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48 hours and change until UConn’s latest coronation

The NCAA Division I women’s basketball Final Four is taking place tonight in Dallas’ American Airlines Arena, home of the Dallas Mavericks and their crybaby owner, Mark Cuban, who complains more than either of the women, Barbara Corcoran and Lori Grenier, on Shark Tank

Did I say Final Four? More like another coronation for the University of Connecticut. 

While several teams have a realistic chance of winning the men’s national championship each and every year, the women’s game has no such parity. 

There are 64 teams in the tournament, but really, 63 of them are playing for second place. 

Connecticut enters tonight’s game vs. Mississippi State riding a 111-game winning streak. If it doesn’t reach 112, then Geno Auriemma ought to retire right then and there in Dallas. 

The Huskies have made a farce of the women’s game with their dominance. Some of the regular season games UConn plays are grossly unfair. Auriemma has built up such a machine that the players on the end of his bench could beat most opponents’ starting fives. 

ESPN has jammed UConn down the throats of America year after year after year, telling us there is some pressing need to watch the Huskies slaughter some overmatched team by 50 to 60 points. 

Last year, UConn defeated Mississippi State 98-38 in the Sweet 16. That’s a SIXTY point margin for those who are mathematically challenged. Does anybody outside of Mississippi realistically expect the Bulldogs to put up much more of a fight tonight? If there are believers out there, I’m guessing they’re limited to Starkville, Columbus and other communities in east central Mississippi. Of course, I’m certain many in Oxford and Hattiesburg would love nothing more than to see State get slaughtered again. 

Stanford and South Carolina play the first semifinal. Two fine women’s basketball teams, led by two fine ladies Tara Van Derveer has won over 1,000 games with the Cardinal. Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley was an All-American playing for Virginia, an Olympic gold medalist in 1996, and has been a very successful coach, first at Temple and now at South Carolina. 

Yet Stanford and South Carolina are playing for the right to probably get beat badly by the Huskies Sunday. I would expect the game to be closer than the 38-point beatdown UConn laid on Oregon Monday in the East regional final, but if UConn doesn’t win by at least 15, I would be surprised. 

I’ll give Auriemma this: he doesn’t shy away from the media, unlike Bill Belchick, Nick Saban and Gregg Popovich, all of whom would rather the media leave Earth and exist on Uranus if at all possible. Auriemma will speak his mind and not back down from his comments. 

However, Auriemma has been known to say some stupid things, like claiming men’s basketball was “unwatchable” in comparison to the women’s game a few years ago. 

I’ll agree with Geno on this point: most basketball is unwatchable. I am so glad Caitlyn is done with playing basketball, because high school games are so intolerable with officials who refuse to call blocking in the low post. College women’s games feature too many blowouts. And the NBA? Is that real basketball, or just a shooting contest? 

Barring something unforeseen, UConn will leave Dallas with its 12th championship trophy. There will be another huge parade somewhere in Connecticut. And few outside the Constitution State will care. 

Embarrassing, ESPN

While the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has produced a record number of lower-seeded teams winning in the first round, the chalk, as expected, is dominating the women’s tournament, which began yesterday.

The only wins for lower seeds, not counting the 8-vs-9 matchups, which are tossups anyway? St. Bonaventure, a No. 10, over Oklahoma State (7), and Albany, a No. 12, over Florida (5).

ESPN normally covers the first and second round games of the tournament in “whip-around” fashion, meaning it will cut from game to game to game to show the most competitive game to the largest audience. An exception to the whip-around is if a local team is playing in your area, then that game is protected, meaning ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU will not cut away from that game. For instance, when Missouri plays BYU this evening, the entire states of Missouri and Utah, plus the Kansas portion of the Kansas City metro, will see the Tigers and Cougars from start to finish.

One team, however, is immune to whip-around coverage for the first two rounds.

Of course, it can only be ESPN’s darlings, the Connecticut Huskies.

ESPN went to UConn and asked them to start today’s game vs. woefully outmanned Robert Morris at 11 a.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Central, 9 Mountain, 8 Pacific) so it could be shown to everyone before the other 15 games today tip off at Noon Central.

Geno Auriemma, who never met a spotlight he didn’t aim at himself, jumped at the idea.

Of course, the good people of the Nutmeg State aren’t going to complain about being able to showcase their Husky women to everyone else, either.

What is going on right now in Storrs is beyond atrocious. It is utterly embarrassing to everyone associated with Robert Morris University, a small, private liberal arts college near Pittsburgh.

At the end of the first quarter–the women now play in quarters, not halves like the men–it is UConn 41, Robert Morris 4.

That’s right. FORTY-ONE TO FOUR.

Shame on you, ESPN. Shame on you for foisting this “game” upon us. UConn would have been better served scrimmaging a Connecticut girls high school All-Star team. It would have been better off scrimmaging a UConn alumni team of Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Rebecca Lobo, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi. Heck, let former UConn All-American Shea Ralph, now an assistant to Auriemma, suit up again. Where’s Svetlana Abrosimova? Aisha Jones? Jennifer Rizzotti? Kara Wolters?

ESPN has shoved the UConn women down our throats for over 20 years. We have been led to believe women’s college basketball, at least as long as it’s coming to us from Storrs, Hartford, or wherever the Huskies are playing, is on par with the men’s game.

Only at UConn could a men’s team which has won four national championships since 1999 be relegated to second-class status. And I wonder what football coach Bob Diaco thinks about having a smaller budget than the women’s basketball team. No wonder Randy Edsall flew straight to Maryland after losing the Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma on New Year’s Day 2011.

Until there are more women’s basketball teams who can actually challenge UConn consistently, why bother watching?

ESPN executives, game announcers Dave O’Brien and Doris Burke, and Lobo (Mrs. Steve Rushin), an ESPN studio analyst, should go hat in hand to Robert Morris’ campus and apologize to all associated with the university for shaming these young ladies on national television. I’m sure the Robert Morris players and coaches are handling this far better than I. Good for them. That’s more class than Geno Auriemma will ever know.

I’ll get off the soapbox. Wichita State and Miami tip off the men’s tournament in 35 minutes.

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.