The best-laid plans of Cal State Long Beach, Texas and CBS have gone awry, leaving Louisiana Tech and Tennessee to play today for the NCAA women's basketball championship. That isn't bad, just not the matchup most people seemed to be hoping for today at 10:10 a.m. PST in the Erwin Center.
With the hometown, defending champion and top-ranked Longhorns having been dumped, the crowd figures to be down from Friday night's all-time best for the sport of 15,303. The nation's highest-scoring team, Long Beach, is also out after the 49ers scored a season-low 64 points in the semifinals. And CBS, which will televise the game live, has lost California and Texas as primary markets and gets Louisiana and Tennessee instead.
Still, this will be a heavyweight matchup. As in slugging it out.
Long Beach did not hide any of its feelings after losing to Tennessee, All-American forward Cindy Brown calling the Volunteers (27-6) everything but the better team. Cheap shot was the phrase used most often. Texas had no such complaints about Louisiana Tech (30-2), but some team members did say privately that the Techsters were very good in going for a rebound with one hand and pushing off with the other.
Both sides are well aware of what lies ahead.
"The team that wins may be the team with people on the floor the last five or six minutes," Tech Coach Leon Barmore said after his team's 79-75 win over Texas.
His feelings hadn't changed by Saturday. "Both teams are very physical, and I think you'll see a real back-street brawl," he said. "That's the way it was in Ruston and that's the way it will be tomorrow."
The way it was Feb. 9 in Ruston, La., the Techsters' home, is the same way it has been all along for Tennessee and Coach Pat Summitt. Nobody needs to remind the 1984 U.S. Olympic coach that, although she heads one of the most successful programs in the country, the Volunteers have lost 11 of 12 meetings in the series. Included is a 20-point difference in 1981 in the AIAW championship game, Tech's first title.
This year, with Nora Lewis scoring 20 points and Tori Harrison 18, Barmore's team won by 12, 72-60.
"I think we're long overdue," Summitt said. "I certainly recognize the fact that we have had difficulties being successful with them, and they have an awful lot to do with that. When we played at Ruston, their defense influenced our offense to the point that we were frustrated."
A win today could get rid of a lot of frustrations.
The NCAA rules committee announced Saturday that a three-point shot from 19 feet 9 inches--same as the men--will be used in women's basketball next season. According to Marcy Weston, secretary rules editor for the committee, 28 conferences experimented with the play this season and had a 33% success rate.
"The data indicated that fan excitement and the ability to come from behind were the two areas of greatest impact of the three-point play," she said.
Several other changes were made at the committee's meeting here this week, including:
--A basket will no longer count when the shooter commits a player-control foul, whether or not the shot has been released. Previously, the basket could count and a foul be given, if the shot was on its way when contact was made, but this move is designed to take the judgment call away from the referee.
--The penalty for an intentional foul will be two free throws and possession of the ball.