'Tis a wacky season

Originally Published: December 24, 2004
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

Now, here's a long analogy for this women's hoops season so far, as we take a short holiday break from games …

There was this movie I saw a couple decades ago, "When the Screaming Stops." Your standard badly dubbed 1970s European horror flick about a kind of lizard-monster thing, who was really a "sea siren" named Lorelei, who I think looked a bit like Charo. It "succeeded" to the extent of not being totally incomprehensible.

So, naturally, two years later when it was listed in the paper as a Tuesday night $1 movie, I went again. But it turned out that this was really "When the Screaming Stopped" -- a different verb tense and movie. Amazingly, a far, far worse movie, in fact. The "creature" had a vague kinship to a mutant squid -- but wasn't in water -- and wanted to mate with a human … as, of course, all vaguely mutant land-locked squids do. The chosen "mate" resembled a vaguely mutant Shelley Duvall.

That's kind of what the movie was about, anyway … actually, there didn't seem to be much connection scene to scene. It might have been pieces of about four pathetic attempts at movies spliced together.

In other words, this one really was totally incomprehensible. Even right afterward, I really couldn't tell you what happened or why.

And so there you have it. I'm sure you clearly see the connections to this basketball season.

Um … OK, just in case you don't … which movie is this season more like? Is it bizarre, with upsets and strange scores, but essentially still sticking to a plot we all can somewhat follow? Or does nobody really have any idea what's going on?

I think it's the former, although there have been some days I'm not so sure. The loss of so many high-quality seniors was expected to make things a little jumbled this season. But that doesn't explain all the weirdness.

One moment Georgia is beating Texas, the next moment the players have lost their "G" and their locker room.

Tennessee has shot the ball like Mr. Magoo. Yet it beat Stanford AGAIN -- this time on a last-second 3 by the sharpshooter, Shanna Zolman, who previously could barely hit a shot all night.

Notre Dame is 10-1 … but its loss was at home, to Michigan State. This came right after the Spartans lost their only game thus far, to TCU in Hawaii. That came right after TCU upset Georgia -- yet along with beating those Top 25 teams, TCU has lost at Miami, at Arkansas State and fell to Southern Cal at home in Fort Worth.

TCU also lost at Utah, but that's no big surprise except … then Utah, right after entering the national rankings by the media, lost by 13 at home to Oklahoma … a team which, when hitting shots, bears almost no resemblance to its Ms. Hyde self when it doesn't hit them.

Tennessee, Notre Dame and Louisiana Tech all have lost at home. UConn almost did. Which brings us to the Huskies' loss this week at Arizona State, after which coach Geno Auriemma didn't allow the media to talk to his players because they were too distraught. OK, how long after hearing about that did it take for your eyes to return to the front of your head?

Really, though, I don't want to be too critical of Auriemma or the Huskies. When you're that ludicrously successful for so long, it's bound to put your perspective out of whack. Perfection then is no longer an accomplishment, but an everyday minimum expectation. Give yourselves a break, guys. You're supposed to eventually hit some rough spots when, in the past three years, you've lost five first-round WNBA draft choices, including three Olympians. Besides, I'll repeat again, it's December.

And, actually, my eyes were rolling just a bit from the Arizona State end of this game, too, because any time a Pac-10 team besides Stanford beats a school with a "big" name, it's almost guaranteed the coach will recite the postgame Pac-10 pledge of allegiance: "We never get the respect we deserve."

Look, I like the Pac-10. It's very important for the continued growth of women's hoops for it to do well. But … just keep winning games, guys. That does get respect.

Speaking of which … several teams from mid-major leagues and teams not used to getting much attention in major conferences are either unbeaten or have just one loss now. Kudos to Richmond, New Mexico, Tulsa, Eastern Michigan, Fresno State, Florida State, Charlotte, Wake Forest and SMU. (If I left anyone out, it wasn't intentional -- I'll blame it on the distraction of a paper cut from gift wrap.) We'll see how they do in conference play and if they can make an impact in March.

And special mention to Iowa, which is undefeated and could be more of a force in the Big Ten and nationally than perhaps many people expected. The Big Ten, in general, has a lot of "up in the air" to it -- in a good way. There are always upsets in this league, but I'm not even sure how you'll define that term in the Big Ten this season.

Finally, though, we'll finish with LSU, the team that is clearly No. 1 and hasn't sparked any head-scratching or questions thus far. (Unless you count the reaction of a colleague upon seeing 6-foot-5 powerfully built Sylvia Fowles in person for the first time: "Good Lord, she's a FRESHMAN?")

LSU scheduled like a team that wants to win a national championship, and it has played that way, too. Trying to go undefeated in the SEC still seems crazy … but there is a ton of talent and purpose on this team.

Whatever else has been kooky so far this season, LSU has been just as good as expected.

Mechelle Voepel of the Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel@kcstar.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.