Sometimes I think women’s basketball is like the growing kid who just wants to go out to play. And those of us who follow it and care about it so much are like worrywart parents trying to decide if it’s too cold outside, or if the kid’s clothes are warm enough, or if the playground is really safe, or the other kids are going to be mean, or if the kid needs our help …
Maybe we should just let the kid play.
Except we can’t help it. The kid does need guidance and support … and darn it, sometimes the other kids really are mean. So we fret about it all and try to figure out what more we can do, what needs to be changed or tinkered with.
Monday night, North Carolina won the men’s championship after a dominant NCAA tournament run in which the Tar Heels beat all six of their opponents by double digits. The margin in the title-game victory over Michigan State was 17 points.
Yet I doubt we’ll see anyone gripe, “Why did they even have a tournament? Why didn’t they just give the trophy to North Carolina?” the way some people will say about UConn if the Huskies close out their perfect season tonight against Louisville.
Yes, Carolina did lose four games this season, but at tournament time nobody really came very close to the Heels. Is that because men’s hoops has no parity … or because the Heels are just dang good? Obviously, you know the answer. But it’s not really that much different on the women’s side in regard to why UConn has been so strong this season. It isn’t because every other team just stinks.
Yet that’s what the very people who don’t even watch the women’s game will proclaim if the Huskies lift the trophy. It’s been a terrific tournament in so many ways, but you’d actually have to pay attention to know that.
Throughout this Final Four, the 17th that I’ve attended, I’ve thought about what makes UConn so good this year and – to be honest – somewhat lamented that one team’s excellence just gives more fuel to the idea that the sport isn’t going anywhere. To the contrary, though, it’s always adapting, changing, expanding.
UConn is in front of the pack this year, and maybe the Huskies will be next year, too. So be it. The way the Huskies play and conduct themselves is to be emulated. If UConn does win another national championship tonight, some eyes will roll (for both fans and detractors of the women’s game) … but remember that in every sport, excellence always spurs more excellence.
I’ve been very busy with pieces for ESPN.com the past several days, and that will be the case as the national championship and WNBA draft close out this week. But on this blog, we can further examine this season for as long as there are things to discuss.
Whether that’s how the media covers UConn/Tennessee, how the Courtney Paris “pledge” was covered, what the NCAA thinks about the attendance/bracket issues, or any number of things that I’ll be thinking about when there are no games to go to. I’ll keep looking at 2008-2009 as April continues.