Not a lot of game action to talk about in the past week other than the Huskies’ second-half runaway from Stanford. Interesting thing about that is peoples’ different takes on what it means.
Some folks are pointing out that UConn looked “human” in the first half, and that is what opponents should focus on. I say that’s fine, because opponents have to focus on something hopeful. But not to go all coach-cliche here, however … what’s that irritating thing coaches always say about games lasting 40 minutes?
Just because UConn was kept somewhat under wraps for 20 minutes before taking off as if on rocket fuel is not necessarily an indicator that the Huskies have any significant weaknesses that really can be attacked to the extent of actually beating them.
But by all means, opponents, try to find the cracks in the armor. I’d like to think the best team will bring out the best in its foes for the entertainment pleasure of us all, right?
Now, the other point of view on this UConn-Stanford game was from very confident Huskies fans who said, “Hey, if you think Stanford is going to get better over the course of the season … don’t you think UConn will, too?” And the answer is, of course. UConn got better in the time between when I saw the Huskies beat Texas in San Antonio in mid-November and when they steamrolled Stanford in the aforementioned second half.
It is especially impressive how well Tiffany Hayes is playing and the explosive way she gets to the basket. She may not be the “true” point guard that Renee Montgomery is, but when you’re that talented and willing to do whatever your team needs, your label doesn’t matter.
*-THE ACL THING: Considering the ACL hardships of Southern Cal’s Jacki Gemelos,it really is best that she didn’t go to UConn, isn’t it? Trying to rehab four times that far away from home would have been awfully hard on her. And it’s not as if the UConn program has had any better luck with ACLs than anyone else. The Huskies, sadly, have had more than their share of that damned injury.
In writing about Jacki and teammate Stefanie Gilbreath for ESPN.com this week, I was struck by how much they have been on my mind since talking to them when I was out in Durham, N.C., earlier this month for USC’s game against Duke. Not because they were sad or discouraged-acting … rather because they weren’t either of those things. I was very touched by the courage and positive attitudes of both of these young women.
It’s hard as a reporter to ask people to detail their injury histories in cases like these. You’d think by this point, both would be at least somewhat grouchy or bitter talking about how their ACLs have wreaked havoc with their lives and careers. But they couldn’t have been more gracious and friendly – and patient in detailing each injury and the circumstances. What came across very powerfully with both was how much they are willing to endure to have a chance to do what they love to do.
I think there will be a sense of joy throughout the women’s basketball world if Gemelos does indeed make it back to play for Southern Cal this season as she hopes to do. And if Gilbreath returns for next season and we can finally watch both Gilbreath sisters and Gemelos on the court, all healthy, what a wonderful thing that will be.
One other thing about that story that has stayed with me is how neat is is to see sibling relationships like that of Stefanie and Briana Gilbreath. It was similar to talking to Tennessee freshman Taber Spani about her older sister, Shalin, although they are not playing at the same school. (Shalin is at Kansas State).
I know too many really great people who are not necessarily close to (or, more unfortunately, are quite distant from) their sibling(s) or who let competition/rivalry get the upper hand in those relationships. It’s always nice to witness what sisters and brothers can mean to each other among the athletes I cover.
*-MY BALLOT: Not much difference from last week. No, I didn’t drop Stanford. I don’t think a No. 2 falls for losing to No. 1, especially on No. 1′s home-away-from-home court.
1. Connecticut, 2. Stanford, 3. Tennessee, 4. Notre Dame, 5. Baylor, 6. Georgia, 7. Duke, 8. North Carolina, 9. Texas A&M, 10. Ohio State, 11. Nebraska, 12. Xavier, 13. LSU, 14. Arizona State, 15. Vanderbilt, 16. Texas, 17. Kansas, 18. Florida State, 19. Oklahoma, 20. Michigan State, 21. James Madison, 22. Oklahoma State, 23. Virginia, 24. Pittsburgh. 25. Wisconsin-Green Bay