MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Funny thing, I had been building my Sunday evening around watching the NCAA women’s Division I national championship basketball game, but much to my surprise, the game was played on Sunday afternoon beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern, which would have been 2:30 p.m. in Dallas, the site of this year’s women’s Final Four.

My friend Rich and I caught most of it after Sunday afternoon’s Orioles loss to Boston when Rich said he wanted to watch the women’s game and turned the channel, and the first quarter was just coming to a close.

In case you weren’t aware, LSU beat Iowa on Sunday for the NCAA title, 102-85, in a very entertaining game, other than the horrible officiating, that LSU was certainly in control of, but had to fight to the end to comfortably maintain, if that makes any sense; but that’s the way it was.

Iowa, of course, was led by magnificent junior guard Caitlin Clark, who scored 30 points and had eight assists despite being in foul trouble for most of the game, which is not necessarily the reason the officiating was so horrible.

LSU, in winning the national championship under head coach Kim Mulkey, a Basketball Hall of Famer who previously coached Baylor to three titles, had five players in double figures, three with 20, led by former West Virginia player Jasmine Carson with 22 and Maryland transfer Angel Reese with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Reese, the former St. Frances Academy and Bishop Walsh Girls Invitational great, was voted Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament.

Again, it was a very entertaining and exciting game despite the margin of the score, because LSU is so legitimate and Caitlin Clark is some kind of special basketball player.

As soon as we had the game on, the eye test came through right away – LSU was just different. The Tigers are long, lean, fast, talented and deep. They are so, so impressive and, despite the fight of Iowa, were able to hold the Hawkeyes at arm’s length, before once again pulling away to a comfortable margin.

Clark, to me, is a joy to watch, though there are things she does on the court that annoy me. She constantly pushes off and has taunted opponents with “You Can’t See Me,” so lay off Angel Reese. If you can’t take your own stuff, leave your stuff at home.

Watching Clark play is like watching a skilled technician play on roller blades. She can shoot like nobody’s business, she’s cool as hell, she’s confident, even brash to a fault, seemingly a great teammate, and can pass with anybody – woman or man – in today’s game.

I have heard her game be compared to Larry Bird’s game, which is a great compliment, but my eye test on Clark’s game brings to mind the game of the late, great Pete Maravich, who starred at LSU, because of the speed with which she plays when her team has the ball.

No, Clark does not play with the flash of Maravich, but her energy, her speed, her skill, her obvious practice skills, her shooting and her passing say Pistol Pete to me.

Clark and Reese are the best players in the country for different reasons and it was all on display for all of us to see on Sunday afternoon, which annoys me even more.

It’s my bad that I missed the first quarter of the national championship game because I just assumed (and you know what they say) that it was going to be on prime-time television. Yet afterward, when I checked the prime-time schedule of ABC, the network that carried the game, I understood that “America’s Funniest Videos” and “American Idol,” both pillars of culture in society, could not be preempted.

Of course, those shows generate far more revenue than the NCAA women’s national championship game could, so, again, that’s just the way of our world.

So then I checked the prime-time line-up of ABC’s sister multi-network, ESPN and ESPN2, and both cable networks were airing the same but different broadcast of Sunday Night Baseball, which, I assume (there I go again), generates far more revenue than women’s college basketball can or does.

Though, honestly, I find it difficult to believe the republic would have been at risk if the NCAA and Disney/ESPN could have managed to put the Phillies-Rangers baseball game on ESPN2, the women’s national championship game on ESPN, and spared us, for just one week, the Alex Rodriguez-Michael Kay simulcast of the Phillies-Rangers, which, trust me, is nothing at all like a Stanford think tank. In fact, on Rodriguez’s part, it’s more of a baseball version of the Mickey Mouse Club. Trust me.

The NCAA does nothing but bark about equality, equality, equality for its “student-athletes,” a term it loves to overuse ad nauseam, but their “oh, by the way” presentation and treatment of its own women’s national basketball championship game further proves the organization has the integrity, the honesty and the scruples of Daniel Snyder.

Which is not anything to be proud of.

Hopefully, one day soon, the NCAA will have to sell (disappear) as well.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT