No title, but Augustus leaves quite a legacy behind
BOSTON -- Seimone Augustus has a couple of days to think about everything that happened -- and didn't happen -- in her college career. And then, Wednesday, she'll move on to the pro ranks.
Augustus and LSU lost for the third consecutive time in the national semifinals on Sunday. The first was the most painful and the one that "got away," a 52-50 loss to Tennessee in New Orleans in the 2004 Final Four.
It felt like fate should have been on LSU's side then. Consider the location and the fact that Sue Gunter was still, officially, the head coach even though Pokey Chatman had taken over on the sidelines for her ill mentor.
Except there's really no such thing as fate, no matter how much we writers try to conjure it up (I'm not counting, but that's probably the 476 millionth reference to "fate" in my journalism career).
There is luck, and that's different. That is balls bouncing in or out of the basket. It's random, not actually carrying any weight of whether something "should" or "should not" happen. It just happens.
Still should Augustus have won a national championship? Well, sure, she "should" have. So should have Teresa Edwards, Ruthie Bolton, Dawn Staley, Lisa Leslie, Kate Starbird and Alana Beard, to name a few of the best who left school with no NCAA title.
But not all great players win them. Some people will make pronouncements about those players, like maybe they're not "as" great because they didn't win it all. I don't agree. Not when you're talking about college careers. They last only four seasons, and so much of winning a championship can depend on variables out of every player's control, even the great ones.
Stuff like how the brackets are set up, what matchups you get, what injuries your team suffers. When a "great" pro athlete with a normal-length career goes without a title, maybe you can question it more if that athlete just didn't quite have exactly what it took.
But greatness in college basketball doesn't come down to only, "Did you win a national championship or not?" A lot of really great players, as mentioned above, never did.
Last year's semifinal loss to Baylor might sting LSU still a bit because it had a 15-point lead and lost it. But Baylor was no fluky team in 2005; it was really a good squad. It's not like LSU just "blew it."
This year, LSU faced its toughest matchup of all in the Final Four, and the score reflected that: 64-45 Duke. The TD Banknorth Garden began to empty out long before the game ended. It almost got mildly exciting -- I said almost -- for about 25 seconds when LSU cut Duke's lead to six with 12 minutes, 3 seconds left in the game.
Then Duke's Lindsey Harding and Mistie Williams both scored, Duke was up by 10 again and the Blue Devils were not going to be caught.
Did Augustus have a good final game? Absolutely not. She took two shots in the first half, missing them both. Afterward, Augustus and Chatman talked about why that was, how the timing was off for the entire offense all night.
And Augustus said the kinds of things players say to the media but couldn't possibly ever say if they were having a real conversation with any other human beings.
She said she was never frustrated. Oh, please. She said she let the game come to her. I never know what that means from anybody, and certainly not from her on this occasion. Frankly, when you're in the Final Four, you've received your second Wade Trophy the day before and you're playing what you know could be your final college contest well, I think it's time to go get the game and not wait for it to come.
Anyway, the f-word (frustration, of course, is what I'm referring to) came up again two questions later, when someone asked if she was frustrated about not having scored in the first half.
Never mind that she previously said she was "never" frustrated; who really believed that anyway? This time, Augustus said she wasn't frustrated that she didn't score, just frustrated at "the way we played."
"I said this before: If I never score a point in the game and we win, or we're in position to win, I'm fine with that," Augustus said.
I suppose that's a nice sentiment except it makes absolutely no sense. How could Augustus possibly think that LSU was going to win any game -- let alone the national semifinal against Duke -- if she didn't score? I mean, consider that she has never failed to score in an LSU game she has played in, and that she came into Sunday having scored in double figures in her last 96 games in a row
Sunday, she made it 97. But Augustus' 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting was indeed a frustrating way for her to end it.
One thing Augustus has always said that does make sense is that she puts disappointments behind her quickly. She says she doesn't dwell on losses, and that's good news for the Minnesota Lynx, who are expected to take her with the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft Wednesday (ESPN2, 1 p.m. ET).
Augustus' ability is unquestioned; there's very little doubt she'll succeed as a pro. And, after being the No. 1 option and main focus for four seasons at LSU, she won't have to shoulder that load in the WNBA. She'll be free from that burden for now, and probably never will have to shoulder the load the same way she had to in college.
So, no, there was no NCAA title for Augustus. But there is a strong possibility of a lot more success in her future. That might include a WNBA title or two or who knows how many? Same goes for an Olympic medal.
And her mark is left forever on LSU, title or not.Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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