Wiedmer: Pat Summitt deserved better draw

Wiedmer: Pat Summitt deserved better draw

March 27th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Pat Summitt deserved better.

Not from her Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team. They did all they could against the Baylor Bears and 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner in Monday night's 77-58 loss in the Des Moines NCAA regional final.

No, Summitt deserved better from the tourney selection committee that all but assured her season, and probably her career, would end short of this year's Final Four.

Don't misunderstand. UT in no way deserved to be a No. 1 seed. With eight losses, the Lady Vols actually may have been given a gift as a second seed.

But could the selection committee not have placed Tennessee in the Raleigh Regional opposite Notre Dame? Or against Stanford in the Fresno Regional?

And, yes, I know the Lady Vols were humbled by both the Fighting Irish and Cardinal during the regular season. Doesn't matter. Baylor is the one team in the tourney that UT absolutely, positively couldn't have been given a realistic chance to beat.

As for the fourth No. 1, given the frigid relationship that exists between UConn coach Geno Auriemma and Summitt, that potential pairing would have been equally devastating for far different reasons.

You could fairly say that sentimentality has no place in the selection process, and were this the men's tournament I might agree with you. But the women's tournament only recently has been concerned with fairness.

For proof, consider that beginning in 1982, the Lady Vols played at least one NCAA tourney game on their home court for 22 straight years. We repeat, 22 straight years. What kind of uproar would there be if North Carolina or Kentucky got to play the first game or two of March Madness inside the Dean Dome or Rupp Arena for 22 straight years?

Exactly.

But the women needed fannies in the seats, and the only way to ensure that would happen was to place higher seeds on their home courts whenever possible. Beyond that, the Lady Vols also hosted six regional finals, two of those becoming a portion of two of Summitt's eight national championships.

Point is, should this become Summitt's final season as she continues the fight of her life against Alzheimer's, would it have been so wrong to give her at least a sporting chance to reach her 19th Final Four?

Beyond that, would it not have been an incredibly smart business decision? Can you imagine the ratings for the women's Final Four if Summitt and the Lady Vols had won their way there?

Especially if she faced Baylor or UConn in the Final Four? Or both? Heck, if UT reached the title game -- admittedly a long shot -- it might have set ratings record for the women's final.

Instead, what could well be the final game of Summitt's untouchable career ended on a monotonous Monday night in Des Moines against a Baylor team only her very best Lady Vols championship squads could have been given a reasonable chance to beat.

Said UT associate head coach Holly Warlick in Monday's aftermath, tears rolling down her cheeks: "This team is about Pat Summitt."

In truth, women's basketball has been about Pat Summitt for 38 seasons. And because of that, solely because of that, would it have been too much to ask of the selection committee that it make this tournament about Summitt for as long as possible rather than handing her a draw all but certain to remove the Lady Vols from the field one win shy of the Final Four?

Just asking.

Email Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273.