After No. 1-seeded Sports Assistant Brandon Gould was upset in Week 1 of the AtD Playoffs, the now top-seeded Michael O’Donnell will try to hold off correspondents Jason Cantor and Mike Leatherwood. Gould will quiz the three WTSR co-hosts on where the UConn women’s basketball team ranks in history, who is the favorite to win the NBA Finals and is Martin Brodeur really the greatest goalkeeper of all time?
1. After completing their second consecutive undefeated National Championship season, does the University of Connecticut (UConn) women’s basketball team deserve to be known as one of the best teams ever in all of college sports?
JC: UConn’s women’s basketball team absolutely deserves to be known as one of the best teams ever in all of college sports because winning 78 straight games is no easy feat. I do however have a problem anointing UConn’s women’s team as the absolute best teams ever in college sports because there was a complete and utter lack of competition. This UConn team isn’t even the best UConn team in recent memory. Head coach Geno Auriemma has said on many occasions that his undefeated 2001-02 team was a much better team than this team because they had great players at every position.The 01-02 team was so deep that four starters (Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, and Tamika Williams) were among the first six picks in that spring’s WNBA draft and that doesn’t even include Diana Taurasi (the other starter) who was the first overall pick two years later. This year’s team was amazing and one of the greatest, but it should be put into perspective when you consider it isn’t even the best at its own sport, or its own school.
ML: After a second-straight NCAA Championship, Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies proved to me that they are one of the best college basketball teams of all time. This past season, UConn outscored opponents on average by 35 points each game, only winning seven of their 39 games by less than 20 points and only once by single digits. Tina Charles and Maya Moore showed every game that they are more athletic, talented and better shooters than any of their competition. But the major advantage UConn has is their depth. Maya Moore and Tina Charles only averaged 29 minutes per game apiece and UConn was still able to blow out teams on a regular basis. I think these last two UConn teams were among the best ever, but without Charles it will be interesting to see if they can continue the dominance.
MO: When you win 78 games in a row, and two National Championships along the way, how can you not be considered one of the best college teams of all-time? What UConn did is unprecedented, and may never happen again. They have one of the best coaches in college basketball history in Geno Auriemma. Their roster has consisted of a few of the all-time greats, including Maya Moore and Tina Charles. It’s just a shame that since women’s college basketball is not necessarily the most popular sport, and that rather than see this as the untouchable accomplishment it is, many onlookers see the Huskies’ dominance as boring and steadfast. Find me another college or pro sports team that has won 78 games in a row, and then I’ll change my tune on how incredible UConn’s run has been.
BG: Jason gets 3 for pointing out that UConn hardly faced any competition and for stating the dominance of the 2001-02 UConn women’s basketball team. Leatherwood gets 2 for giving some statistics about the 78-game run. O’Donnell gets 1 for saying the streak is impressive.
2. The NBA regular season is coming to a close soon, so who is the favorite to win it all this year?
JC: The Los Angeles Lakers are the best and most deep team entering the playoffs, but they are not the favorite. That distinction goes to the
Orlando Magic. Since Jordan retired, every championship winning team has had a dominating big man. Shaquille O’Neal has four rings, Tim Duncan has four, Ben Wallace has one, Kevin Garnett has one, and just last year the combo of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum won a ring too. With Bynum’s health in question, and the Western Conference being stacked (as usual) from top to bottom, my attention for a favorite goes towards the east. As much as I love LeBron James, and as much as he has continued to improve as a player, the Magic are deeper than the Cavaliers. With Shaq still nursing a bad thumb, and the Antawn Jamison still getting adjusted to the Cavaliers’ style of play, this team will have to learn on the go. The Magic have played together all year and have had very little injuries.
ML: I know everyone will probably say either the Lakers or the Cavs so I am going to choose a couple teams that I think have a really good chance to top the two NBA beasts. In the West I really like the Denver Nuggets. Carmelo Anthony is always capable of taking over a game and single-handedly winning a game. But Chauncey Billups has always been clutch in the playoffs and his veteran presence really helps the Nuggets come postseason. In the East I like the Atlanta Hawks to make a surprise. Mike Bibby has resurrected his career and makes all of the young players around him better. With the veteran addition of Jamal Crawford to go along with their fabulous young talent, I like the Hawks going into the playoffs.
