First, a disclaimer: I did not attend these games. Too much driving at bad times on a post-holiday Sunday, and I needed to get in a bike ride, as the temperature was around 50 degrees in Southern Connecticut today.
The early game between Hofstra and Richmond was genuinely worth missing. These are the games that drive sports fans away from women's basketball. Hofstra lost a second consecutive one-point game at the free throw line. The Pride hit just nine of 19 freebies, and missed five in the final 1:17 of a game they lost 42-41. The victorious Richmond Spiders, who managed to get out of Storrs 2-1, shot a stunning 24 percent from the field, but hit that extra free throw (they were 10-of-15) to win the game. Hofstra finished the tournament 0-3.
The main event saw Connecticut beat Clemson, 87-48. But this game was not a bit like yesterday's. Connecticut shot two-of-15 from outside the arc, after hitting 10 threes in the first half alone on Saturday. For those who want to create nightmares about the Huskies, consider a performance by the guards like that against Stanford, and you have the makings of a blow-out by the Cardinal.
This week's column may be a bit more densely packed than usual. That's only appropriate, as it addresses a sensitive area for many fans of womens sports.
The goal is to make a relative comparison between womens and mens college basketball, and step one is to compare male and female players.
At one level, of course, thats easy: Men are, on average, bigger, faster and stronger. As a general matter, that translates to better. But how much better? (Well get to whether it matters next.)
The received physiological wisdom is that males of our species are about 15 percent stronger than females. In basketball terms, that translates into speed, quickness and jumping ability, three key components of basketball skill. The speed and jumping ability differences can be measured objectively in track, but quickness too is tied to musculature: Explosive movements take explosive muscle contractions, and since mens muscles are relatively bigger, they will be more explosive.
A digression: Sure, an elite female athlete can outperform an average male, but the comparison were trying to get to is between elite females and elite males. Theres no doubt the Phoenix Mercury could go down to the park on Saturday and win all day except of course if the Suns were there.
Its also true that men are taller, and nobody questions that basketball is a game that rewards the tall. My general rule of thumb is that there are about six inches difference when it comes to basketball in other words, a 5-8 female is comparable to a 6-2 male, relatively speaking, and a 6-4 female is comparable to a 6-10 male. What falls out of that is that 6-4 females are as rare as 6-10 males, and 5-4 females are as common as 5-10 males.
No. 24 Oklahoma Sooners spanked No. 20 San Diego State Aztecs and unranked Rutgers snapped the leash on the No. 17 Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs in a day of upsets among the Top 25 women's basketball teams in the country.
As day turned to dusk, the parade of upsets in the Top 25 continued at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, as the unranked USC Women of Troy knocked the horns off No. 12-ranked Texas, 61-54. The Longhorns were the highest ranked team in the nation to lose today.
On paper, at least, the Oklahoma-San Diego State contest on day two of the Paradise Jam looked likely to be one of the most even match-ups on a day on which many of the Top 25 found themselves paired off against what can charitably be called lightweight opponents. That's why they play the game of basketball on the hardwood, not on paper, however.
In fact, the game turned into a rout, with the Sooners toasting the Aztecs, 87-48. The 39-point margin of victory was Oklahoma's largest ever against a nationally ranked opponent. (The previous record of 34 points was sent on November 12, 2006, when OU defeated then-No. 20 DePaul,105-71, in its season opener.)
Rutgers' 62-54 upset of No. 17 Mississippi State, wasn't a rout. But then again, Rutgers wasn't even nationally ranked. And it was the second loss in as many days for the 'Dawgs, who dropped their game against the 12th ranked Texas Longhorns yesterday.
But tonight, the 'Horns weren't so lucky. They, too, fell to an unranked team, the University of Southern California, who are now 2-3 on their season.
It may have been a day of upsets for some Top 25 teams, but such was not the case in Gampel Pavillion. To no one's great surprise, UConn trounced Hofstra, 91-46.
The victory was Associate Head Coach Chris Dailey's 700th win at UConn. It was, not coincidentally, also Geno Auriemma's 700th win. Auriemma leads all Division I coaches with a .851 winning percentage.
Asked to comment on the 700th win, Auriemma said, I think I can remember every single game I ever coached . . . I can probably tell you something that one of my players did [in each of the games] that still stays with me all of these years.
But on winning 700? I'm not a put-it-all-in-perspective kind of guy. That's not what I do.
Later: If you ask me . . . we won our first game we ever played. That was really cool. And I told Jamelle [Elliott Cincinnati's new head coach and former UConn assistant] that. They won their first game and I told her, 'You remember that the rest of your life.' . . . We went 7-0 my first year.' And she says, 'Then what?' I said, 'We lost 10 straight.'
Editor's Note: In a new weekly column, "The Big Ten: As I See It," veteran Full Court correspondent Sharon Crowson will share her thoughts on Big Ten and midwestern women's basketball.
Last season, Illinois second-year coach Jolette Law got the attention of the womens basketball world when she signed one of the nations very best recruiting classes. Law had been highly successful as a recruiter for Rutgers C. Vivian Stringer and she planned to use her contacts to build her program at Illinois. The class, which was ranked as high as number two nationally, contained six players, four of whom were ranked in the top 45 by one recruiting service or another. But within a month of starting practice, Laws dream may well be crumbling.
The big early test against No. 12 Texas simply wasnt. All five Husky starters scored in double figures.
