The University of Connecticut's women's basketball program has earned a spot among the greatest in the history of NCAA athletics, but the Huskies need to go down and go down against Baylor in the national semifinals.
To some extent, fans and the media aren't giving UConn's record-setting winning streak it merits because...well, head coach Geno Auriemma seems intent on telling anyone who'll listen that nobody appreciates his Huskies.
It's grating to hear the mastermind of the 76-game win streak sit for an ESPN interview and say, "Nobody wants us to win. ESPN doesn't want us to win. Nobody out there wants us to win."
Heading into the national semifinal against Baylor, Auriemma took a moment to point out his greatest concern -- that no one was rooting for his Huskies. Forget that ESPN has dozens of voices and some, indeed, pull strongly for UConn. The head coach needed to put a name to the unknown millions he insist want UConn to lose to Baylor.
Right, coach, ESPN is rooting for UConn to lose. The outfit that's carrying the national title game doesn't want the best known, most successful team playing in prime time. Wonder if Tara Van Dever's worried about beating Oklahoma or making sure Stanford has an adequate number of fans pulling for a Cardinal victory?
Auriemma is taking his eye off the ball, looking past Baylor and even the title game. He's talking about earning love and respect for the Huskies.
If that's what the finest coach in women's basketball is thinking about, then it's time for somebody to knock him back and let some other coach stand in the spotlight, be the voice of the women's game.
Baylor's Kim Mulkey sounds like a coach who realizes that the women's Final Four isn't being held to determine the most effective goodwill ambassadors for women's basketball. She's got the Bears, led by one-of-a-kind freshman Brittney Griner, gnashing their teeth for a chance to knock off UConn.
Man, that's how it should be. Mulkey should want the Huskies to go down and for her team to rise.
"It's probably not (good) to Connecticut fans, people who are truly Connecticut fans. But it would be good for our team if our team was the one who did it," she said of beating UConn's team that, apparently, feel it has no national fan base. "All good things must end. Isn't that a country song?''
Don't ask Auriemma. He's worrying about everybody cheering against UConn, not about whether Baylor's going to end the winning streak.
Griner's a 6-foot-8 shot-blocking dunker who can change the women's game all by herself. It's the greatest program in women's hoops against the biggest thing ever to hit women's basketball -- a legitimately dominant center who can dunk with an attitude.
They know the story about UConn,'' Mulkey said. "Who doesn't, as far as the women's game?
"I can tell you their personalities are they will be very, very respectful, but not fearful, because we don't have time to be fearful.''
"No, I don't think it's intimidating at all,'' Griner said of the pending showdown with UConn. "I feel like that is how you take yourself out of winning the game, by being intimidated or scared going into a game."
Auriemma's not afraid of Baylor beating UConn, obviously.
"You should never go into a game being intimidated by other team's records or how many wins they have," Griner said. "I feel like we should go into each game like they are on the same level.''
Auriemma and UConn aren't on the same level as Baylor.
The Huskies are looking for immortality and the respect of fans everywhere. The Bears, and their game-changing star Griner, just want to score one more point than UConn and move to the title game.
When a coach and his team are thinking about their place in history, it's time for a change. And, really, it could only be great for the women's game if Connecticut lost and joined a group of great programs, rather than ruling the game from a spot far above the rest.