Another slaughter in Storrs
If women’s college basketball fanatics wonder why their sport doesn’t get near the air time on sports highlight shows as men’s basketball, then all they need to do is turn to ESPN2 right now and their question will be answered.
Connecticut is once again stomping all over a hapless foe on its home court. Only this opponent is 22-0 and ranked first in both major Division I polls.
South Carolina has gone from Southeastern Conference doormat to powerhouse under Dawn Staley, who remains one of the greatest women’s basketball players the United States has ever known, even though her career at Virginia ended 23 years ago. Staley was also a three-time Olympic gold medalist for the Red, White and Blue before embarking on a successful coaching career, first at Temple and now at South Carolina, where she has pulled the Gamecocks up from the SEC’s abyss to its summit.
The Gamecocks were anointed as one of the pretenders to UConn’s throne last year when they were able to keep A’ja Wilson, widely regarded as the nation’s best female high school basketball player in 2013-14, in the Palmetto State instead of going to the Huskies. Carolina also returned the reigning SEC Player of the Year, Tiffany Mitchell.
It’s impressive to see how much women’s basketball has taken off in Columbia. Carolina is best known as a baseball superpower, evidenced by back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011 under Ray Tanner, now the Gamecocks’ athletic director. Gamecock fans have always been passionate about football, even though there have been some bad teams at Carolina, bottoming out at 1-10 in 1998 and 0-11 in 1999. Men’s basketball enjoyed success under Frank McGuire in the early 1970s and Eddie Fogler in the late 1990s, but otherwise the Gamecocks have been an also-ran.
UConn, the reigning national champion which went 40-0 in 2013-14, was naturally the unanimous number one coming into the season, but it fell from the top spot when it lost at Stanford early in the season. Since that loss in California, the Huskies have obliterated everything and anything in their path, wanting to send a message to the Gamecocks.
That message is resounding loud and clear. Carolina trailed 47-31 at halftime, and there’s no way any team, not even this year’s Gamecocks, can rally from that deficit in Storrs.
This game will once again show women’s basketball is an oligarchy, with UConn at a level so high into the ionosphere that nobody has any hope of catching them as long as the arrogant Geno Auriemma is calling the shots.
There’s no denying Auriemma is a master tactician, motivator and recruiter. He would never have sniffed 900 wins at UConn without possessing all of those talents in abundance.
However, Auriemma lacks humility, and that’s what turns off many people about the Huskies.
UConn won 90 consecutive games from 2007 through 2010, two more than the UCLA men won from 1971 through 1974. When the Huskies broke the record, he made sure to point out “women did this”.
First, Auriemma had no right whatsoever to claim the Huskies’ achievement was greater than UCLA’s. That’s comparing apples to kumquats. Second, we know Auriemma coaches women. Why rub it in? I wish Bill Walton would have found Geno and kicked him in the family jewels.
Why does anyone outside of Connecticut bother watching the NCAA women’s tournament? Anyone with half a brain can predict what’s going to happen at the end.
Another problem is the sheer lack of challengers to UConn. Unlike the men’s tournament, where at least 15 teams go in harboring legitimate title hopes, you can count the number of women’s teams with a realistic chance on one hand.
You will never see a Cinderella like Butler reach the championship game in the women’s tournament. You will never see a low seed like Villanova win it all. If you like watching the same team win it over and over and over, by all means tune in. Otherwise, you’d be better off watching NCIS reruns.