March Madness is here. We have the draw. Time to dive into the office pools.
So many questions. Who will be this year's George Mason? Is there a Cleveland State waiting to beat a tradational powerhouse? Will John Calipari wind up vacating a Final Four appearance for the third time?
And let's not forget the women's tournament. The draw will be announced Monday night and basketball fans from coast-to-coast are wondering if the UConn Huskies can win yet another NCAA title.
Actually, that's a lie. Most of us don't care about the women's tournament. Sorry. I know this is not the politically correct stance and I know there are young women all over the nation who rightfully look up to the Huskies as role models, but the fact remains that most red-blooded American fans don't give a hoot about women's basketball and the dominant Huskies are a big part of the problem.
It's nobody's fault that the women's game is played below the rim and appears to be in slow motion compared with the men's game. Let's forgive the fact that the women play with a smaller basketball which makes it easier for them to shoot and dribble. ESPN has been force-feeding us women's basketball (college and professional) for more than a decade and it's still a ratings dog. Men simply don't want to watch and I don't blame them.
Anybody out there aware that the women's tournament won't start until March 20 and wraps up April 6 in San Antonio?
Didn't think so.
If you are a hoop purist, the women's game is superior to the men's game in some areas. The women actually pass the ball, run plays and demonstrate fundamentals that made the men's game great 50 years ago. The women are textbook. They made the extra pass. The run the pick and roll.
They execute the picket fence play made famous by Gene Hackman's boys in Hoosiers It's basketball the way it was meant to be played.
But it's unwatchable when matched up against the high-flying, warp-speed skills of the young men who'll be on display this week in the subregionals of the men's NCAA tournament.
These words don't come from a sexist scribe with no connection to women's sports. My niece is a professional tennis player. My sister was MVP of her high school teams in three sports and coached high school girls for more than three decades. Both of my daughters played Division I softball and one still coaches high school softball. I love the opportunity available to today's young female athletes. A girl who loves sports can realize her dreams. Same as a young boy.
Just don't make me watch the women's NCAA basketball tournament. Just don't make me watch UConn.
The Huskies are special. They dominate. Nobody disputes their historic runs. But Geno Auriemma's players are only contributing to the problem.
We have no idea who is going to win the men's tournament.
Kansas, Duke and Syracuse can certainly play with Kentucky (my pick) and there's usually a mystery guest in the Final Four.
There's no mystery on the women's side. UConn is going to win.
Again. Ho hum.
The Huskies are 33-0 and have won a record 72 consecutive games. The record was previously held by ... UConn. The Huskies didn't have a game this year with a margin closer than 12 points. They have completely shredded the field and the women's tournament is more coronation than contest. Where's the fun in that?
There is little competition in the women's game. Since 1995, only six schools have won the national championship in women's basketball. UConn has won six titles, Tennessee five. Eight 2010 women's conference champs went unbeaten in league play. Stanford went 31-1 (losing to UConn, naturally) winning all but one game by at least 10 points.
Nebraska is 30-1 and Tennessee is 30-2. We like the Geno-Pat Summitt rivalry, but the Vols aren't likely to beat UConn this year. The Huskies won their games this year by an average score of 81-46. They have won 16 Big East championships.
Notre Dame played the Huskies in mid-January. The Irish were ranked third in the country. UConn won, 70-46. UConn beat another couple of top-10 teams by 41 and 33 points, respectively. They beat Seton Hall by 67. Final score of the UConn-West Virginia Big East tournament championship game? UConn, 60-32.
Sounds like fun, no?
UConn doesn't deserve to be punished or ignored for its excellence. But the Huskies are not doing any favors for the women's game.
Upsets are the best part of the men's tournament. They rarely happen in the women's draw.
There is no March Madness in the women's game ... only UConn greatness. And it's a bore.