Women’s Hoops Have Come A Short Way, Baby
Death. Taxes. Justin Bieber. Women’s college basketball.
Is anything more predictable in life these days?
In case you slept through it, the unbeaten, unchallenged Connecticut Huskies won the NCAA championship game. Again. In a belly laugher. Again. The national title was their 44th in the last 66 years. OK, it only seems that way. It was their fourth in the last six years. UConn and Tennessee combined to win 14 of the last 20 national championships, while a school not named UConn and Tennessee won the other six.
And the NCAA calls this competition? I call it March Blandness.
The real challenge for Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma was to say something gracious with straight face afterward. His team won its tournament games by 43, 39, 19, 15, 19 and 21 points — and the outcomes would have been even more lop-sided had the coach not called off the dogs in the second halves.
“We beat a great, great team,” Auriemma said after the 79-58 blowout was in the books. “Notre Dame is a great team.”
Yeah, just like the Washington Generals are a great team, too.
“I knew if we played great, we’d have a chance to win,” Auriemma went on to say.
What Auriemma meant to say was, “I knew if we participated in the first jump ball, we’d have a chance to blow them away.”
As usual, ESPN was shameless in its promotion of the, um, epic showdown. Two unbeaten teams meet in the national championship game for the first time ever! What can be bigger than Notre Dame versus UConn?! They’re not even in the same time zone! It’s Catholics versus Connvicts?! These teams don’t care for another! In fact, their head coaches absolutely, positively can’t stand one another!
Unfortunately, they had to play the game. The Huskies were behind for a total of 21 seconds. As was the case in their previous 39 games, they never trailed in the second half. Meanwhile, in South Bend, Ind., Touchdown Jesus was so impressed that He raised His arms every time the Huskies drained a three-pointer.
Oh, the drama of it all!
The Huskies may be the symbol for the utter lack of parity in the sport, but they’re hardly alone here. This is a women’s college basketball problem. Forty-two years after Title IX, there still aren’t enough well-rounded players and established coaches to level the court across the country. The inability of its feeder program to produce star talent on a regular basis has had no small effect on the WNBA — remember the WNBA? — which remains little more than a rumor after 17 seasons. For a sport that has become so entitled over the decades, shouldn’t more be expected of it?
The men’s tournament ain’t what it used to be in the one-and-done era, either, but at least it produces legitimate competition. In the women’s version, too many games are over before they’ve started. The better seed won 78 percent of the time compared to 62 percent in the men’s version. In two regionals, the favorite won 15 of 16 games in round one — and the only loser was an eighth seed.
Of the 63 postseason contests, all of nine were decided by six points or less. There were more than twice as many blowouts of 20 points or more, 19 in all. (My favorite: Kentucky 106, Wright State 60.) Exactly one game was decided in overtime.
Numbers Never Lie, as someone likes to tell us.
If the Big Women On Campus can’t produce a better product despite all their advantages and after all these years, then maybe it’s time to give someone else a chance to show their stuff. They’re not the only student-athletes who sweat, you know. A lot of others would love to take their sport to another level. I’m all for gender equity, but fair is fair, right?