What the Couch Potato Saw
Abolish women’s conference tournaments?
by Clay Kallam
Random thoughts after a weekend on the couch, fighting off a cold …
I don’t want Andrea Riley on my team. Granted, she’s a marvelous athlete, and she makes shots that seem almost impossible. But then again, take 44 shots a game and almost anyone is going to make some really improbable shots.
Has she helped Oklahoma State to a fine season? Absolutely. Would a lot of coaches and fans love to have her? No question.
Do I want a high-volume shooter with a low percentage on my team? Not really.
She won’t set the WNBA on fire either, and speaking of that …
Out here in California, they showed us all of the Big 12 tournament, so we got a good look at Oklahoma’s Danielle Robinson, who is originally from the Bay Area. Robinson is a good player, no doubt, but she can’t shoot a lick. She’s either never worked on a three-point shot, or has worked on one and can’t make it. Regardless of which option you choose, the success rate in the WNBA of 5-8 guards who can’t shoot is not high.
Then there’s Kelsey Griffin, Nebraska’s outstanding post (by way of Alaska). She can’t shoot either, and she’s got the game of a five in the body of a three (much like Heather Bowman of Gonzaga). Someone will draft Griffin in the first round, praying maybe she can make an 18-footer now and again.
Some prayers are not answered.
Teresa Weatherspoon has made a difference at Louisiana Tech, and though the Lady Techsters will never be the power they once were, easy admission, Weatherspoon’s personality and reputation, and that great tradition should get Ruston excited again soon. And hey, after upsetting Fresno State (another good California team), they’re in the Big Polka.
San Diego State didn’t quite live up to expectations, but the Aztecs’ defense shut out Utah for an eternity in the second half of the Mountain West tournament, and Coco Davis, Jene Morris and the rest of the heavily California roster did just enough to get to the NCAAs.
Coach Beth Burns did go home again.
Back to the Big 12 – I love Amanda Thompson’s game. She does whatever it takes to win. Need a rebound? OK. How about a basket? She can get a shot. Defense? Her specialty.
Abi Olajuwon finally put it all together after several years of struggle, which is great to see, but Thompson stood out. She might have trouble finding a position in the pros, but she’s such a good basketball player, it says here she’s getting minutes in the WNBA this summer.
Is Stanford that good, or the Pac-10 that bad? The Cardinal just rolled through the league and the tournament, and though Stanford has dominated for years, this season was especially painful for the other nine teams. It was as if the Cardinal were the varsity, and the JV was here for a scrimmage.
Stanford lost only to UConn, but led in the first half, and was playing its third road game in eight days – and the previous two were Tennessee and Duke. Now someone might upset UConn by pure luck (the Huskies can’t make a shot, and the opponents make everything), but the only team that has any chance to beat them without personal intervention by the basketball gods is Stanford.
Still, the Pac-10 probably is that bad …
Maybe next year, though, for Cal and UCLA. The Bears played a bunch of freshmen this year, and as any coach knows, the best thing about freshmen is that the next season they’re sophomores (except in men’s basketball, where the next year the really good ones are in the NBA).
UCLA has Nikki Caldwell, a former Tennessee player and assistant, who is taking advantage of one of the best recruiting situations in the country. Who doesn’t want to live in Westwood, in the sunshine and good weather, and play for a legendary school?
Caldwell will build the Bruins up, but then the SEC will come calling (Van Chancellor can’t coach forever). Will UCLA match the half-million or so LSU (or whoever) throws at her? Given past history, not a chance – and that, in a nutshell, is why the Pac-10 isn’t very good.
Finally, one thing that was pretty common to all the conference tournament games was an absolute lack of crowds. There were no fans, no atmosphere, no nothing. They might as well have played in a TV studio.
Of course you can’t give teams a home-court advantage, so the games almost have to be at a neutral site, but then it’s like playing in a mausoleum. Then again, the Pac-10 played at USC and couldn’t draw either.
A simple solution: Get rid of the conference tournaments. Collectively, they cost athletic departments millions of dollars across the country, and aside from maybe two or three, no one cares enough to buy tickets. The only reason the women have them is that the men have them, and that’s a pretty dumb reason. I thought the women’s game was supposed to stand on its own.
For more from Clay Kallm, or about women’s basketball, go to Full Court Press.