IS WOMENS COLLEGE BASKETBALL GETTING TOO PREDICTABLE?
The question was posed to me recently in a conversation I was having with a local, engaging and
very knowledgeable women's college former player and still avid follower of the game. Is womens college basketball getting too predictable?
This player/fan posed it to me because of Cardinal Couple's close attention to it nearly year-round and our large readership base that definitely swells when the game is in season. It evolved because of UConn's seemingly predictable climb to wherever the Final Four is being held.
I thought about that question predictability in terms of the science of picking...or predicting the outcome of an action or event. I then examined it through the common perceptions of the game as it is today.
One thing I found predictable:
Connecticut doesn't have "off" seasons in terms of success.
1) Are the paths of the top recruits predictable?
Coach Geno Auriemma recruits and gets a lot of the top talent year in and year out. He doesn't always get the top girl out of a class, though.
Two years ago, Mercedes Russell was the top, or close to the top of the 2013 class. She deliberated between Tennessee and Louisville. The Vols won out...Russell had a limited freshman season and sat out the 2014-15 campaign because of injury.
The 2014 top-ranked performer...A'ja Wilson...looked at Louisville and other schools before choosing Dawn Staley and South Carolina. Wilson was a key component in getting SC to the Final Four. She had plenty of help. Tiffany Mitchell is the real deal.
The 2015 class was led by Asia Durr and Katie Lou Samuelson. The Cards got Durr, Geno got Katie Lou.
You have to go back to 2012 to find a top ten class that had more than one eventual UConn players in it.
A good class, indeed...with Morgan Tuck, Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart.
So, is it predictable that Geno is always getting the best players in high school? Nope, not really. But he does get players who produce. Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird.
You could build a pretty decent WNBA team or two with the UConn grads that have gone onto the next level.
2) Is the women's Final Four predictable?
This year, the top four seeds advanced. In 2014, UConn and Notre Dame were undefeated and #1 seeds. Stanford and Maryland were huge picks to get there and did....but it was UConn and Notre Dame in the final and UConn won.
In 2013, Louisville made it to the title game against UConn. The Cards were not a #1 seed. They disposed of a #1 seed in Baylor...who was the 2012 champion at 40-0.
All these winners of the NCAA Tournament were logical picks to do so. 2011 Texas A&M might have been a surprise to some (although Danielle Adams was no shocker in talent) but before that UConn and Tennessee won back-to-backs for four consecutive years.
The Final Four predictable? For the contestant's list, not always. Picking the winner? Yes, pretty much predictable recently.
3) The game in general...predictable?
Not as much as some would indicate...and here's why:
-- A domineering center wins you titles? It doesn't hurt..but it isn't a guarantee. Three of the best I have seen over the past few years were Dolson (UConn), Griner (Baylor) and Ogwumike (Stanford).
Yes, Dolson and Griner were essential to their teams national championships over the last three years, but they had only three titles in seven years of playing. And, they had good supporting casts. Stewart, Sims, Jefferson and others. Ogwumike never won one.
-- Good three-point shooting equals wins. Not always. Jeff Walz had a fine one in Shoni Schimmel but Sugar Rodgers was as talented and never got to the Sweet Sixteen.
The top ten three-point shooters this season:
|1||Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis||UConn 50%|
|2||Nicole Bauman||Wisconsin 48.8%|
|3||Kelsey Harris||UC Davis 48.3%|
|4||Andrea Hoover||Dayton 45.6%|
|5||Madeline Blais||Marist 45.1%|
|6||Melissa Dixon||Iowa 45.1%|
|7||Cassandra Brown||Portland 44.4%|
|8||Bonnie Samuelson||Stanford 43.8%|
|9||Kayla Hoohuli||Canisius 43.8%|
|10||Kathleen Roche||Penn 42.9%|
How many are still dancing? How many even made the tournament?
So, in conclusion...has the game gotten too predictable? I'll say "No"...unless you look at the year in, year out continual successes of Connecticut, Notre Dame, Stanford, Maryland, Louisville, Tennessee and Baylor. These schools can be successfully picked to have good seasons and have over the last seven years. Do these "great eight" dominate the game?
No. But they do set a bar that other schools don't clear nearly as often.
Look at the rogues. Dayton and Gonzaga this year. Go back as far as you want and you'll find surprises in the Sweet Sixteen lineups.
And that is the beauty of the game. We wait each year to see what underdog will challenge the Huskies and set them on the sidelines. Will it happen this year?
Weigh in. Do you think the game has become too predictable? And, if so, how do you change it?
SOFTBALL SWINGS INTO WEEKEND ACTION
Louisville Softball looks to remain atop the ACC Conference with a road trip to Blacksburg, VA to face the dangerous Gobblers. VT was picked to finish third in ACC preseason polling...but has gotten off to a less than excellent 3-8 conference start and is in eighth place. They are 25-9 overall. Louisville stands at 22-9 and has just one conference loss.
First game tonight at 7 p.m. and these will be available on ESPN3.