Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Having it too good?

Connecticut lacks any major league pro teams, unless you want to count the WNBA. So the state is divided between Boston and New York. But, we do have UConn basketball. Both the men's and women's team have been successful over the years, but the women much more so, making this one of the few places in the nation where a women's team is the top media interest and sells the most tickets. Indeed, it's because of the interest inspired by the UConn team that we have the WNBA franchise.

That said, maybe there's such a thing as being too dominant. Since the NCAA championship was inaugurated in 1982, Connecticut and Tennessee have each won 8 times. No other school has won more than twice. Tennessee maybe gets an edge in all-time dominance because they have also lost 5 championship games. Connecticut has never lost one, meaning they have no runner up ribbons. On the other hand, the main reason Tennessee has lost so much is because UConn has beaten them 4 times.

Tennessee last won in 2008, and their long run among the top teams may be over with the retirement of head coach Pat Summit due to early onset Alzheimer's disease. Since then, UConn has won 3 times, including last year. That team is mostly back only better. In spite of having only 8 scholarship players on the active roster, they absolutely crush everybody. They've had only one meaningfully competitive game this year, against Baylor, which they ended up winning by 11 points. More typical was last night's 92-41 demolition of Houston.

They haven't played Notre Dame this year, which is the only remaining plausible rival, but it seems there are two subdivisions of NCAA division one women's basketball: UConn and everybody else. It's hard to say whether this is good for fans or not. You always want your team to win, but it's those nailbiters and comebackers that mean the most. Rolling over everybody like a Sherman tank in a cabbage field is kind of fun. You never have to feel disappointment and you don't risk a heart attack. It may be good for the game in the short run, just as the domination of UCLA under John Wooden was good for the men's game, and the young Tiger Woods was good for golf. It creates interest among casual fans and non-fans. The phenomenon creates fascination.

But it's only good if it inspires more people to start playing the game and more universities to invest in their programs, so that competition finally emerges. The story right now is that there just aren't enough players at the level of Breanna Stewart and Stephanie Dolson and Moriah Jefferson to go around. Jefferson, the diminuitive 5' 7" point guard, is cat quick and whippet fast, and has astonishing inside moves along with a jump shot and 141 assists and 69 steals in 26 games. She is completely alone in her skills.

So, we'll see what happens. If it goes on like this for too many years, it will get boring. But it's fun for now.

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