After the University of Connecticut romped over St. Francis 140-52 in the first round of this year's NCAA women's basketball tournament, many thought that the Lady Huskies were too good for the sport.
They are very good. Eleven national championships since 2000, five undefeated seasons in that span, the first team to go 40-0 and certainly in a class by themselves.
But the last two years have not been fulfilled. Seventy two victories and only two defeats. Both losses have been in the national semifinals on game winning shots by Mississippi State in 2017 and this time around, from rival Notre Dame.
UConn is human after all.
Geno Auriemma has elevated UConn women's basketball in the same aspects as Alabama football, New England Patriots football, New York Yankees baseball with victory after victory, after victory.
The winning is hard earned, but at times, extremely hard to maintain when teams get into the grueling stretch of postseason play. UConn has seen that the last two years.
It proves one thing. Not the elite can be the elite from one year to the next. The Patriots didn't this past NFL season, Alabama was grateful of getting invited to the college football playoff and the Yankees failed to keep upstart Houston from its quest for postseason success.
As Friday's semifinal game, seen by over 19,000 inside Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, plus the many that viewed it on national television, UConn finally got going in the second quarter, turning a 24-11 first period deficit into a 41-34 halftime lead.
Plenty of us, including myself, thought UConn was now going to put away Notre Dame, a team shorthanded due to four players suffering ACL injuries in the season.
Down but not out, Notre Dame was able to make the plays to keep it close, regain the lead and force UConn to come from behind in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter.
UConn could not stay ahead and Notre Dame executed on its final possession of OT, an 18 and a half jumper that clinched an exciting 91-89 triumph.
Consecutive 36-1 records for UConn, ousted on jump shots by point guards who were in rhythm when it was needed.
What creates a lot of conversation from this, is that UConn is not superior in the Final Four after Breanna Stewart left in 2016, with four consecutive national championships and back to back MVP seasons. I had a chance to see her perform in 2014, when she was a sophomore and UConn whipped Notre Dame 79-58 in the title game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Gabby Williams and Kia Nurse were on the last championship team as sophomores. Once Stewart headed to the WNBA, the two were good enough to go 72-2 in their last two seasons. But they were not great enough.
It is a similar story seen closely by yours truly. Lauderdale County won four straight AHSAA Class 3A state championships, thanks to the Wallen triplets, Emma, Ivy and Ella. Allie Craig Cruce was a sophomore the last time LCHS took home the hardware.
Lauderdale was undefeated at 34-0 in 2014 and 39-0 in 2015. They won in 2016, despite six losses in 36 games.
In the past two seasons, Lauderdale has produced 68 wins and only seven losses. But no state title for Cruce, without the triplets. Lauderdale lost in overtime March 2 to Pisgah 62-59 in the state championship.
Cruce is like Stewart, an outstanding performer and bound for the University of Alabama after graduation in May. Unfortunately, she has to endure the pain of not winning the big one when all eyes were upon her during 2017 and 2018.
Yes, it's not fair. But also, it proves that parity is coming into play for women's basketball.
Mississippi State has come from no where to be an elite, leaving the pride-pattern Tennessee Lady Vols well behind.
Notre Dame defied the odds, having to lean on regulars to play the entire game and go into the bench with one substitution.
Geno is like Nick Saban and Bill Belichick in being very outstanding coaches. But Geno now has to face the fact that two losses in two years leaves plenty of scars from the efforts of trying to stay on top after dominating the NCAA for four consecutive seasons (2013-16).
UConn got criticized for its lopsided 1st round win over St. Francis, scoring a record 94 points by halftime. They even tore apart last year's national champion, South Carolina in a 94-65 final in the regional championship in Albany, New York.
To me, UConn was on a mission to get back to the top. But the team did not rise when it was necessary and Notre Dame played on emotion and showed poise when the game went into crunch time.
Losing when not expected to is extremely painful. That is something Geno and the entire club will have to fight through for an undisclosed period of time.
Perhaps Geno will take this into consideration. Don't be so superior in the early rounds of next year's NCAA Tournament. Let someone else come under the microscope.
That will probably not be a part of equasion.
Photo courtesy of ESPN.com