The Edmond Sun

Sports

April 10, 2014

OPINION: Too much of a good thing at UConn?

Women’s basketball had everything it wanted. Two undefeated teams were battling for a national championship - dominating Connecticut vs. prestigious Notre Dame.

All eyes on Bridgestone Arena in Nashville hoped for a classic. Instead the fans - in the gym and watching on television - got a clunker.

The Huskies, once again, put on a clinic. The Irish just disappeared. Ho hum, another Connecticut NCAA championship. The final score: 79-58.

So much for the "game for the ages" that some had hoped to see.

Connecticut dominated a team that rolled into the showdown as winners of all 36 games they played. Yet, the Irish were out-rebounded 54 to 31. Connecticut hit 46.6 percent of its shots and held a decisive, 52 to 22 advantage in points scored in the paint.

It was the ninth championship for UConn women's basketball and coach Geno Auriemma. The victory was the 40th in 40 tries this season for the Huskies.

And that is becoming a growing and openly discussed problem for the women’s game: There’s Connecticut, then there's everyone else.

While the Connecticut women’s program has grown into a juggernaut, the women’s tournament has become stagnant over the past 10 years. Television ratings have leveled off. Attendance along the tournament trail has fallen.

Concern has reached the point that coaches and athletic officials met in Nashville to discuss the state of the game and what could be done to make the tournament more attractive and compelling. The consensus was that there are no simple solutions.

Organizers would like bigger crowds, but that’s difficult to accomplish when the men’s tournament runs simultaneously. Connecticut fans had a choice of following the men on their own ride of destiny to cut down the nets, or head off with the women.

Besides, how much basketball can fans consume when NCAA tournament games stretch out for more than 12 hours a day in the early rounds? Scheduling – and exposure - is a big problem.

Women’s teams are good and getting better, no question. The problem is - unlike the men’s game, to a degree - the talent pool that women’s teams draw from isn’t as deep as the one available to men’s coaches. That’s why so many of the same women’s teams keep winding up in the Final Four.

Connecticut, which has a 73-7 record in the NCAA tournament since 2000, has now played in seven consecutive national semifinals. Stanford has made an appearance there in six of the past seven, and Notre Dame’s streak is four in a row.

That speaks to the strength of certain programs. It's also a comment on how a few teams dominate, year in and year out.

Look at it this way: Since the women’s tournament was first played in 1982, Tennessee and Connecticut have combined for 17 championships – more than half.

This is not a knock on Connecticut or the amazing program that Auriemma has built. This year the Huskies defeated teams by an average of 34.6 points per game. That may look impressive on a stat sheet, but it doesn’t get fans buzzing.

Connecticut is so good that it pummeled Louisville, its American Athletic Conference rival, three times this year. What’s interesting about that is the Cardinals lost only five games all year and were ranked 4th in the final Associated Press poll.

That’s one of the reasons “parity” hardly describes the current state of women’s college basketball.

What does the future hold?

It’s clear that Connecticut isn’t going to reverse course and come sprinting back to the pack. The Huskies’ Breanna Stewart, who scored 21 points against Notre Dame, is reigning AP Player of the Year. She’s just a sophomore and gets two more shots at another championship before the end of her college career.

Maybe someone will step up next year and battle the Huskies for a championship. If not, it would appear that the only challenge facing Connecticut could be a struggle with complacency.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Blackmon.jpg Local cops arrest NFL player on marijuana complaint

    The Edmond Police Department has released the incident report related to the arrest of ex-Oklahoma State star and current NFL player Justin Blackmon.
    Blackmon, 24, a product of Plainview High School in Ardmore, is a 6-1, 210-pound wide receiver in his second year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. At Oklahoma State University, he was a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner as the country’s best collegiate wide receiver.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former OSU line coach having impact on Texas staff

    It was quite possibly the biggest coaching coup of the offseason and Oklahoma State was at the wrong end of it — former Cowboy offensive line coach Joe Wickline joining the staff for Charlie Strong’s Texas Longhorns.
    “It’s always good when you go hire staff and you look at just getting the right people within your program. And, a lot of times, guys know a lot of Xs and Os, but it’s all just about developing a player,” said Strong, Tuesday during the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days. “Joe and I, we’ve coached together at two different places. But just with him being within his conference and knowing the conference, he’s been a great asset.”

    July 22, 2014

  • spts-ESF Max McGreevy state champ.jpg Santa Fe alum McGreevy makes U.S. Amateur

    OU’s Max McGreevy, an Edmond Santa Fe graduate, and University of Tulsa’s Logan McCracken qualified for the 2014 U.S. Amateur, the United States Golf Association’s (USGA) prestigious annual event featuring the world’s finest amateur golfers. This year’s championship will be held at the venerable Atlanta Athletic Club (AAC) in Johns Creek, Aug. 9-17.

    Qualifying Players
    Max McGreevy, Edmond 67-65—132
    Logan McCracken, Oklahoma City 69-66—135

    Alternates
    1st Alt. Garrison Mendoza, Clinton 69-71—140
    2nd Alt. Thomas Johnson, Norman 71-69—140

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-OC Rhein Gibson 17 tee.jpg Gibson closes British Open with a 78, 3 birdies in final 6 holes

    Even if he didn’t post the score he wanted, Rhein Gibson left Royal Liverpool Golf Club on Sunday knowing he at least finished strong.
    Gibson’s final-round 6-over-par 78 at the British Open looks a lot better when one considers he birdied three of his final six holes. The Oklahoma Christian alum finished his first major championship at 10-over-par 298 — in 72nd place overall — earning himself a paycheck of $20,840.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-OGA Reid mug.jpg Edmond’s Reid comes back to win Senior Stroke Play

    James Reid, of Edmond, rallied to win the OGA’s Senior Stroke Play Championship with a smoking 67 July 15 at the Trails Country Club in Norman. Edmond’s Jon Valuck tied for fifth place.
    In the pro series, Cameron Meyers of Edmond shot 68-70 for the top prize while Andrew Green of Edmond finished third.

    Oklahoma Golf Association
    Senior Stroke Play Championship
    July 14-15
    The Trails Golf Club
    Final Results

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-AF Will Conant kicker.jpg Air Force kicker Conant named to Groza Award watch list

    Air Force senior Will Conant, an Edmond Memorial graduate, is one of 30 players nationwide to be named to the 2014 Lou Groza Collegiate Placekicker Award watch list, as announced by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.
    Conant hit 32-of-33 PATs and 11-of-13 field-goal attempts last season. He ranked third in the conference in field-goal percentage with an 84.6 mark that is the fourth-best in school history and best since Joey Ashcroft hit 88.8 percent (16-18) in 2002.
    Conant is one of two kickers in Air Force history to hit three times from 50-plus yards in a season. He hit three 52-yard kicks last season (versus Colgate, San Diego State, New Mexico), matching Ryan Harrison’s three 50-plus field goals in 2007. Conant’s three 50-plus field goals already rank him third in school history in career 50-yard field goals.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-OC Rhein Gibson British Open.jpg OC alum Gibson holes pressure putt on 18, makes cut at British Open

    It was the biggest putt of Rhein Gibson’s life — which is saying something for a guy who once shot a world-record 55 — and the Oklahoma Christian alum and Edmond resident responded the way he has so many times before.
    A four-time NAIA All-American while at Oklahoma Christian University, Gibson made the 15-footer for a birdie on No. 18 as darkness descended at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, capping a 2-over-par 74 and allowing him to make the cut in the world’s most prestigious tournament.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-Senior Open Josh Cook hands on hips.jpg ‘Cook’-ing up a championship golf course

    When the practice rounds began at the U.S. Senior Open July 7, the ramblings were almost non-stop.
    From the players who live at the course to professional golfers from across the ocean and diverse parts of the globe, the consensus was that Oak Tree National was in tremendous shape and the players were keyed up to compete on it.
    “The golf course is fantastic,” Oak Tree resident Bob Tway said on the first day of competition July 10. “It’s hard, but it’s fantastic.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg OPINION: Posturing, predictions fly as SEC turns to a new season

    Little news is truly made at the Southeastern Conference's media days, where players and coaches predict, insinuate and deflect in advance of this fall's college football season.
     

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg OPINION: James bears the weight of Cleveland's championship dreams

    Can LeBron James change Cleveland sports history? Overcoming this city's tortured curse could prove impossible - even for the world's best basketball player.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

Photos