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Women’s basketball still has catching up to do in Florida

in Apolitical/Sports/Top Headlines by

For now, it belongs to us.

You can admire it, the way the lights bounce off it. You can imagine how it will look in the trophy case next to the others. You can think about the talent and dedication it took to earn it.

Then you could wave it goodbye.

The women’s Final Four trophy, like a lot of others, is on its way somewhere else.

We haven’t won enough  trophies here. The Super Bowl XXXVII trophy. The 2004 Stanley Cup trophy. The 2008 American League baseball trophy. A lot of college football championships. Back in the world of black-and-white TVs, Miami won a couple of pro titles.

For the most part, however, excellence visits every now and then, but it doesn’t come to stay. We’re left in the land of the dissatisfied to to talk about all the trophies that other teams came here to win.

Yes, it is true of women’s basketball, too.

It lives somewhere else.

Why, you wonder. Of all of the programs that have sprouted up across the country over the years — UConn, Tennessee, Stanford, Notre Dame, a  few others — why are none of them from here. We have basketballs. We have women. We can keep score.

And yet, zilch.

There have been no women’s basketball champions from here. No Final Four teams. No coaches of the year. No Most Outstanding Player winners. Here, we are left to watch other teams play — as they did Tuesday night in Amalie Arena — and soak up the spotlight.

Oh, it’s true. The general populace doesn’t seem to be in bitter disappointment because we haven’t fared better in women’s hoops, and perhaps that is part of the problem. It seems to matter more other places.

But if women’s basketball is indeed going to expand its list of contenders, shouldn’t some of them be from our state, too?

Florida? The Gators have made only two regionals in their history, and it’s been since the ’97 and ’98 postseasons since that’s happened.

FSU? The Seminoles reached the regional finals this year before losing to  South Carolina, making them the best team in the state. Previous, FSU had reached two regionals, losing by 40 in one of them to UConn, after the ’07 and ’10 seasons.

Miami? It’s only regional came way back in the ’92 season.

USF? It won the WNIT in 2009, but that’s the b-team tournament. Counting both tournaments, the USF women have reached nine of the last 10 tournaments, but no, they don’t quite count as a national contender.

USF was a sixth seed this year, it’s highest-ever rankings. And you think…maybe.

Until that happens, you’d have to admit there has been a voice.

Is it sexism? It is an anti-basketball mentality? Is it importance? Is it the lack of snow that keeps the teams out of the gyms?

Maybe it’s a bit of all of it. But Billy Donovan was able to win back-to-back titles at Florida. It seems like a stretch to believe that the same drive, the same coaching wouldn’t work for the women, too.

Oh, it’s women’s basketball. You can talk about the things it is not. It is not football, and it is not baseball, and it is not hockey.

The biggest shame?

In its finest form, it is not here.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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