Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Despite the Hype, UConn Harming Women’s Game

The Connecticut women’s basketball team has a good thing going right now.

The Huskies have 74 consecutive wins and counting, and the realization of back-to-back undefeated, national-championship seasons is just four wins away. Tina Charles and Maya Moore are both national player of the year candidates. Geno Auriemma can now say that he has led two different 70-game winning streaks – a coaching record that may never be matched. And the Huskies have won their first two NCAA tournament games by an average of 55 points, just to emphasize that they could probably beat any team in the country with their right hands tied behind their backs.

There’s certainly no denying that this crazy-good team is great for the University of Connecticut. But – and don’t call me a killjoy – too much of a good thing can be bad, and in this case, the Huskies might be bad for women’s basketball.

One of the first things that drinkers of the UConn Kool-Aid bring up to refute this idea is that the Huskies have brought increased attention from fans and media to the women’s game. This is somewhat true. Yes, the team has produced enough buzz, hype and SportsCenter stat graphics to increase women’s basketball awareness for anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past six months, but let’s face it: Unless you called yourself a women’s basketball fan before this stretch of ridiculous Connecticut dominance began, you probably can’t name five NCAA women’s basketball players who don’t play for the Huskies or the Hoyas. I’ll even let you have Baylor’s 6-foot-8, news-making, right-hook-throwing freshman Brittney Griner, and you likely still can’t think of four other names.

So, if that’s the case, then what do we make of this “increased attention” the Huskies have brought about? I would argue that the only thing in women’s college basketball that has received any increased attention because of UConn is UConn. If a few months ago you didn’t know that Charles and Moore were great, now you know. If you didn’t recognize the name Auriemma, now you do. But other than learning about the Connecticut women’s basketball program, the general public hasn’t learned much about women’s basketball because of the Huskies except that the rest of the teams can’t hold a candle to them – or do anything but try not to lose to them by 30 or more points, which has happened 17 times this season.

In all honesty, it just doesn’t seem healthy that the sport’s best team, on average, demolishes its opponent by more than 32 points. Heck, even against the Top 25, the Huskies’ average margin of victory is more than 26 points. Their closest call this season? A real nail-biter against St. John’s: UConn won by 14.

How much is too much? How long is too long? These are legitimate questions that should be asked about the streak and its effect on women’s basketball. There have to be limits to the “good” that comes from this kind of gap in parity, and I think they’ve already been breached.

The blowouts are too absurd, and the lack of doubt about the outcome of any UConn game is too separate from the meaning of “sport.” It’s supposed to be a competition, not a circus. It’s supposed to be NCAA Division I basketball. Instead, UConn looks like the Harlem Globetrotters playing in a 40-and-over league – just without the really cool dunks. And that’s just not very exciting.

Speaking of not very exciting, let’s look at the women’s NCAA tournament. The Race for Second Place (for the UConn-less right side of the bracket, that is) was a positive experience for Georgetown, as the No. 5 seed Hoyas qualified for their first tournament in 17 years and advanced to the second round before falling to No. 4 seed Baylor. But now that they’re out, there’s really no place for a Hoya fan – or any other college basketball fan – to turn.

In the men’s tournament, Georgetown fans can try to fill the void left by the Blue and Gray’s first-round exit by rooting for Sweet 16 underdogs like Northern Iowa, Cornell, Washington, St. Mary’s and Butler. However, in the women’s Sweet 16 there is just one double-digit seed compared to the three in the men’s, and only two teams outside of the top four in each region of the bracket are still alive, whereas eight such teams have advanced in the men’s tourney.

arch Madness on the men’s side is great because of the chance for a Cinderella story or a David-over-Goliath upset. On the women’s side, Cinderella’s slipper never fits, and David always forgets his slingshot at home; No. 8 seed Villanova never wins it all, and No. 11 seed George Mason never busts any brackets on its way to a Final Four.

The lack of suspense in the women’s game has never been more evident than it is today, and it has never been clearer that it’s hurting the sport. UConn is making that point impossible to miss.

The sooner Connecticut gets knocked off – and the grander the stage and the audience is when it happens – the better. Whenever the Huskies finally do lose, the game will be a huge story in and of itself, and it will represent a step in the right direction for women’s basketball. What the sport needs in order to garner genuine attention is parity, not the occasional dunk, Brittney Griner haymaker or 74-game UConn winning streak.

Connor Gregoire is a freshman in the College. For Love of the Game appears in every other Friday issue of Hoya Sports.

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