The Jayhawks have rarely lost in Allen Fieldhouse this century. After a upset Saturday by Iowa State, they were face with almost unfathomable back-to-back defeats Monday to a very good West Virginia team.

They were down by 14 with 2:45 left when they found another gear, mostly because of a pressure defense that caused West Virginia, which was dominating, to panic (turnovers, missed free throws and open shots).

Gasp. You could see it in the Mountaineers’ faces. We are about to beat Kansas by double digits on their home court.

That’s when the trap door opened — literally with Kansas’ trapping defense.

The Jayhawks outscored Kansas by 21-7 over 2:45 to force overtime, then win in overtime.

One of the most exciting things in sports is when you can’t believed what you have just seen.

This was a first weekend NCAA tournament type of weird game.

It was the whipped cream, cherry topping on a delightful evening of college basketball.

 

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