Season of promise
Women feature intriguing storylines in 2007-'08
Posted: Monday October 15, 2007 3:22PM; Updated: Saturday October 27, 2007 1:05AM
The offseason wasn't kind to women's basketball. From Don Imus to Pokey Chatman to the Geno Auriemma-Pat Summit feud, the game was marred by negative headlines.
But as we begin a new season it's time to accentuate the positive. No, fans no longer have Tennessee-Connecticut to look forward to during the regular season, but that just means this is a good time to give a few other rivalries a chance in the national spotlight. Here are some intriguing rivalries and storylines entering the 2007-'08 season.
Connecticut/Rutgers -- Rutgers fans certainly won't forget the negative comments UConn coach Geno Auriemma made about them last season. And with a Scarlet Knights team that returns every player from last year's finalists, things are sure to continue to heat up
North Carolina/Duke -- They've often battled for the ACC title, but with both programs advancing deep into the NCAA tournament in recent years, any game between them has national implications. And new Duke coach Joanne McCallie will have a hearty welcoming to the Tobacco Road rivalry.
LSU/Tennessee -- Sylvia Fowles dominates in the the paint for the Tigers. Candace Parker (check outthis video of her first career dunks) controls everything for the Lady Vols. When they meet, a top seed in the NCAA tournament could be on the line.
Texas/Oklahoma -- There's already plenty to like about this series, a rivalry so deep that the football teams take it to neutral territory. If new coach Gail Goestenkors can get Texas back to the elite, this one will only get better.
Can LSU reach the Final Four without any distractions? The Tigers have done an admirable job, reaching the Final Four in each of the last four seasons. And each time, it seems they've had the weight of the world on their shoulders. In 2004, the Tigers played without then-head coach Sue Gunter, who was too ill to be on the bench. In 2006, they played for a state recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Last season, the Tigers spent much of their time fielding questions about the controversial departure of coach Pokey Chatman. You can't help but wonder how the Tigers would do if basketball was all they had think about.
Can Rutgers continue to rise? Rutgers surprised everyone last season when it reached the national championship game. Thrown out of their locker room at one point during the season and thrust into the spotlight afterward, the Scarlet Knights became a close-knit unit. Their tournament performance and the way they handled the controversy brought on by the comments of radio personality Don Imus afterward introduced them to the nation. Now, we'll see how they fare in the spotlight all season.
Will the clock strike midnight on Marist? There's no doubt that Brian Giorgis could have turned his success at Marist into opportunities with bigger programs. Instead, he signed a contract extension to stay with the program he guided to its best season ever. With most of the starters back, we'll see if Giorgis and the Red Foxes can do it again.
Can Candace Parker deal with the distractions? Parker has already fielded questions about an early departure to the WNBA. With a national championship and impending trip to the 2008 Olympics, there's no reason to think those questions are going to stop any time soon.
What will Maryland do? After losing in the second round last season, the talented Terrapins will be out to prove that their championship run in 2006 was no fluke.