Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Halftime Score Was What?

Yeah, that's right. The score at halftime of this year's NCAA Women's Basketball Championship Game was an absolutely riveting 20-12.

That's 32 points. Total. Between the two best teams in the country. In 20 minutes.

Now, I don't want to come off as some sort of misogynist. I'm actually quite to the contrary. I'm a strong proponent of gender equality and I find women who are domesticated, well, boring. I like the independent, challenging ones. I voted for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in the 2008 New Jersey Democratic Primary because I wanted my future daughters to feel as though they had no obstacles, and if one of them tells me she wants to be a cheerleader instead of a soccer player, well, there could be issues.

But I'm sorry. This game was every reason that people think women's basketball is boring in a nice tidy package. It was a nonstop feast of layups, missed layups, beneath the rim basketball and more layups. Also, the eventual winning team scored 12 points in the first half. They scored 12 points in the first half.


That, is, well, not a lot of points. Considering UConn, the mighty juggernaut of an absurd 78 straight wins and counting, averaged 81 points per game throughout this season, a 12-point first half is downright bizarre. Sure, there's the chance Stanford just played a flawless defensive game in the first half, but considering the Cardinal only managed to get 20 points, it seems more likely that for a sport that stresses its focus on fundamentals, the first half was fundamentally awful.

Need anymore evidence? The Champion Huskies went a whopping 9 of 22 from the free throw line during the game. The sad thing is, a) As someone who spent a season covering women's college basketball, I know they can play better fundamental basketball than this, and b) UConn really is pretty damn good. There isn't a single player on that team that wouldn't embarrass me on the court -- not that that's particularly difficult. But a game like this, when the sport is arguably at its marquee moment, only adds fuel to the fire that women's basketball is a dull exercise in slow ball movement and layups.

Oh yeah, and beneath the rim basketball kind of sucks.

Even a bunch of sci-fi nerds can tell you that watching dunks is, well, significantly more awesome than not. What makes basketball exciting to the casual observer is not the solid execution of a triangle offense, but players with the length to make a backboard rumble. That is what made Candace Parker so much fun with Tennessee three years ago. And that's why college basketball's popularity may soon rest on the shoulders of the equally as talented, though slightly less unshakable Brittney Griner of Baylor.

This 6'8" freshman center is a freakish combination of height and skill that could allow her to dominate the NCAA for the rest of her college career. That is if she can get past UConn, and therein lies the other catch. Someone has to beat UConn before watching women's basketball becomes utterly dull.

Or depending on who you ask, more utterly dull.

Yes there are occasionally major women's college stars who get national publicity, but with the exception of a handful -- Rebecca Lobo, Diana Taurasi, Parker -- those women rarely remain household names if they ever became them in the first place. Who remembers UNC standout Ivory Latta? Anyone know what Epiphanny Prince is up to these days? Does someone know where Courtney Paris is or if she ever paid Oklahoma back for her scholarship? I'm guessing the answer is no.

It's hard to ask more six-and-a-half footers to be born so women can dunk with the same regularity as men -- and believe me, I know that dunking is pretty damn hard -- but maybe if there are a few more people that enter the sport, or if the National Championship doesn't become a certainty two weeks into the season, well, maybe women's basketball will be a little more interesting to watch and a little less likely to be fodder for cartoon writers.

Or maybe everyone is just waiting for the inevitable rise to prominence of the Northwestern Women's hoops team. After all, they did win a postseason game this year after averaging single digit victories for most of the past decade. If they keep improving at that pace the Cats should be in the National Championship Game by 2012, right?

That Joe McKeown is a magic man, I tell you.

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