April 07, 2008

Plenty of people have been talking about the relationship between UConn coach Geno Auriemma and Tennessee Pat Summitt, though Auriemma himself says it's not worth talking about. "If all people want to talk about is Pat this and Pat that and Pat said this and Pat said that and Geno this and Geno that, that's a shame," Auriemma said. "And I'm not going to be a part of it. As far as I'm concerned, when I get on the plane and I go to Tampa [the site of the Final Four], I could care less about Pat Summitt, Tennessee, LSU or anybody. I'm worried about Stanford and I'm worried about Connecticut and that's it."

If Auriemma won't elaborate on the UConn-Tennessee rivalry, author Richard Kent is happy to take up the cause. Kent, the founder, publisher and editor of the Big East Women's Basketball Report, as well as a writer for blackathlete.com (he has also contributed to SI.com), has written an exhaustive history of the UConn-Tennessee rivalry: Lady Vols vs. UConn: The Greatest Rivalry in Women's Basketball.

In his book, Kent, who has practiced matrimonial law in Connecticut for two decades, examines the origins of the series, as well as the greatest games and the players who turned the rivalry into the signature game in women's basketball. (UConn holds a 12-9 lead in the series). Alas, the Lady Vols and Huskies won't meet in this year's championship game, as many hoped, after Stanford upset UConn in the national semifinal on Sunday night.

"Little girls dream about playing in the UConn-Tennessee game," Kent writes. "Fans from all over love it, and look at all the glory brought to the Tennessee girls from the rivalry. It's the centerpiece of the sport. The game isn't about Pat or Geno. Yet Pat Summitt is killing the series. And two words come to mind. Craven. Selfish. We never thought we'd say that about Pat Summitt. Never. What is really lost is the fact that UConn and Tennessee will play again. They will play in the NCAA's in 2008 or another season. They are the two best teams going into 2007. It is inevitable that they will meet and the stakes, pressure and notoriety will even be higher. The game will be lost in the chatter. It will be all about what happened in June 2007. It will be all about the end of the series yet again. It won't be about [Maya] Moore, TinaCharles, Renee Montgomery or [Candace] Parker. It will be about Auriemma and Summitt. But maybe in a strange was that is who it should really be about because if nothing else I learned in writing this book that it is as much Auriemma-Summitt as it is UConn-Tennessee."

If you're a diehard women's basketball fan, the book is worth a look. As part of the book's appendix, Kent (who has also written for SI.com) offers an interesting list of the Top 20 players who have played in the series:

1. Chamique Holdsclaw, Tennessee2. Diana Taurasi, UConn 3. Candace Parker, Tennessee 4. Rebecca Lobo, UConn 5. Tamika Catchings, Tennessee 6. Sue Bird, UConn 7. Kara Wolters, UConn 8. Svetlana Abrosimova, UConn 9. Maya Moore, UConn 10. Shea Ralph, UConn 11. Semeka Randall, Tennessee 12. Swin Cash, UConn 13. Jennifer Rizzotti, UConn 14. Nykesha Sales, UConn 15. Tamika Williams, UConn 16. Kara Lawson, Tennessee 17. Michelle Snow, Tennessee 18. Asha Jones, UConn 19. Shrya Ely, UConn 20. Gwen Jackson, Tennessee

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