The officiating was, unfortunately, once more part of making a nationally televised game look bad. Dee Kantner, an excellent official, in great physical shape, also has an ego that leads her to become part of the game far too often. It is rumored that her NBA gig was shortened for this very reason. She hears and sees reactions that are better ignored, and confronts players and coaches far too quickly. This crew called 40 fouls (thats one a minute), many of them touch or phantom. Evenly distributed, though.
Maya Moores first block, from behind on a breakaway by Raven, was a thing of beauty. She ended the game with four blocks. Moore is playing very extended minutes, so any concerns about her knee seem to be resolved.
Texas showed skills worthy of their No. 12 ranking. Senior Brittainey Raven and Kathleen Nash were both in double figures. Nash is a tall, good shooting, savvy player, who made the shots she was given and played excellent defense. But the Longhorn guards neither shoot nor pass particularly well. UConn sagged off the guards on defense, and Texas was unable to exploit it.
Connecticut, on the other hand, shot 46 percent from beyond the arc. With Moore, Doty, Hayes and freshman Kelly Faris all good outside shooters, it is really hard to guard UConn.
Brittney Griner is a game-changer but she wont change the game.
The semantic difference is this: The athletic 6-7 Griner will have an enormous impact every time she steps on the court, and opponents will have to make substantial adjustments to account for her skills and physical gifts; but since theres only one of her, she wont shift the course of the sport into previously uncharted waters.
Though most who are reading this have seen some videos of Griner dunking, the first focused opportunity for the bulk of fans to get a close look at her is Sunday, when Baylor plays Tennessee on ESPN2 (5 p.m. Eastern time). The game itself is unlikely to be a thing of beauty, which is one reason why the DVR is a wonderful invention. The Cowboys at Lambeau or the Eagles at San Diego will probably be more entertaining, but a taped, fast-forward rewind of an undoubtedly sloppy first game of the season will be a perfect way to get to check out the sports latest wunderkind.
And what viewers will see is a long, 6-7 post player whos very athletic for her size. If she were 5-7, she still probably would have been a pretty good high school varsity player, but add those 12 inches, and all of a sudden what Al McGuire used to call an aircraft carrier has just floated onto the court. And float is the operative word, as Griner plays further above the floor than any woman before her, and most likely than any woman for some time to come.
Editor's Note: In a new column, Full Court's Jim Clark shares his comments on the Huskies' 98-68 win over Vanguard in their second exhibition game of the season. Next game: Connecticut's season opener against Northwestern, Saturday, November 14, 2:00 p.m. EST, at home.
UGLY! That is the only way to describe UConn's performance in this game. Sure, the opponent was nationally ranked, at No. 2. But that's in the NAIA, not even Division III. And the Vanguard Lions put up 68 points on the Huskies. What does this say about Renee Montgomery's importance in running the defensive end last year? Right now, the Husky game plan seems to be: dribble drive, pull up and pop a 12-footer. It worked pretty well all night. Still, the visitors shot 38 percent from the field, something that rarely happened during UConn's 2008-09 season. It's the early days of the 2009-10 season, but this is an NAIA team, albeit a good one!
Coach Geno Auriemma didn't seem overly concerned. His comment on his team's defense (or lack thereof): We may need to have eight guys hitting threes (there were six, making 15 of 34). We're not a very good defensive team right now. . . . We're getting like everyone else in the country. We're just going to go out and score more than the other team. . . . We'll score a lot of points and hope we get the last shot.
Editor's Note: In a new column, Full Court's Jim Clark shares his thoughts on the Connecticut Huskies' November 5 opener, an 85-44 exhibition win over St. Rose College.
The star of the game was freshman guard Kelly Faris. She has an innate sense of the court, total concentration while in the game. She had three clear steals, and at least another three deflections on defense. She's not afraid to shoot, a high arc-ing three-point shot, nothing but net. She's a good ball-handler, but probably won't play point.
Maya Moore alert! Maya was winded at one point. This was never the case last season. I infer it is because she has limited her running to protect her "tweaked" knee. This is not good news for Husky world. That knee is going to be a concern all season. We all know what this team loses without Maya.
Kaili McLaren has not lost one ounce. Apparently, she simply lacks the discipline to get into shape. She also had stone hands, flubbing several passes.
The point guard "competition" supposedly has Lorin Dixon as the player who can only lose the petition. She already has. There's no sign that she has learned to shoot, and her decision-making appears no better than last season. Tiffany Hayes is likely to play point most of the time, at least until Caroline Doty is back to full speed. She is close, by the way, but needs to regain her shooting touch. Unless Dixon improves greatly in the next few weeks, she will be a permanent 10-minute sub.
With Faris showing so much promise, Hayes is not needed as much at the two, so who would you put at the point? Poised, 5'11" aggressive, great shooting Hayes, or 5'3" passive, can't hit the bucket, often out-of-control Dixon?
The opponent, Division II St. Rose, was very well coached, organized, but obviously inferior. When open, they hit the shots. They could probably beat Providence or Seton Hall right now. They were, however, pretty overwhelmed, though not intimidated, by the Husky defense.
Geno Auriemma's take on the game: "It's always hard on the first night because . . . there's too many jitters. I thought for the first time out . . . we got shots that we wanted to get and that's what kind of what we're looking for. . . . For the most part, we got exactly the shots we got at practice."
So who can argue about anyone elses Top 25? UConns number one, Stanfords number two and then .... Well, who the heck knows?
Ive been around the block a few times with collegiate Top 25s and I have to say this year is like no other aside from the two aforementioned powerhouses, there are more reasons that any team shouldnt be in the Top 10 than reasons it should. If you could, in 2009-10, youd have a Top Two, and then skip down to number 11, where there are plenty of available candidates. But number three? Or number five? Not so much.