Big East Notebook: Women

You would think that Courtney Paris, a four-time All-American selection, would know when to shut her mouth. You would think that when her solid Oklahoma team lost its best shooter, Whitney Hand, for at least the first part of the NCAA Tournament, she would know where to draw the line. You would think that Paris, a well-educated young woman and daughter of a former NFL player, would know when to be realistic. You would think all of this, but you would be wrong.

That's because a couple of weeks ago, Paris made the dumbest mistake of her life. She guaranteed that the Sooners would win the NCAA tournament and if they didn't she would pay back her entire athletic scholarship.

Every penny. All $64,000 of it.

Guarantees are made all the time. Jets QB Joe Namath did it and things turned out alright for him. But there's a huge problem with Paris' put-up or shut-up prediction. In order for Oklahoma to make good on the guarantee and cut down the nets, they would have to go through a certain undefeated team — the Connecticut Huskies.The same Connecticut Huskies that have a squeaky clean 34-0 record, the best trio of players — Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery, Tina Charles — in college basketball and a hall of fame coach in Geno Auriemma.

Paris might have a better chance of walking on water than pulling off that miracle.

The Huskies issued a statement in response to Paris' bold prediction; a coolly efficient 104-65 beat down of Vermont in the first round of the tourney. Charles scored 32 points and shot 13-14 from the field alone. Think Paris might be getting a little nervous?

It's not that Oklahoma is a bad team. Actually, it is a No. 1 seed in the tourney and won its first game by 29 points.

But Connecticut is in a whole different stratosphere. The Huskies won their games by an average of over 30 points per game and no team came within single digits of beating them.

When a team is that scary good, the last thing you want to do is make them mad. And Paris just rattled the cage. "We can win a national championship," Paris told the Oklahoman. "If we don't, I'll feel like I didn't earn my scholarship."

Her devotion to her school is admirable, but someone needs to tell Paris there's no shame in second place. Not when Connecticut is making a case for the best women's team in recent memory, maybe ever.

At least Paris has given the otherwise stagnant women's season a little spice. The only way her Sooners would play Connecticut would be in the championship game, which would create a whirlwind of media attention.

How big of a game would that be? One game, two teams, and a chance to back up a $64,000 promise. It would be Connecticut's shot to pound the one person who didn't give them respect and an opportunity to silence its doubters forever.

Tourney Talk

With the first round of the women's NCAA Tournament now in the books, it's easy to see why the Big East was viewed as the nation's strongest conference. Four Big East teams advanced to the second round, including No. 1 Connecticut, No. 3 Louisville, No. 4 Pittsburgh and No. 7 Rutgers. No. 8 Villanova was manhandled by No. 9 Utah 60-30, and No. 7 seeds Notre Dame and DePaul both lost close contests to No. 10 seeds.

The clear favorite is still the Huskies, who have yet to be challenged this season. Louisville has a good chance to make a run deep into the tournament on the wings of star Angel McCoughtry and will play No. 6 LSU next. Pittsburgh will take on the No. 12 Gonzaga Bulldogs who upset No. 5 Xavier in the first round. Rutgers will face a very tough No. 2 Auburn team.

Player of the Week

Chandrea Jones became the fastest Syracuse player to reach 1,000 points when the senior scored 13 points in a WNIT loss to Bowling Green. It took her just 63 games to eclipse the plateau that only 18 other Syracuse have.

Unfortunately, the mark was bittersweet for Jones as her season and college career came to an end. The Orange lost the game 72-69 in the second round of the tournament. Jones achieved the milestone just days after she played her final game in the Carrier Dome, a 90-65 win in which she scored 26 points.