`WHEN everything comes down to one game,'' says Ann Meyers, a four-time All-American basketball player from the University of California at Los Angeles, ``the team that can avoid the forced tempo of the other team is in the driver's seat.'' Expect a more purely fundamental game from the women's collegiate finals than you'll see in men's games, Meyers says. Though individual and team statistics are similar, the men's size, speed, and skill make for a faster game - but one in which rudiments are often overlooked, she says.
``Women play a less physical, a more finesse game,'' she says. ``Because they don't have the superior athletic ability, they may be more deliberate in working their offense, making passes, blocking out for rebounds.''
Meyers, now a radio and TV commentator, finds the women's 30-second shot clock - 15 seconds shorter than the men's - ``perfect. Forty-five seconds is an awful long time for a team to set up its offense. Thirty seconds keeps the women's game moving.''
Meyers says one of the subtleties to watch in both men's and women's games is how the five players produce and respond to the ebb and flow of intensity. ``Why is one team suddenly getting a series of successful fast-breaks or ... a string of offensive rebounds?'' she asks. Watch for the intangibles that create or stop momentum - a missed free throw, a controversial referee's call that results in a turnover.
Such details can change the game tempo dramatically in the course of a minute.
Meyers says she likes to watch for the displays of heart that separate the great players from the near-great. ``Often, the winner is one who has started out at a disadvantage in speed, quickness, or size, and has overcome it by working on it far harder than the gifted person,'' she says.
Connecticut (29-4) plays Virginia (30-2), and Tennessee (28-5) plays Stanford (26-5) in New Orleans on Saturday to determine the two teams who will meet in the championship game Sunday.