Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

The Dynamic Duo Of Women's College Basketball

Every now and then, one team dominates its sport for a decade or so: the Yankees a couple of times; Bill Russell's Celtics; John Wooden's UCLA champions. But it's rarer for two teams to stand even longer at the top, concurrently, as twin spheres of superiority.

But that's the way it's been in women's college basketball for what seems like forever, as Tennessee and Connecticut have taken turns ruling their game. Since 1995, both the Lady Vols and the Huskies have won five NCAA championships apiece — so that all the other women's teams in the country have split a measly four between them.

And this year, Connecticut will almost surely win again, succeeding Tennessee as champion, meaning that the dynamic distaff duo will have won 11 of the last 15 NCAA titles.

I really don't think it's hyperbole to say that should some team somehow beat Connecticut in the tournament, that would constitute the greatest sports upset in the United States in this millennium. Really! This year's UConn team has dominated its competition more thoroughly than any domestic team I can think of in any major sport. I welcome other nominations.

In racking up 33 straight victories so far, the Huskies have won every game by double digits. They are so much better than everyone else that they took the Big East tournament final by whipping the fifth-best team in the country, Louisville, by 39 points, more than doubling the poor losers' score. Get it? The nation's fifth-best team doubled!

Now there is one modulating note to all this. UConn and Tennessee do have a lot of patsies to beat up on. Many universities — and they know who they are — that concentrate on men's basketball, and often football as well, still exercise a double standard and simply don't put enough effort into fielding equivalently good women's teams.

But that's not the fault of Tennessee and UConn, and when they're at their best, they simply bring honor to how the game should be played. If I were a boys high school coach, I would make it mandatory for my team to watch this year's Huskies — playing the game correctly, exquisitely, at both ends of the court.

Alas, the vast majority of fans infected with March Madness only get the male virus. It's just a shame that the most important women's team sport in America still wastes its visibility by scheduling its championship almost directly against the men.

Would the Golden Globes go head to head against the Academy Awards? Women's basketball should start its season a month earlier and have its own February Fever, to showcase, each year, the glory that the coaches — Pat Summitt at Tennessee and Geno Auriemma at UConn — have wrought upon the court year after year.

Commentator Frank Deford reports from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Conn.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford