Baylor's Loss To Louisville Is UConn Women's Gain

BRIDGEPORT —

On Sunday night, we saw the past and it was Baylor.

On Monday night, we saw the future and it will be UConn.

Between the "was" and the "will be," of course, is the "is." The present is a fickle matter in competitive athletics, although over the years it has been considerably less fickle in women's college basketball.

With the earth-shattering result in Oklahoma City still being digested and with UConn's demolishing Kentucky, 83-53, in the Elite Eight at Webster Bank Arena, the women's game is suddenly confronted with two fascinating turn of events.

One is obvious. As much as the defenders of the game like me like to sometimes pretend otherwise, few legitimate national championship contenders have been knocked out before the Final Four and almost none have been knocked out in the Sweet 16. Louisville's victory over Baylor stands as one of the great upsets in the sport's history. Down went Griner. Down went Kim Mulkey, although not without a spasm of vitriol.

Yet something else is at work here. Few women's college teams have been able to significantly change their competitive complexion, to change the direction of their course late in a season. Barring horrific injury, the cards a team is dealt by the first week in March are generally played out by April.

This UConn team is different.

Yes, the Huskies advanced to their sixth successive Final Four. And that is a tribute to the monster program the Hall of Fame coach and his staff have built. And that is a tribute to the remarkable players they have recruited.

Yet something has happened in recent weeks, especially since that final 18-second debacle against Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament championships.

The freshmen have happened. That's what.

Moriah Jefferson, that little bolt of Texas lightning, happened. And especially Breanna Stewart, the multi-talented Stewie, happened. That's what.

This was going to be Baylor's year just as last year was Baylor's year. I thought it. So did virtually everyone else. The present said otherwise. Louisville, in the most dramatic of fashion said otherwise.

"It's harder to get parity in women's basketball because everybody stays four years," Geno Auriemma said. "The best teams are always around. What happened [Sunday night] could have happened tonight. It happened to Stanford, too, out West. Those are all good signs that other teams are making in-roads that you don't necessarily have to be the team that everybody talks as inevitable.

"That's the way everybody was talking about Baylor. It's inevitable they're going win. Nobody can beat them. Nobody can win a national championship until Brittney Griner graduates. That was the common theme you heard. But those kids from Louisville, both on the men's and women's side, it was just awe-inspiring to see what they did. People who follow this stuff said they were like a 27-point underdog against Baylor. It's one of the biggest wins in the history of the NCAA Tournament."

Asked if she was stunned, Doris Burke of ESPN, a pre-eminent voice in the game, answered, "completely stunned.

"That they would lose in the fashion they did, going down by 19 points, that Brittney Griner would essentially become a complete non-factor in her last college game.

"I also thought the officials were awful. I'm fine with [Mulkey's reaction]. I thought Brittney Griner took what looked to be things outside the rule book in terms of contact in the post. And when I called Rebecca Lobo and said, 'Am I crazy? Was I misinterpreting what I was seeing?' she said it was actually worse in person."

Here's my one gripe with Mulkey. She ripped the officials. She knew she was going to get fined and she said she was more than ready to pony up. Fine. In my mind, she had the facts on her side. This is where she went too far.

"I thought that all three of them, if they go past this round of officiating, it will be sad for the game," Mulkey said.

It's not up to Kim Mulkey, no matter her two national titles, no matter how feisty she is, to dictate who officiates the next set of games. What if those officials decided to rip her for returning an undefeated team with the most dominating 6-8 player in the history of the college game and failing to get to the Final Four?

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