In March, all eyes are on whatever assortment of 64 college basketball programs get the golden ticket from the NCAA selection committee to participate in the NCAA Tournament. Millions of people fill out brackets whether for fun, for money or with the naïve hope they’ll have the first perfect bracket ever (they won’t). Good teams lose. Lower seeds win. Schools make history and others struggle to clear the low bar. Players hit insane shots at the buzzer and games come down to the final seconds as schools attempt to further stamp their footprint in college basketball tournament lore.
What if I told you I was talking about all of this with the women’s basketball tournament in mind?
It’s no secret that far more people care about the men’s tournament than the women’s and the men’s tournament gets the TV deals, the limelight and the craze that the women’s tournament simply does not. And no, it’s not because nobody wants to watch UConn win by 30 every time—there are 63 other teams that start out right alongside with them, with the same exact goal in mind.
Not nearly as many people tune in to watch the top women’s teams duke it out but everybody should.
For starters, good teams lose in women’s basketball too. Contrary to popular belief, UConn is not the only good school and good schools have certainly given the Huskies struggles during the regular season; see Maryland, Notre Dame and Baylor.
But all three of those schools I just mentioned are gone. No. 2 Mississippi State defeated Baylor in overtime two nights ago in the Elite Eight, advancing to their first Final Four in school history. Maryland was upset by No. 10 Oregon in the Sweet 16 and Notre Dame lost a heartbreaker to No. 2 Stanford in the Elite Eight after failing to get a potential game-winning shot off with 2.3 seconds to go.
Much like Oregon in the men’s tournament, a team that hasn’t been in the Final Four since 1939, the women’s program has been making a historic run, taking down top seed after top seed. I’m writing this before their game against UConn tonight, but barring a monumental upset, their journey will most likely stop in the Elite Eight, the farthest they have ever gone in school history.
Though Maryland eventually lost, Destiny Slocum hit one of the craziest 3/4 court halftime buzzer-beaters I have ever seen in my life which should not be viewed as anything less than spectacular. Most people can’t even hit the free throw during timeouts at UConn games.
— NCAA Women's BKB (@ncaawbb) March 19, 2017
As for cementing themselves in basketball lore? Look no further than the UConn Huskies, who have been streaking for 110 straight games. Not only would winning 113 games in a row be absolutely unprecedented but winning a fifth-consecutive national championship is something that would be second to John Wooden’s UCLA men’s dynasty, who won seven consecutive championships from 1967 to 1973. Geno Auriemma tied the legendary Pat Summit for most women’s basketball tournament wins (112), and will most likely be at 113 by the time you read this.
Take out time this Friday night to watch the women’s Final Four. Pop some popcorn, gather with your friends and prepare yourself for intense, aggressive, quality basketball. There are No. 1 seeds, Cinderella stories and teams vying to make more history who deserve your attention just as much as the men.