NCAA Women’s Hoop Spotlight

By Richard Kent
Updated: March 27, 2008

2008 Women's Final Four Tampa Bay

CONNECTICUT — Sportscasters throughout the country have been bemoaning the fact that the UConn-Tennessee series is over in women’s basketball but for a possible National Championship game in April.

The question remains is the emphasis on that rivalry good for the women’s game? The answer is probably no. What it indicates is that UConn-Tennessee is the only rivalry worth while in the women’s game.

A perusal of the top recruiting classes in the country for next year finds UConn and Tennessee listed along with LSU and Rutgers for the top 15 players in the country. That certainly doesn’t bespeak parity.

If anything it indicates that the parity that followers of the game were hoping for after Notre Dame, Purdue and Maryland won national championships is effectively gone.

People have been trying to make a great deal about a Rutgers-UConn rivalry, a Tennessee-LSU rivalry and a Maryland-Duke rivalry and those same people have come to the conclusion that those rivalries are not really rivalries yet and pale in comparison to UConn-Tennessee.

That is probably accurate but the women’s game offers a lot more to the follower than just UConn-Tennessee and for the women’s game to succeed on the national level there must be more to it than just UConn-Tennessee.

Just think if Duke-North Carolina was the only rivalry in the men’s game. How far would we go?

When one cuts to the chase, UConn-Tennessee is really all about Geno Auriemma and Pat Summitt. Believe it or not there will come a day when they are no longer at UConn and Tennessee respectively.

UConn could have as its head coach either former players Jen Rizzotti or Jamelle Elliott. Tennessee will probably have Holly Warlick who is the heir apparent to Pat Summitt and her chief assistant.

At that point in time the national stage will probably no longer be on UConn and Tennessee because the fascinating personalities heading the two Programs will no longer be there.

It is interesting that some players that have played in the UConn-Tennessee game over the years don’t necessarily view it as the greatest rivalry of all time.

Tamika Catchings, one of the greatest players to ever wear a Tennessee uniform considered it to be a big game but certainly not bigger than some of the big SEC games like Vanderbilt or Georgia.

To her it was probably more of a distraction than in the SEC season than anything else.

Women’s basketball on the collegiate level needs to move beyond UConn and Tennessee as the only rivalry. Certainly the rivalry was great for the game and if the two teams meet for the National Championship this year there will be no better spectacle in sports.

But life after UConn and Tennessee needs to be considered.