Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

A No. 1 seed that's bad for basketball?

There is in the unpredictable world of college basketball one sure-thing No. 1-seed.

It plays Monday night at 7 in a regional final that couldn’t be more predetermined if it were on the WrestleMania undercard.

Let’s break down this women’s regional final, and stop me if this gets too technical for you: UConn – great white shark. Texas – blood-spewing seal.

The only question surrounding this game, really, is whether the Longhorns can lose by less than 52 points – that being the average margin of victory for UConn in its three previous tournament games.

The UConn dominance is as oppressive as it is impressive. It sucks the air from every building that hosts the Huskies, never allowing a spark of suspense to catch flame. That there is no one in the wide world of women’s basketball capable of losing by less than double digits to this power speaks very poorly of the depth of talent playing the game and the quality of adults coaching it.

Spoiler alert: The Huskies are going to win their fourth straight national championship this year, their fifth in the last seven years. They will extend their winning streak to 75 games. And if they don’t, start stocking up on canned goods and water because the end is nigh.

Some have employed this certainty as a handy excuse not to watch a product that they had no intention of watching anyway. A certain Boston Globe writer’s Tweet got those in the insular and defensive realm of women’s basketball all in a lather.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma, while taking a few clever shots at the author, rightfully refused to yield one inch of the high ground he occupies alone. One does not apologize for being the unreachable standard. The 20-year-old single malt does not bow to the rot-gut whiskey.

And when speaking of his unbeaten team, Auriemma did not dabble in humble comparisons.

“When Tiger Woods was winning every major, nobody said he was bad for golf,” the coach said. “Actually he did a lot for golf. He made everybody have to be a better golfer. And they did. And now there's a lot more great golfers because of Tiger.”

The difference, however, is that Woods did not win every event by 15 strokes. Every now and then, someone even beat him. But nobody stays close enough to UConn to read the names on the back of their jerseys after being run over by the Huskies.

The 1973 UCLA men’s team, the one that won a seventh consecutive title and was at the height of the Bruins 88-game winning streak, look anemic compared to the present UConn women. UCLA’s average margin of victory was 21 points that season, about half that of the Huskies. In their four tournament games that year, the Bruins won by an average of 16 points per game. The UConn women have that cushion by the first media timeout.

Is, as Shaughnessy asserts, UConn’s merciless rule bad for women’s basketball?

No. What’s bad for women’s basketball are the other 349 or so other Division I programs who have receded so meekly into the shadows. The lack of resistance put up by everyone else creates the impression that there are only about three really good young women players in the country on any given year, and they all end up in Storrs.

In his reaction to the Shaughnessy Tweet, Auriemma at least gave the rest of us the kind of break that he gives no opponent.

To those put off by his team’s numbing superiority, the coach simply said, “Don’t watch.”

OK, then, I’ll try. But a morbid curiosity may compel me to peek.

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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.