MO: The favorite to win the title should be the hottest and best team heading into the playoffs. That, obviously, is the Cleveland Cavaliers. With 60-plus wins, the Cavs have everything shifting in their favor. They’ll have home court advantage throughout the playoffs, which is a must for a team who thrives considerably more at home. The team also has Shaq coming back soon in time for the postseason, which is the reason they signed him in the first place. Cleveland has also finally gelled with Antawn Jamison in the lineup, which was a concern initially after the trade occurred. A championship team is measured by how they can succeed despite adversity. The Cavs have faced a bit, and all those things considered, they certainly have to be viewed as the favorite to win it all come June.
BG: Leatherwood gets 3 for being bold and selecting the Hawks to make a run in the playoffs. Jason gets 2 for pointing out that in recent times a dominant center brings home the title. O’Donnell gets 1 for picking LeBron and the Cavaliers.
3. Martin Brodeur recently surpassed 600 career wins with a victory over the Atlanta Thrashers. Brodeur is the only goalkeeper in NHL history to accomplish this feat, but is he the best goalie of all-time?
JC: Martin Brodeur is the winningest goalie of all time. However, he has always had a great Devil’s defenses in front of him. Last year Brodeur fell apart in the playoffs and cost the Devils their Stanley Cup hopes. Just a few months ago Brodeur did not play well in another huge game, when he let his country down in the Olympics. The Canadian team didn’t have enough faith in Brodeur and switched goalies the rest of the way. Granted Martin Brodeur is not a young man, but I think Patrick Roy is better simply because he lived for the big games. Roy wasted no time establishing his legend, carrying a mediocre Montreal Canadiens team to an unexpected Stanley Cup win in his rookie season in 1986. He repeated in 1993, shutting the door on his way to his second Stanley Cup. He was at his best under pressure that playoff year, winning 10 consecutive overtime games on his way to helping his team capture the cup. His 151 playoff wins puts him miles above the competition. He is, simply put, the best big game goalie in NHL history.
ML: There is no doubt that Martin Brodeur is the best goaltender of all-time. Let’s start with all of the career records he owns. He is the all-time leader in wins (600), shutouts (110), and saves (24,750). He also has the single season record for wins (48, ’06-’07). Brodeur has also been one of the most durable goaltenders the NHL has ever seen. He has played in at least 70 games in 11 of the last 12 seasons, all with the New Jersey Devils. He has three Stanley Cup championships (’95, ’00, ’03) and is second in total playoff wins with 98. With all of these records and the reliability he provides for the Devils, you have to put Martin Brodeur in front of Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek and all of the other great goaltenders the NHL has seen in its long history.
MO: It’s hard to say Brodeur isn’t the best. He’s got all the records a goalie can have. He has the most wins in history. He holds the shutouts record for both the regular season and the playoffs. He’s hoisted three Stanley Cups. He has won three Vezina trophies and two Olympic gold medals. New Jersey has had very few true “stars” playing in front of Brodeur during his tenure there, and sometimes very shoddy defenses have played in front of him. Yet, Brodeur stayed loyal to the team that gave him a shot rather than jump to a team that had an immediate chance to win in any given year, i.e. a team like Detroit. Brodeur has been at the top of his game for the last 15-plus years, and having all the records and accolades a goalie could ever dream of, he’s definitely the absolute best ever.
BG: Even though I love Marty Brodeur to death, I’ll have to give Jason 3 here for putting up a very good case for Patrick Roy. Leatherwood gets 2 for listing Brodeur’s records and pointing out how durable he has been. O’Donnell gets 1 for forgetting that Brodeur had the luxury of playing behind guys such as Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Ken Daneyko.
Jason is heading back to the finals, 8 – 7 – 3