Dominant UConn is taking all the excitement out of women's basketball

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Connecticut Huskies forward Morgan Tuck (3) drives the ball against South Carolina Gamecocks center Elem Ibiam (33) in the first half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. UConn defeated South Carolina 87-62. (David Butler II/USA Today)

THE TRUTH IS that the University of Connecticut does not win the women's NCAA Tournament each year. It just seems that way.

In reality, the Huskies have won only four of the last six titles, with that likely improving to five of the last seven after next Tuesday's 2015 championship game in Tampa, Fla.

It's always risky to make a foregone conclusion of a sporting event before the title game is played, much less the semifinals, but UConn winning its record 10th title is about as solid a lock as you will ever get.

It just adds to the growing legacy of head coach Geno Auriemma, who in 1985 took over a program that had one winning season in its previous 11-year history and turned it into the most dominant program in women's collegiate basketball.

Still, being great does not necessarily mean being interesting, and, through no fault of their own, the greatness of the Huskies has made NCAA women's basketball unappealing.

Unless you are an alumnus or fan of Connecticut, you will need to watch only the first 25 minutes or so of next Tuesday's NCAA title game.

By then, the Huskies probably already will have beaten whomever they are playing to a pulp. Or at least gotten close.

At that point, the only question left will be whether the eventual loser stays within 15 points.

For the men's Final Four, Kentucky might come in as the undefeated favorite, but everyone knows the Wildcats can be taken out by any of the other three participants - Wisconsin, Duke or Michigan State.

No one will be stunned if Kentucky does not win the NCAA title.

It is just the opposite for the women.

Connecticut beat Texas, 105-54, in the Sweet 16 - a 51-point victory.

Last night, Dayton actually led the Huskies by a point at the half, then ended up losing, 91-70. That was actually a respectable performance by the Flyers.

The consensus is that Connecticut (36-1) will win its national semifinal against Maryland, then take out whoever is left between Notre Dame (35-2) and South Carolina (34-2) in the title game.

Already this season, the Huskies whipped Notre Dame by 18 and South Carolina by 25. The Irish were ranked second at the time, while South Carolina was No. 1 and undefeated.

That is the state of NCAA women's basketball. It is Connecticut way up there, and then everybody else.

I appreciate the qualities of a dynasty, but the Huskies, through nothing besides being excellent, have made the sport boring.

Every moment of hype involving someone challenging the UConn ends in smashing disappointment.

Last year in the first NCAA championship game between unbeaten teams, UConn smashed Notre Dame, 79-58.

In 2013, the championship-game victim was Louisville by a score of 93-60.

The Huskies are 76-1 in their last 77 games and 101-5 since the start of 2012-13.

Honestly, I thought the rest of women's basketball would have done a better job of catching up to Auriemma.

This is a different time from the mid-1990s, when Auriemma started overtaking Pat Summitt's mighty Tennessee program.

Everything in women's basketball is better, from development programs to AAU ball to athletic department investments at the collegiate level.

UConn should not still be routing people on a nightly basis. I certainly did not expect Connecticut to fall off the mountain. I thought more programs would join them at the summit.

I thought that, at this moment in history, the women's college game would have a competitive balance much closer to the men's game.

Maybe a little help is needed. A couple of years ago, former WNBA commissioner Val Ackerman, now commissioner of the Big East Conference, was commissioned by the NCAA to study the state of women's basketball and determine how to grow it.

After talking to hundreds of coaches and administrators at all levels, Ackerman delivered a comprehensive report that covered a wide array. One talking point was the reduction of women's basketball scholarships from 15 to 13.

"That seemed to have a great deal of support from a lot of people," Ackerman said, noting that men's basketball already is at 13 scholarships. "It seemed to strike everyone as a no-brainer.

"If you reduce scholarships and spread talent, you might be able to ensure that the better players will be better distributed."

Sure, it would be artificially trying to create more parity, but if it makes the sport more interesting to more people, it would be good for the overall game.

Connecticut will cakewalk its way to another title, and that is no longer interesting to watch.

 


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood