Much Ado About Losing

By Jeff Lippman - April 05, 2008

Greetings from Tampa, Fla., where the weather is a beautiful 85 degrees and clear.

At last year's Final Four in Cleveland, the media gift was a miniature guitar in tribute to Cleveland being the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This year's media gift...a big bag of oranges.

I kid. I kid.

It's practice Saturday at the St. Pete Times Forum and all four teams got a chance to take the court. All four teams got a chance to talk to the press, too. Here's a little sampling of what went down behind the scenes.

First of all, the biggest news of the afternoon was Stanford's Candice Wiggins taking home the Wade Trophy for national Player of the Year.

Wiggins? Really? She's a senior and she's great. She's the heart and soul of Stanford and has been for four years. She's one of the best players in the game. But she's not the THE best, and that's what this award is all about.

"I was very shocked and elated and so honored to receive this award," Wiggins said. "I was not expecting to - I was just going to sit back and just - but to get the award it's so amazing."

Those " - " marks mean Wiggins had no idea she'd be receiving the award. Neither did her coach, Tara Vanderveer.

"I think everyone in that room, including Candice, it was a shock," said the Stanford coach. "I think that in some ways I just kind of thought it was going to be Candace Parker."

My issue with this...does Wiggins deserve an award of this magnitude? Absolutely. But, the award is for the best player. And Wiggins, although great, was not the best. Candace Parker was the best.

"I'm obviously partial to Candace," said her coach, the legendary Pat Summitt, about whether she thought Parker deserved to win the award. "And I hated it for Candace. I think she missed out on being the player of the year in the SEC."

That's two player of the year awards that did NOT go to Candace Parker. If you ask me, that's insane. Of course, Parker doesn't really care. All she needs is another national championship to make the bad feelings go away. Oh, and she's probably going to be the first pick in the WNBA draft, too. So there is some consolation.


Maryland failed to make the Final Four because they didn't want it as bad as Stanford. I'm worried that Stanford is going to return the favor.

It just seems to me that anything less than a national championship for Tennessee and Connecticut would be considered an utter failure in Knoxville and Storrs. Should the Tigers and Cardinal fall in the semis, they would still congratulate themselves on a great season. And it could be that edge that gives the Huskies and Lady Vols an advantage.

"I think I would have been happy with the end of the season whether we went to the Final Four or not because I love this team so much." Wiggins said.

That's a touching sentiment to be sure, but my problem is, that can't be your mindset right now. There is still two more games to play. Where's the edge that helped Wiggins score 41 points to beat Maryland?

LSU, on the other hand, feels slighted by all the assumptions that it will be Pat vs. Geno in the national title game Tuesday. They should feel slighted. You're talking about a team that has been to five straight Final Fours and beat Tennessee in Knoxville during the regular season.

"I'm amazed that a team that's been to five Final Fours in a row has very little respect for its team," said colorful LSU coach Van Chancellor, coaching his first Final Four. "I pick up today's paper and I see where a coach says it's going to be a great game between Tennessee and Connecticut Tuesday.

"I hope all of you enjoy the game. But our team's pretty good. Our team has done some pretty nice things and I'm proud of them for what they've accomplished. We're excited to be here and I just think this team deserves a little more respect than what it's getting."

That's telling 'em, Van.

Now LSU just needs to let its game do its talking on Sunday.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 03:06 PM on April 05, 2008

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