THE GAME, OR NOT
Now we’ve just about seen them all, and none have been a match for the top ranked, unbeaten UCONN women’s basketball team.
Yesterday the Huskies took on the only other undefeated team in American Athletic Conference play, Louisville, at Gampel Pavilion, and, even shorthanded, they led by 11 points at the half on the way to a 17 point win. With Morgan Tuck out for the season, and Brianna Banks injured, the Huskies had just seven scholarship players and one of them, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, saw limited action in the second half after landing hard on her left elbow late in the first half. Sophomore guard Moriah Jefferson played all 40 minutes and said she’s good to go 40 in every game the rest of the way if it comes to that.
The huskies have led at the half by double digits in every game except one, at, now, 10th ranked Maryland, while playing with just six players. If there’s a team out there that is the match of UCONN, UCONN hasn’t faced them yet. That’s the game most of the nation would like to see. “You can’t orchestrate anything like that”, said UCONN coach Geno Auriemma when presented with the prospect, “And there’s an old saying. ‘Be careful what you wish for.'”
A year ago THE GAME would have been a natural course of events, then both teams played in the same league and three meetings a season was the norm. Of the other seven teams that have been steady residents of the top 10 this season UCONN has played all but two. Anyone waiting for UCONN to take up old scores with Tennessee would be well advised not to wait under water.
“It’s pointless for me”, says Auriemma of discussing a possible renewal of the Tennessee rivalry, once the premier matchup in women’s hoops, “Tennessee’s not what they used to be, we’re not what we used to be. We’ve moved on, they’ve moved on. There’s a lot of people out there who still pine for that game. I couldn’t care less.”
But the potential is there to continue the rivalry that replaced UCONN and Tennessee, UCONN and Notre Dame. The Irish have been right behind UCONN in the rankings all season, number two, and the only other unbeaten team. The break up of the Big East removed that game from the national stage, unless they meet in the final four of the NCAA Tournament.
“I don’t think you go in saying, ‘Wow, it would be great for the game if these two teams played'”, says Geno, “Because there are other teams playing in the tournament and they’re not going in going, ‘You know, we’re just here to wait on the UCONN-Notre Dame game.’ If it’s meant to be it’ll happen, if it’s not, it won’t happen.”
No matter when it’s played, if it’s played, it would be viewed as the true national championship game, the only team out there with the potential that hasn’t already been unceremoniously dispatched by the Huskies, and a rivalry with a history.
“Because we’ve played them so many times in such a short period it’s taken on a great deal of significance”, Geno said after disposing of Louisville yesterday, “That’s what originally happened with the Tennessee game, we played them so many times in a short period of time and every game meant a lot. Something similar has happened with Notre Dame.”
There is a guarantee the two teams will meet down the road, “(We’re) talking with the people out there”, said Auriemma, “And we’re certainly going to try to put something together. You can pretty much count on that will happen. It’s just a matter of when and how, but it will happen, for sure.”
As for this year, no guarantees, but as Geno says, “We’re gonna do our part to get there, and I’m sure they’re gonna do their part to get there.”
That’s the best we can hope for as we anticipate the one game that would legitimize everything that went before in this women’s college basketball season, if it happens at all.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.