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
  • spts-DC Brock Ruminer dive TD catch.jpg Deer Creek 2nd largest in Class 5A

    With the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association releasing enrollment figures, Deer Creek stands as the second-largest school in Class 5A with 1,252 students.
    Lawton Eisenhower, which had been a very strong football program in 6A, is now tops in 5A with 1,281 students.
    Schedules in football classification still remain the same until 2016-17. Del City will move back into 6A beginning in 2016.
    The statistics will not be deemed official until pending approval at the OSSAA’s board meeting next month.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wilson, Grissom take on more suitable roles for 2015 season

    Experience comes from encountering the same things in the same ways over and over again. Oklahoma’s Geneo Grissom and Julian Wilson have that at defensive end and nickleback in bunches.
    However, both will be seeing new things when practice begins. Grissom is moving to outside linebacker. Wilson will be getting a look at cornerback as his senior season begins.
    The moves were made to aid OU’s defense. They could benefit both in the future.

    July 28, 2014

  • spts-OSU Yurcich.jpg Yurcich ready for second season

    With the 2014 season on the brink, Mike Yurcich, Oklahoma State University football offensive coordinator, is ready for his second year at the helm after coaching a powerful offensive squad a year ago.
    Yurcich and most of the Cowboys’ coaching staff attended the annual media golf outing  Wednesday at Karsten Creek. He, along with the other assistant coaches, talked about the upcoming season.
    “Every offense is going to be a little bit different from year to year, depending on the personnel,” Yurcich said. “I think you learn a little bit more about the players, because you know them for a longer time. You know a little bit more about the coaches you work with because you’re around them a little bit longer. All of those things factor into one more year of experience.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-EN Jaci Smith long backhand.jpg Wallar voted National Tennis Coach of the Year finalist

    The National High School Athletic Coaches Association honored  Dee Ann Waller, coach and teacher from Edmond North High School, as a finalist for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association National Coach of the Year in tennis.   
    Eight finalists from across the nation were chosen to be honored during The National Coach of the Year awards banquet that took place during the National High School Athletic Coaches Association’s national convention June 14-18, at the Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole, Wy.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-Hershey Mary McKey.jpg McKey to compete in North American final

    Edmond’s Mary McKey, who attends John Carroll Catholic School in Oklahoma City, qualified for the Hershey’s Track & Field Games North American Final after winning the Hershey’s Oklahoma State Meet  June 28.
    McKey, 12, had the fastest time in the region that consists of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico and Puerto Rico. Hershey only accepts eight runners from North America.
    McKey is a Catholic grade school champion and the first Catholic student to qualify for the North American final. She is also a Jim Thorpe Games 400-meter      champion.
    The North American final will run Aug. 2           in Hershey, Pa.
     

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former quarterback Bell has pedigree to dominate at tight end for Sooners

    The question came quickly to Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. Are there any plans to use Blake Bell at quarterback — in some capacity?
    “That’s funny, it keeps coming up,” Stoops said Tuesday at Big 12 Media Days. “Blake was recruited definitely as a quarterback. But when you look at him now after three years, he is the pro-type at tight end. He’s got great hands, great size. He can run. Natural spacing as far as where to be in his routes.”
    So, the answer is no.

    July 25, 2014

  • Smith ready to begin the next chapter with Ravens

    During his long drive to Maryland from his North Carolina home Sunday, veteran wide receiver Steve Smith had plenty of time to think about an offseason defined by a dramatic change in his life.
    After 13 years with the Carolina Panthers, Smith was cut in March following one of the least productive seasons of his career. The Ravens promptly signed him to a three-year, $11 million contract.
    Smith remained in a reflective mood as veterans officially reported to camp Wednesday. Smith, however, showed up Monday eager for his new start.

    July 25, 2014

  • 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

Photos