Basketball's Last Hurrah? Or last "meh."
So tonight is the night. Its always a little bittersweet for me. As a born and raised Louisvillian, which also makes me a Kentuckian, I've been as gaga for basketball for all of my life as much as the next Kentuckian. Florida has beaches. Kentucky has hoops.
I have to admit, however, that I'm having a tough time getting excited about this game tonight.
There was chatter in the mainstream sports media (MSSM, as I like to abbreviate it) about whether the UK Men going 40-0 would be good for the game of basketball or not. That discussion is of course moot now, but I do find it an interesting discussion, and presents a stark contrast to some other sports.
I actually think that an undefeated Kentucky Men's team probably would have been good for the game on the whole, but on balance, I don't think it would be a huge win.
The story is very different in women's basketball, however. Of course, there were no real contenders deep in this season for an undefeated run in women's basketball, though there have been in some recent years, and even some successes in that quest. Were these dominant teams "good for the game"? I fall firmly in the "no" camp on this one. Now, to be sure, I don't lay any sort of blame for "harming the game" at Geno's feet, or Kim Mulkey, or any other coach with a successful undefeated season. These coaches, and their players, are playing the game the best they can, and they are, or were, very successful, and no one should begrudge them that.
Even without an undefeated team, however, the perennial powerhouses in women's basketball are, at least in my mind, making the overall game a bit tedious. There were a few upstarts that held my interest in the rest of the bracket. The excitement came from seeing how well Dayton would hold up to UConn, though the overall outcome of that game was not in much doubt. Another relative upstart, South Carolina also provided for some interest deep into the tournament, with close games against North Carolina, Florida State, and Notre Dame before finally bowing out. Overall, though, most years, the ultimate post-season results, as often as not, seem to be a 'fait accompli'.
Its up to the rest of women's college basketball to step up to the plate and bring the competitiveness. At the same time, I don't think its unreasonable for the NCAA and other organizations such as the WBCA to consider changes that would encourage more parity in the overall game.
Looking at other sports will show the same sort of patterns at play. My beloved Volleyball, for example, frequently features some combination of Penn State, Nebraska, and Texas in the Final Four. As much as I've been enjoying Lacrosse in the past couple of years, the nearly All-ACC Lacrosse Final Four that seems to happen nearly every year is already starting to feel a bit anti-climatic.
So what is there to be done? I don't have any real answers, this is an issue that may sort itself out in time, and maybe there are some tweaks like scholarship counts that can be done to help the process along. All I know is that I'm ready for the basketball season to be over this year, and I may not even watch the yet-another-UConn-Notre-Dame-Championship-game.
I'll see you at Ulmer Softball stadium for a sport that at least has a chance at some real intrigue in its post-season.
-- feeling a bit curmudgeonly, JMcA