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Monday, April 4, 2011
Questions upon questions in Indianapolis

By Michelle Smith

INDIANAPOLIS -- Good for the game?

It was the question of the day in Indianapolis on Monday, a day after Texas A&M and Notre Dame went all party-crasher and knocked the household names out of the NCAA women's Final Four.

Both teams deserve to be in Tuesday night's title game. They were the better teams in their respective games on Sunday night.

But will a Texas A&M-Notre Dame matchup capture the interest of the fans?

Will it bring in television ratings the way a Connecticut-Stanford final would have?

Will it fill the seats in Conseco Fieldhouse -- where there were 2,000 empties on Sunday night, even with a team from Indiana in the house?

Is spreading the success going to benefit women's basketball, or will it have the same diminishing effect that Tiger Woods' descent has had on the PGA Tour?

Lots of questions. More conundrums to come.

Because what is good for the women's game competitively -- spreading the wealth of talent, creating an atmosphere in which tournament games become something other than forgone conclusions -- is not necessarily what's good for the game financially or in terms of image and perception.

It leaves many people who care about the game, from media to tournament organizers to players and coaches, with mixed feelings.

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair, for one, wishes we all wouldn't think so hard about it: Enjoy a good game between two good teams playing for a title. It doesn't have to be so complicated.

"What's the big story?" Blair asked the media gathered on Monday. "We're both No. 2 seeds; we're both in the top 10 all year ... I mean, we've both done what we were supposed to do all year."

Still, it's the first time in 17 years that there is no No. 1 seed in the women's title game. It's only the second time in the 30-year history of the tournament that there's been no No. 1 on the floor.

And games don't always follow storylines. That's what we are all supposed to love about sports.

But women's basketball has been held to different standards. It seems to matter more how many tickets are sold, how many people watch on television, how many casual fans might deign to pay attention.

Women's basketball has been built up by the likes of Connecticut and Tennessee and Stanford, by the Geno versus Pat rivalry, by heavyweight battles on the floor between Maya Moore and Jayne Appel and Candace Parker and Tina Charles.

Can it move forward now without them? Can Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins, who acquired a legion of new followers on Twitter on Monday, or Texas A&M forward Danielle Adams carry that torch?

"Y'all have storylines to do or whatever your editors or your Lou Grant tells you to look for," Blair said. "But the 40 minutes of basketball, why does it have to be decided on who the best player is or who the most well-known coach is?"

It's a good question. Another one, really, in a day that was full of them.