DEVILLE: More than just another win

Can you sense a changing of the guard of sorts?

Maybe not a complete change, but there are definitely winds of change blowing in women's college basketball these days.

 

Traditional powers UConn, Tennessee and Texas are experiencing how the other side lives as all three have four or more losses this season.

 

UConn, finding out what life is like without all-everything point guard Diana Tarausi, has been humbled this season after winning three straight national championships.

 

Texas, who many call overrated, has not lived up to expectations and has limped through a season in which they have lost seven times.

 

The Lady Vols are still the Lady Vols, but four losses, most recently to LSU (more on that in a minute) have folks scratching their heads about the state of women's college hoops. However, there is a growing excitement due to the fact parody has set in and a new crop of fresh faces are sitting atop women's college hoops.

 

Teams like Minnesota and Rutgers dot the newly formed landscape, but leading the way are the Lady Tigers of LSU.

 

Viewed as the team to be this season, LSU has reigned atop the polls for most of the season having lost only once (at Rutgers).The Lady Tigers have struggled a time or two at Baylor and at home against Auburn, but for the most part, Pokey Chatman's team has slashed through the competition like Temeka Johnson running a fast break through a full court press.

 

Chatman and Co. made their biggest statement so far last Thursday dethroning Tennessee from their perch at the top of the SEC. LSU's 68-58 win over the Lady Vols on national television sent a message to the rest of the women's hoops world. That message being, Tennessee is still Tennessee and they will always remain among the best, but there is a new kid on the block and these Lady Tigers don't intend to go away anytime soon.

 

And that was oh so obvious on the mug of Lady Vol coach Pat Summitt when she entered the press room in the aftermath of Thursday's SEC clash.

 

Summitt, an intimidating figure anyway, was visibly irritated by the way her Lady Vol team had just played and been beaten. Tennessee shot a miserable 30-percent from the floor, scored less than 60 points for the fifth time this season, had its best player (Shyra Ely) held to six points and no rebounds and had a 42-game regular season SEC winning streak snapped.

 

And on top of all of that, it had all been done on national television for the rest of the world to see. With the reputation the Lady Vols carry with them, never should the Big Orange be embarrassed like they were on ESPN2 last Thursday. Never should a team handle the most dominant program in the country that way. (By the way, The Sporting News voted Tennessee the best program of all time.)

 

But in front of a record crowd of 15,233, Summitt's Tennessee machine was dismantled and there was very little the 30-year veteran coach could say. Sure she blamed the poor play of her team as why they lost. But it was pretty clear Summitt was spinning the loss in a favorable light saying her team had "a lack of competitiveness" and "had a horrendous shooting night" and "didn't compete" instead of stating the obvious. Sure Tennessee may have shot the ball poorly it was a tenacious LSU defense that exploited every weakness the Lady Vols have – and Summitt knows it.

 

Summitt did try and extend credit where credit was due saying she "gives LSU all the credit for how they played and how aggressive they played" but still felt the need to drop in that "you can't shoot 31-percent and beat a team like this on the road."

 

For all that watched the game, there is a reason Tennessee shot 31-percent.

 

However, the look on Summitt's face was one of concern rather than disgust with the way her team played. While she answered everyone's questions in the typical business like manner with which she is accustomed, you could almost see the wheels turning as to what lies ahead for these two basketball programs.

 

It is no secret Summitt and Tennessee were in the mix to attract the services of Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles. In the end, both Augustus and Fowles were down to deciding between LSU and UT. When the time came, it was Lady Tigers for both of them.

 

At 35 years old, Pokey Chatman has proved to be a tireless recruiter and a quality coach having led this team to the Final Four a year earlier. She has already proven she can beat out Tennessee for players (Augustus and Fowles) and if LSU continues to beat the Lady Vols on the floor on a consistent basis plus continues to fill the arena, Summitt knows what will follow.

 

It is hard to say LSU is in the process of bumping Tennessee off its perch, but Chatman and the Lady Tigers have sent a message that the perch could get awfully crowded in a hurry.

 

 

From the mailbag:

 

- More fallout on Ryan Perrilloux

 

"You are so right! With statements like that, if Russell and Flynn play up to their potential he will be lucky to get on the field next year. I said that because these guys will be playing in a system that they are familiar with do to the fact the offensive coordination will not change. Ryan is a talent and I believe that if he is able to learn and understand the system and make the adjustment to the SEC level of football he will be something to behold. Of course the SEC is the top level of sports, in particular on the football field it is far from East St John trust me.  I hope that Les is not so prideful that he will overlook or not use the good things that Nick put into place for the good of the program. I particularly like the use of the psychologist, the freshmen rule and the use of the media relations, public speaking training. These things kept LSU from being embarrassed by the inexperience of a young student athlete. Nick was a wise coach when it came to organizational and systems type things."

 

- Michael Augusta

 

---

 

Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag Magazine. He can be reached by e-mail at matt@tigerrag.com.


Tiger Blitz Top Stories