Balls: Woe is Bo, but don’t call him poor sport 

click to enlarge Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has been assaulted nationally for comments following the national title game about the foul discrepancy and one-and-done players. - DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP FILE PHOTO
  • David J. Phillip/AP file photo
  • Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has been assaulted nationally for comments following the national title game about the foul discrepancy and one-and-done players.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan took some flack for his remarks after the NCAA championship game, but as kind and compassionate as Balls has been known to be, we'll give the man a break this time.

Ryan wasn't a poor loser Monday night. He was a frustrated loser, but what coach in his shoes wouldn't be? Big difference.

Ryan and especially Ryan's players were hacked off about the officials, who left a lot to be desired as usual. (Boy, there's a new flash.) Barely minutes after Duke had rallied to beat his team, CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson cornered the coach, who mentioned there had been more body contact than in any game the Badgers had played this season. Clearly, that's not the way they wanted it. Duke had a 16-3 advantage in free-throw tries in the second half, but Blue Devils big man Jahlil Okafor was in foul trouble almost from the start. The referees weren't the reason that Wisconsin blew a nine-point lead, and Ryan never said they were, either.

Later, Ryan remarked that Wisconsin didn't hang its hat on stud freshmen, the kind that would never come to Madison without a guaranteed contract. "Every player that's played through [our] program ... OK — we don't do a rent-a-player," he said. Some took that to be be jab at Duke and possibly Kentucky, which his team beat to reach the final, but wasn't it more of a compliment to his players, none of whom are likely to become an NBA All-Star any time soon?

Consider the situation. The 67-year-old Ryan had just coached the most important game in his career. As he was well aware, it was his best (only?) chance to capture a national championship. His team was minutes away from its one shining moment, only to let it slip away. Think it's easy to say all the politically correct things after one of the most emotional experiences in your life?

Yeah, maybe Ryan could have used some softer words to make his point, but the old ball coach has done too many good things for too many years to hang him for it.

THEM AGAIN? Geno Auriemma referred to college men's basketball as "a joke" the other day because of its lack of offense. Know what? The Connecticut women's coach is right in many respects.

Yet the bigger laugh is the utter lack of parity in Auriemma's sport.

On Tuesday, the Windshield splattered the Bug again. Auriemma's team beat Notre Dame in the championship game, which means UConn and Tennessee have combined to win 18 of the 34 national titles. That's more than half. The Huskies finished the season with a 38-1 record and a 40.7 points differential. That's not competition. That's Hammer versus Nail, and it's been that way forever, it seems.

There all sorts of ways to inject some life into the women's game, where about two of every three teams play to crowds in three figures. Lower the rim. Tweak the shot clock. Call more fouls. Maybe the best solution is a reduction in scholarship limits, which wouldn't allow so few schools to horde so many skilled athletes.

And that's no joke.

JUST WIN-WIN, BABY: If it's true that free agent Michael Crabtree wants $4.5 million per season, then he's dropped the ball again. He'll be lucky to fetch $3 million in the open market.

Which is why Crabtree should sign with the Raiders if they offer him anything close to that amount in the days ahead. A 27-year-old wide receiver with limited speed and a history of health problems won't be worth more in May than he is now and probably a lot less.

Crabtree is a No. 3 receiver with a good team, a No. 2 with an average team and a No. 1 with a bad team, which the Raiders just may be next season. In Derek Carr, he would have a young quarterback with a live arm to get him the ball. Pride and Poise figures to throw a lot again. If healthy, he could catch close to a hundred balls there.

The 49ers might rent a limo for Crabtree if he promises to sign before May 12. That way, they receive a compensatory draft pick, which general manager Trent Baalke covets almost as much as the Jim Harbaugh poster on his office wall. OK, I made up that last part.

WHAT A WASTE: The Sharks can't even lose the right way this season.

Team Teal emailed in the last two games by a combined 10-4 score against nonplayoff teams. If the homies had thrown in the water bottle a few months ago, they would have a far better chance to get Connor McDavid as a lovely parting gift. The 18-year-old phenom is the best prospect since Sidney Crosby, some draftniks says.

Instead, not only will the Sharks sit out the playoffs for the first time since the 2002-03 season, but they'll probably get no better than the 12th overall pick for their troubles.

Gentleman, start your pink slips.

THIS JUST IN: Tiger Woods reports that his swing "feels really good" in advance of the Masters this weekend.

Unless Woods does something truly extraordinary — you know, like break 70 — Balls would rather watch Elin Nordegren, thank you very much.

THE LIST: Schools not named Connecticut, Baylor or Tennessee that have won the NCAA women's basketball championship in this millennium:

Notre Dame (2001)

Maryland (2006)

Texas A&M (2011)

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