Think playing UConn is challenging? Try broadcasting one of its games. During the Huskies' record 72-game winning streak, their average margin of victory is 32.5 points, and they have not trailed beyond 25 minutes into any game this season. Routs are so inevitable that broadcasters are happy if the game remains interesting until halftime. "We go into production meetings saying, 'Let's hope for 20 good minutes tonight,'" ESPN basketball analyst Doris Burke says.
Even though their games are devoid of drama, the Huskies are the top draw in women's basketball. Of the 32 women's broadcasts on ESPN and ESPN2 this season, UConn's 28-point win over West Virginia in the Big East championship game drew the highest rating: 0.8 (or 924,000 viewers). Still, the Huskies appeared on the network only seven times, meaning that Burke didn't have it as bad as the announcers who cover the team on a regular basis. Says Burke, "I've often asked UConn's radio guys, 'How do you do this?'"
According to Bob Joyce, it's not as hard as it might seem. Joyce has been the voice of the team for flagship station WTIC-AM since the 2006--07 season. (For five years before that he split games with Joe D'Ambrosio, who now calls UConn men's games.) "Being a radio guy, you still have to paint the picture for the listener, regardless of the score," says Joyce, whose record as an announcer is 140--6 over the past four seasons. "The fan base here is unique because they listen [all the way] to the end of the game."
Burke and Joyce agree that the key to preparing for a UConn broadcast is to overprepare. Joyce and analyst Kara Wolters, a former Huskies center, scour opposing teams' media guides for details they can deliver in the waning minutes. Burke spends time after the outcome has been decided examining what kind of team could present a challenge for UConn, as well as touching on other hot topics in the women's game. During one recent game she talked about how the current UConn team would fare against other great women's teams and discussed Baylor's Brittney Griner, who had been suspended for punching an opponent.
"You have to be prepared in every telecast for the possibility of a blowout," Burke says. "But with UConn these days, you go in thinking that it will occur."
STEPHEN SLADE (ESPN)
MORE IN STORRS A trip to UConn means extra prep work for Burke and the ESPN crew.