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Hickok SportsThoughts

Sports historian and author Ralph Hickok of www.hickoksports.com sometimes meanders on about current happenings in sports and sometimes looks back in languor.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Comeback That Went Away

The college basketball comebacks had become routine in both the men's and the women's tournaments.
In the women's semi-finals, we watched Baylor come back from 15 points down to beat Louisiana State. Then we watched Michigan State wipe out a 16-point deficit to beat Tennessee.
In the men's final, Illinois was down by 15 to North Carolina early in the second half and came back to tie the score with 2:40 remaining, only to fall back again.
The next night, after Baylor jumped out to a 32-13 lead in the women's title game and Michigan State then ran off 12 unanswered points, deja vu began to set in. Ho-hum, another comeback.
Of course, it didn't happen. The comeback went away and never came back. Baylor's final 22-point margin was the second largest ever for a women's championship game.
The largest margin, by the way, was Tennessee's 67-44 win over Louisiana Tech in 1987. As an assistant coach at Tech, Kim Mulkey-Robertson was on the other side of that lopsided loss.
* * *

Was the Baylor-Michigan State matchup indeed a turning point for women's basketball? A lot of people seem to think so, and I won't argue, since most of them undoubtedly know quite a lot more than I about women's college hoops.
I'm not sure, though, that simply having two finalists besides Connecticut and Tennessee will suddenly create legions of new fans, as ESPN Vice-President John Wildhack seems to believe.
I'm more inclined to go along with Jere Longman of the New York Times, who points out that both Baylor and Michigan State are from major football conferences and that both were willing to commit a lot of money to women's basketball.
If their success inspires other football-rich schools to invest some cash in women's hoops, the competition that results, both in the recruiting wars and on the court, will be a major long-term boost for the sport.