After the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team won its fourth straight national championship, I began to wonder where coach Geno Auriemma’s Huskies stand in college basketball history. His teams have won 11 titles (so far) between 1995 and 2016, which is beyond impressive. The closest comparison you can make is to John Wooden’s UCLA men’s teams that won 10 national championships between 1964 and 1975, including seven in row (1967-1973).
Auriemma’s Huskies and Wooden’s Bruins are clearly the top college basketball programs of all time. It might not be fair to compare them — after all, they coached in different eras. But let’s do it anyway and crown one of them the best college basketball dynasty, using the stats from their Final Four seasons.
Regular Season Stats
During its past 17 Final Four seasons, UConn went undefeated six times while UCLA was 4 of 11. UCONN takes an early 1-0 lead
The next stats to look at are common ones: field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and points per game. Wooden’s Bruins averaged a 49.9 field goal percentage, were 67% from the free throw line, and averaged 87.38 points per game. Auriemma’s Huskies, meanwhile, have a 52.24 field goal percentage, 72.37% free throw percentage, and averaged 82.22 points per game. UConn narrowly leads in two of those three categories and UCLA in one — but that’s the one that mattered most. Field goal and free throw percentage don’t impact the scoreboard in the same way that points per game does. UCLA ties it up, 1-1
The next stat to consider is rebounds. UCLA averaged 1,529 per season, while UConn pulled down 1,642 per season. Advantage UConn, 2-1
Coach Auriemma has won 11 national titles since the 1995 tournament, giving him one more than Coach Wooden’s 10 titles. 3-1 UConn
Comparing Final Four appearances, Coach Auriemma leads Coach Wooden 17 to 11. UConn goes up 4-1
Another stat to consider is consecutive championships won: UConn has 4 and UCLA has 7. Our score is now 4-2 UConn
The final stat to consider is the percentage of Final Four appearances that resulted in a national championship. As this stat is more important than Final Four appearances, whoever wins it will get 2 points instead of 1. Coach Auriemma’s percentage of National Championships in the Final Fours is 64.71 and Coach Wooden’s is 83.33%. Two points for UCLA, who ties it 4-4
With UCLA having tied at the end of the game, it’s crunch time. The stat that will determine the winner is consecutive games won. UConn had 90 straight wins, edging out UCLA’s record of 88. UConn 5-UCLA 4
But wait! Wooden’s Bruins don’t quit until the final buzzer and there’s still a couple seconds left on the clock. Quick, let’s look at winning percentage. Auriemma’s Huskies have won 94.9% of the time, while UCLA narrowly edges them at 95.79%. Final score: 5-5
And really, how could it end in anything but a tie? These are the two greatest dynasties in college basketball. It’s a testament to Auriemma’s teams that they match up so evenly with Wooden’s legendary squads. And it proves how good Wooden was as a coach that it took three decades for another person to challenge his records.
These are two teams for the ages. But let’s not forget: Auriemma is still working, and he could very well push past Wooden as the greatest college basketball coach of all time.
Photos: Joe Robbins/Getty Images (Auriemma championship), Neil Leifer (Wooden championship, Wooden with team), Andy Lyons/Getty Images (Auriemma action)