I live in Connecticut – have for most of my life. Having said that, I find myself rooting against the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team tonight. Does it mean I should be run out of the state on a rail?
Why am I rooting for Notre Dame, you ask? Nope, didn’t go to school there. It has nothing to do with being Catholic either. It’s as simple as this. The UConn women have won four of the last six titles. Between UConn and Tennesee, they have won 17 of the 33 since 1982. Outside of those big two, no one has won it more than twice. Notre Dame has won two and been the runner up three times. The NCAA, and women’s basketball in general, NEEDS the Huskies to lose.
I’ve met UConn coach Geno Auriemma a couple of times, and I like him a lot. He’s an excellent coach. He could coach the men, high school, midgets, the Yard Goats, anything, and he’d find a way to win. However, he made some comments that got some legs the other day about how the men’s game has become a “joke.” I would contend that he needs to look a little closer to home. It’s the women’s game that has become a bit of joke and is in need of some help. Not his team specifically, but across the board.
The level of real competition for the top five or six teams is mighty, mighty slim. Going into the women’s Final Four, his team has outscored opponents by an average of 41 points a game! Are you kidding me? The next best team on the list is Princeton at 23.2 – and that’s more about how bad the Ivy League is than anything else.
Danielle Kurtzleben wrong a great article about the state of the women’s game. It’s worth a read. She points out that there are far fewer upsets in the women’s basketball tournament over the years than in the men’s. In fact, it’s not even close.
I’m sorry, folks, but women’s basketball is not a lot of fun to watch. Maybe five or six times a year there is a great game when two titans get together in a game that is really fun to watch. That is not often enough.
It’s not Geno’s fault – he schedules most of the “tough” opponents. The problem is, they’re not tough enough to hang. Notre Dame was ranked second, UConn third, when they played in December. UConn won by 18. Duke was ranked tenth when UConn played (and spanked them by 31) on December 29. South Carolina was the number one team on February 9 – UConn by 25. Sense a pattern here?
Now people will point out that the Huskies lost to #6 Stanford on the road by two. First, it was on the road. Second, even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.
It’s also not Geno’s fault that the best players want to play for him. Who wouldn’t want a chance to win a National Championship every year? I think a start would be cutting back to 13 scholarships, just like the men have. It might stop the talent pool from being diluted and allow some of the also-rans to be competitive.
I don’t have all the answers, but the women’s basketball coaches should all be worried about a system that has allowed such a huge gap to form between the haves and have-nots.
Oh, one last thing… UConn has never lost an NCAA Tournament championship game, so I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath tonight.