IF YOU ARE a fan of the Connecticut women's basketball program, or a fan of dynasties in general, you probably didn't like what happened Sunday in the semifinals of the NCAA women's tournament.

But if you are looking forward to the continued growth of women's basketball, then Notre Dame ending UConn's bid for a third straight NCAA title and Texas A&M stunning Stanford was a good thing.

As far as NCAA championships have been concerned, it's always been an exclusive society with a few schools winning the bulk of the first 29 titles.

In fact only 13 schools have held up the NCAA Division I women's trophy.

Only five schools have won multiple titles, and two programs - Tennessee, with eight, and Connecticut, with seven - have combined to win half of the titles.

But perhaps, just perhaps, with Notre Dame beating Connecticut, 73-63, and Texas A&M nipping Stanford, 63-62, the parity - at least relative parity - that people thought was coming to women's hoops 5 years ago finally might be here.

Back in 2006, when Maryland won the NCAA title a year after Baylor had won in 2005, it marked the first time since 1993, with Texas Tech, and 1994, with North Carolina, that the tournament went consecutive years without either Connecticut or Tennessee winning a title.

Those thoughts of women's basketball finally balancing out were quickly dismissed when Tennessee won back-to-back titles in 2007 and '08 and UConn followed suite in 2009 and '10.

In fact, with Connecticut posting consecutive undefeated seasons and putting together a record 90-game winning streak, the sport looked more than ever like "the Have" vs. a bunch of "Have Nots."

Even with Stanford stopping UConn's streak with a 71-59 victory on Dec. 30, the Huskies' appearance in the Final Four made coach Geno Auriemma's talk of his team's vulnerability look like gamesmanship.

Taking a 36-1 record into the semifinals means being "vulnerable" only by Connecticut standards.

And with Notre Dame knocking off Tennessee in the regional finals, thus preventing the first Tennessee/Connecticut Final Four matchup since 2002, the Huskies seemed bound to become the first program to win three consecutive titles twice.

Connecticut had beaten its Big East rival three times during the regular season.

But here it is, for just the second time, the National Championship Game won't involve at least one No. 1 seed.

The other time it happened was in 1994 when No. 3 North Carolina beat No. 4 Louisiana Tech.

Again, this is represents "relative parity" because Notre Dame and Texas A&M are both No. 2 seeds - so the 1994 North Carolina team will remain the lowest seed to win a title at a No. 3.

"Nobody in America," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said regarding predictions of an Irish-Aggies final - as if two No. 2 seeds playing in a title game should shock the nation.

But considering how predictable, and boring, women's basketball had become over the last 4 years, you take variety in whatever form you can get it.

If Notre Dame, which beat Purdue for the title in 2001, wins, it will become just the six program with more than one title.

If Texas A&M wins, it will become the first first-time winner since Maryland in 2006 and just the fifth since Connecticut won its first title in 1995.

UConn or Tennessee had won 12 of the previous 16 titles.

It's easy to classify women's basketball as a sport where only a handful of schools have a chance to win, but go back to when it first became a NCAA Division I sport in 1982.

Then look at the evolution of the women's collegiate game going back to the first Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Basketball Tournament in 1972, and you will find it closely parallels the men's game.

Including the 11 in the AIAW, there have been 41 Division I basketball tournaments for women, including this year's.

Only 18 schools have won championships.

In the first 40 years (1939-1979) of the NCAA Division I Men's Tournament, only 24 teams won titles.

In the first 4 decades of a men's tournament, UCLA, with 10, and Kentucky, with five, accounted for 37.5 percent of the titles.

In the first 4 decades of women's tournament, Tennessee and Connecticut have accounted for 37.5 percent of the titles.

If Notre Dame wins tonight, it will join Immaculata, Delta State, Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech, Tennessee, Southern California and Connecticut as the eight programs to win multiple women's titles.

In the first 40 years of the men's tournament, six programs - Indiana, Oklahoma A&M, Kentucky, San Francisco, Cincinnati and UCLA - won more than one title.

Parity is coming to women's basketball. It might even arrive a bit faster than it did for the men.

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