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WNBA CONNections to The Streak

There is no greater pipeline to the WNBA than the University of Connecticut. Open the Players page on WNBA.com, select Connecticut in the schools filter and you will see more names than any other institution.

Of the 144 players that finished the 2016 season on a WNBA roster, 15 of them hailed from UConn. That’s more than 10 percent of the league coming from one school. UConn even made history at least year’s WNBA Draft with the top three selections all coming from Geno Auriemma’s program.

Schools With Most Players in the WNBA (end of 2016 season)
– Connecticut: 15
– Duke: 10
– Rutgers: 9
– Tennessee: 7
– North Carolina: 6
– Notre Dame: 5
– Maryland: 5
– Stanford: 4
– Minnesota: 4

No other school had more than three players in the WNBA last year. UConn delivered three in last year’s first round alone.

But the 15 players on that list have more in common than playing their college ball in Storrs, Conn. Each of them was involved in one of the top four longest winning streaks in the history of college basketball.

Top 5 Longest Winning Streaks in NCAA Basketball (Men and Women)
– 60 games: San Francisco men’s basketball (Dec. 17, 1954 to Dec. 14, 1956)
– 70 games: Connecticut women’s basketball (Nov. 9, 2001 to March 11, 2003)
– 88 games: UCLA men’s basketball (Jan. 30, 1971 to Jan. 17, 1974)
– 90 games: Connecticut women’s basketball (Nov. 6, 2008 to Dec. 28. 2010)
– 100 games (and counting): Connecticut women’s basketball (Nov. 23, 2014 to present)

The current Huskies squad extended its record winning streak to an even 100 games on February 13 and hasn’t slowed down since.

What makes this current streak so impressive — besides the fact that its the longest ever in the history of college basketball — is that UConn has continued to win after losing its top three players from last year’s juggernaut.

Auriemma will be the first to tell you that this streak was not supposed to continue. He entered the season with a young squad — UConn has only three seniors and just one that starts — and tested them with elite competition early and often, including games with No. 3 Baylor (Nov. 17), No. 2 Notre Dame (Dec. 7) and No. 4 Maryland (Dec. 29).

“I’m probably the most surprised person in the country. I set the schedule up so this wouldn’t happen. … I’m flabbergasted,” Auriemma said after the victory over Maryland.

While the current streak is being maintained by a group of sophomores (Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier), juniors (Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams) and the lone senior starter (Saniya Chong), there are plenty of former Huskies playing in the WNBA that own a piece of this historic run of success.

Current Streak (Nov. 23, 2014 to present)
– Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (2011-12 to 2014-15)
– Kiah Stokes (2011-12 to 2014-15)
– Breanna Stewart (2012-13 to 2015-16)
– Moriah Jefferson (2012-13 to 2015-16)
– Morgan Tuck (2012-13 to 2015-16)

Before taking the WNBA by storm (pun intended) — winning Rookie of the Year and earning All-WNBA Second Team honors in 2016 — Breanna Stewart was the centerpiece of the Connecticut squad that made its own piece of history by winning four straight NCAA championships. While Stewart, Jefferson and Tuck can’t lay claim to any of the 24 wins from this season, there are 75 from the past two seasons that hold their stamp.

One thing Connecticut has proven is that no record is safe. Back in 2010, the Huskies topped UCLA’s 88-game winning streak — a record that stood for 36 years — and established a new mark with 90 wins in a row. How long did that record last? Just over six years.

“I thought our record was safe,” Maya Moore told the Associated Press. “But then as I saw the last graduating class, as well as how the current players continued to develop, I thought they had a good chance to catch us.”

90-Game Streak (Nov. 6, 2008 to Dec. 28. 2010)
– Renee Montgomery (2005-06 to 2008-09)
– Tina Charles (2006-07 to 2009-10)
– Maya Moore (2007-08 to 2010-11)
– Tiffany Hayes (2008-09 to 2011-12)
– Kelly Faris (2009-10 to 2012-13)
– Stefanie Dolson (2010-11 to 2013-14)
– Bria Hartley (2010-11 to 2013-14)

The 90-game streak from 2008 to 2010 featured Maya Moore and Tina Charles, two players that would go on to be No. 1 overall picks in the WNBA Draft, win Rookie of the Year honors and be named Most Valuable Player within their first four seasons as a professional.

Moore and Tiffany Hayes are the only two players in the group above that were part of the entire 90-game streak; Montgomery and Charles graduated to the pros while the streak was still active, and Faris, Dolson and Hartley joined the program while it was in progress.

This streak illustrates the beauty of the UConn program in terms of its continuity. As star players graduate out of the program, new players are ready to step into those shoes and keep the ball rolling without missing a beat. The program doesn’t fall off a cliff when a Tina Charles or Maya Moore graduates because there are more elite players on their way up to replace them.

70-Game Streak (Nov. 9, 2001 to March 11, 2003)
– Sue Bird (1998–99 to 2001-02)
– Swin Cash (1998–99 to 2001-02)
– Diana Taurasi (2000-01 to 2003-04)

Another prime example of this comes from UConn’s first major winning steak, which hit 70 games behind the play of current WNBA stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi and former players Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Tamika Williams.

Before UConn delivered picks 1, 2 and 3 in the 2016 WNBA Draft, they had dominated the 2002 Draft with three of the top four picks and four of the top six with Bird (No. 1), Cash (No. 2), Jones (No. 4) and Williams (No. 6). This amazing group was at UConn for the beginning of the 70-game win streak, but it was Taurasi that saw it from start to finish. Taurasi also shared her first NCAA championship with that group in 2002, but went to win two more after their departure.

Players come and players go, but the winning continues.

“I don’t feel like it’s their streak and we have our streak,” Moore told the Associated Press regarding the current streak. “We all kind of share everything this school accomplishes.”