Status quo or something new??

By Richard Kent
Updated: January 10, 2009

CONNECTICUT — Women’s college basketball has suffered from a predictibility that has almost been scary since 1995 or so. UConn, Tennessee, UConn, UConn, Tennessee. Throw in an occasional Baylor, Notre Dame and Maryland and you have it all.

The cream is at the top and the top has been UConn and Tennessee. They have the best coaches in the game, the best facilities in the game — save maybe Texas — and the best fans.

This year was supposed to be different.

Tennessee was to be a non-factor. Too many freshmen. Too many losses to graduation. No Candace Parker. Rutgers was to be the emerging team with the great Epiphanny Prince. Kia Vaughn back at the post. Britanny Ray hitting from the outside and Nikki Speed leading a host of frosh.

It hasn’t happened that way at all.

Pat Summitt has done one of her best coaching jobs ever at Tennessee and it is only January. She has led her team to an upset overtime win at home and an improbable win on the road at Rutgers in an epilogue to Clockgate of last season at Tennessee.

The Lady Vols fell behind Rutgers by 23 points in the first half and Summitt faces her biggest halftime deficit ever at 20 points. Tennessee won the game by four points or maybe Rutgers lost the game by four points.

Summitt had her team open the second half with soft zone pressure and Rutgers didn’t appear to recognize the defense. Not the players. Not most of the coaches.

Tennessee scored the first nine points of the second half and then clawed their way to victory, holding Rutgers to 18 second half points.

Scarlet Knight coach C. Vivian Stringer blamed everyone except herself. She belittled her players, but forgot to mention that she was thoroughly outcoached in the second half.

Almost to the point of absurdity for a Hall of Fame coach. Her substitutions were bizarre to say the least. The timeout pattern equally strange and the loss inexplicable.

Rutgers was still suffering a hangover from that loss in a sound thrashing a Syracuse a few days later. The same Syracuse that Rutgers dominates year in and year out.

For UConn and Geno Auriemma, the beat goes on. They are the prohibitive favorites to win it all in St. Louis. Tina Charles, unlike Vaughn has improved since she stepped on the Storrs campus.

Maya Moore is the premier player in the game and Renee Montgomery is the best point guard.

So what have we seen thus far?

UConn and Tennessee are still the best two teams. Rutgers continues to underachieve and a few coaches have really stepped up. Muffet McGraw has done a great job at Notre Dame.

Gail Goestenkors has been excellent at Texas and Duke and Louisville are now starting to play great ball. March is a long way off but expect to see UConn and Tennessee both knocking on the door of another National Championship.

Sometimes as much as things change the more they stay the same.

That is the case once again in women’s basketball.