Utah’s loss proves size does matter

By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

Big is beautiful. Once again, the Utah women’s basketball team learned that lesson the hard way.

In olden days, a big woman was a sign of wealth, which translated to beauty. In this day and age, it can lead to dominance in women’s basketball as well. Despite Dove’s best efforts, advertisements and movie stars have portrayed beautiful women as delicate little toothpicks with heads8212;kind of like martini garnishes. That body type might be conducive to making $20 million a picture, but isn’t quite so helpful for winning championships.

For the second straight season, Utah’s season ended because it got outrebounded by a bigger, stronger, more physical team.

Sure, last year’s loss to the Colorado Rams8212;who were previously winless in conference play8212;in the MWC Tournament didn’t effectively end the season, but it drastically spoiled it.

Last season it was Amaka Uzomah and more specifically, her five offensive rebounds that led to her having a 15-board night and Utah’s embarrassing loss. This year, it was the twin horsepower of Marissa Coleman and Demauria Liles that did Utah in during the postseason.

The forward tandem helped lead the Maryland Terrapins to a 15-point, second-round win over the Utes. Coleman and Liles helped Maryland outrebound Utah by more than twice that total. In fact, the pair had 10 more rebounds than Utah did as a team. That kind of makes holding a No. 1 seed to 42.4 percent shooting inconsequential. Maryland only scored one more second-chance point than the Utes, despite earning more offensive rebounds (25) than Utah had total rebounds (24), but that doesn’t include the energy Utah had to use defending Maryland on its home floor for up to 60 seconds at a time.

Sure, it helps that Coleman is also one of the most efficient players in the country, but Utah’s lack of size must have had her licking her chops after Sunday’s first round. Head coach Elaine Elliott is always going to have her team playing at a level that will keep it atop the MWC, but without a middle-clogging, boxing-out big woman under the basket, Utah doesn’t appear to be a team that can hang with women’s college basketball’s best8212;at least without the luxury of two future WNBA players who are graduating at the same time.

That doesn’t mean Utah will be in the clear if they get a little big in the middle8212;unless somehow it gets a gift like Michigan State got Tuesday.

As legitimate as women’s college basketball wants to be, it still has a scheduling system that is set up by the Bowl Championship Series’ half-breed cousin.

No. 1 Maryland plays its first two tournament games on its home floor. That’s unfair advantage 1, parity 0. Oh, and remember how ridiculous it looked when Utah had to go on the road as a No. 8 seed in last year’s NCAA tournament to play Purdue on its home floor? That’s nothing. Try being No. 1 seeded Duke in this year’s tournament. The team had to play a “home” game on Michigan State’s floor against the “visiting” Spartans in a game that eventually saw Duke become the first top-seeded team to fail to make the Sweet 16.

Ladies and gentlemen of the selection committee, it’s called a neutral court8212;you know, where neither team’s fans can just extend their season ticket package to watch their team in the NCAA Tournament. Utah might not have been able to stop Maryland’s bigs either way, but at least Elliott would know she has to start recruiting some bigger women, instead of having to petition for another rule change.

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