Is the sniping truly ire, or concocted hype between Notre Dame and UConn women's basketball?

AL LESAR
South Bend Tribune

For all the conspiracy theorists out there, this one could be a doozy.

First, there was the second shooter on the grassy knoll. Then, there was the “moon landing” that was filmed in a television studio.

Now, it’s “schedule-gate.”

Muffet McGraw and Geno Auriemma are sniping at each other. The Notre Dame and Connecticut women’s basketball coaches sound like a couple of boxers hyping an upcoming fight.

You know, “Pity the fool …” and all that stuff.

The curators of women’s college basketball’s elite have taken their gripes public.

“You wouldn’t schedule us.”

“No, you wouldn’t return our call.”

“That’s OK, we’ve got the best player in the country.”

“Nuh-uh.”

And, really, are they bickering about who the best sixth man (woman) in the country is?

C’mon.

The next few weeks could be women’s basketball’s time to shine. Connecticut and Notre Dame are on a collision course of monumental proportions — at least that’s what ESPN kept saying during its telecast of the 51-point Irish rout Saturday.

Gotta do something to keep folks interested.

Odds are two undefeated teams will meet in Nashville April 8 to decide the national championship.

The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network has to be thrilled about the possibility.

Even the most macho of sports fans, who would normally switch on women’s basketball only when the World Series of Poker went to commercial, might be coaxed to watch this one from start to finish.

Thanks to this war of words, contrived or not, basketball skills and amazing team play will only be part of the plot.

This one could be a regular ol’ grudge match.

Auriemma has cast himself as Darth Vader, at least in the eyes of Notre Dame fans. Ever since he blamed the implosion of the Big East Conference on Notre Dame’s steadfast reluctance to have its football team join the league, he has worn the black hat — and has been proud of it.

Now, Connecticut is left to wallow in the mish-mash of conference realignment orphans like SMU, Memphis, Temple and Houston in a concoction called the American Athletic Conference.

In terms of women’s basketball, the Northern Indiana Conference might have a better RPI rating than the AAC. UConn could probably win every game by 50 points and still not truly impress anyone.

So granted, there are some genuine strained relationships between Connecticut and Notre Dame. But still, there’s that little tinge of wonder if this war of words could have just a little to do with generating interest in the tournament and serving as a buildup to what could be an amazing title game.

ESPN has its fingers crossed. Women’s basketball is primarily chalk. Upsets just don’t happen very often. That’s likely why Las Vegas won’t touch the sport.

It would be a travesty if that matchup doesn’t happen in the Music City. Hear that, Arizona State? Time to roll over and play dead Monday night.

For the good of the game.

McGraw and Auriemma know each other well enough to be able to tweak each other in the media. Geno gave a zinger the other day about “telling fibs in Lent.”

Is this whole discourse a charade, building a foundation for a must-see prime-time television event?

Heck, maybe they could have gone with a pay-per-view spectacular.

It has the makings of a really good one.

With or without the hype.

ALesar@SBTinfo.com

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