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Streak Is Lost, Not Season

March 13, 2003|MIKE TERRY

Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma showed all facets of his personality during news conferences after the top-ranked Huskies' stunning loss to No. 18 Villanova in the Big East tournament Tuesday.

The loss ended Connecticut's winning streak at 70 games, the longest in women's Division I basketball history. After the game, Auriemma was alternately jovial, profane, philosophical and petulant.

But to his credit, no matter where the questions went, he always tried to keep the loss in perspective -- that it was just one game. And if the Huskies do repeat as NCAA champions, no one will care that they lost the Big East title.

"Had it happened at some gym in January, it may have been OK," Auriemma said. " ... But our kids are mortal, they're human and can miss shots. I'm not sure that's the end of the world.

"Every team I've had that won a championship has had to suffer something along the way. The 1995 team with the year before; the year before for the 2000 team; the St. Louis game for the 2002 team. Every team has had that feeling in the pit of the stomach that, 'I don't want that to happen again.' And I was wondering, when has this team ever suffered? So this was not a bad thing."


The women's 2003 Pacific 10 Conference tournament is history. Stanford reasserted its dominance by winning both the regular-season and tournament championships. Nicole Powell reasserted her claim as the conference's best player.

Commissioner Tom Hansen, on the other hand, has to worry about the future.

Not with the tournament itself. The Pac-10's contract with the city of San Jose runs through 2005. Hansen was pleased with the HP Pavilion as a showcase venue. The tournament wasn't boffo box office, but at least one game drew more than 5,000 spectators.

Hansen has other concerns. And they have to do with meeting the bottom line in college athletics.

"The biggest single [problem] is paying for the programs," Hansen said. "The universities never gave much money to athletics; in fact, more than people know, they charge them for things like services and goods. And they have really cut back on any scintilla of support financially.

"It's so hard to keep up with rising prices when, in my opinion, the revenue streams are pretty well tapped out. You can't raise ticket prices forever. Radio and television [rights fees] are not a panacea as far as financing. The economy is really hurting donations. Meanwhile, nothing is less expensive than last year."

Hansen is unsure where else to turn for dollars. The NCAA may be sitting pretty with its large television contracts, but quite a few conferences are not.

Still Hansen knows the NCAA's priority remains academic reforms. That priority, which started this year when the NCAA increased the number of core classes high school students needed to pass to be eligible to play in college, becomes even greater in the wake of scandals at Georgia and Fresno State.

"[Other] academic reforms have to be put into place so people -- faculties and others -- have more confidence that we're playing the games with good students," Hansen said. "That's really important. Basketball, particularly, has some unacceptable graduation rates. We've got to make sure we get a fair system to measure, and we make it important to the coaches and universities that they do a good job with their players academically."


Washington's Marie Tuite, who serves on the NCAA selection committee, said Wednesday she can realistically fight for four Pac-10 teams to make the NCAA field of 64, one of them being UCLA.

The Bruins finished 18-11 overall and fourth in the Pac-10. They reached the conference tournament semifinals, losing to Stanford.

Stanford has an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, and Washington and Arizona are expected to get at-large bids.

Pac-10 teams are 55-36 in nonconference games.

"I feel better about Pac-10 this year; overall the conference is stronger," Tuite said.

The selection committee will begin deliberations on the brackets on Friday in Indianapolis.

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