Since it was created, the women’s NCAA tournament has always hid in the shadows of “March Madness.”
It all started back in 1982 when the first women’s NCAA basketball tournament was announced. That first year the tournament was played, there were 32 teams. By 1994, there were 48 teams, and ever since 1995 there have been 64 teams, just like in the men’s tournament. As the years have gone by, more and more publicity has been directed toward women’s basketball. From expanding the number of teams to being able to watch all of the tournament games on TV, women’s basketball has grown a lot over time. Having huge stars in the game such as Brittney Griner, the junior from Baylor, and the Ogwumike sisters, senior Nneka and sophomore Chiney, of Stanford certainly helped the game progress. Because of the increase in publicity, we the fans have been able to keep more of an eye on the games and follow the tournament, just like we do the men’s.
As the women’s game has increased in popularity and visibility, it has also been dominated by a handful of strong programs. Over the past 20 years, a total of nine different teams have won the championship. In 12 of those 20 years the tournament was won by either UConn (seven wins) or Tennessee (five wins.) This year’s tournament was another predictable one. The Final Four teams were all Number 1 seeds: Baylor, Notre Dame, Stanford and Connecticut.
The first Final Four game, Notre Dame versus Connecticut, was a very exciting one. With 11 seconds left, UConn’s Kelly Faris made two free throws to put UConn up 67-65. Notre Dame marched down the court and got the ball to leading scorer Skylar Diggins, who took a shot inside the arc and missed it. With four seconds left, Notre Dame guard Natalie Novosel rebounded her shot and hit the game-tying basket. Notre Dame surged in over time and ended up defeating UConn 83-75.
The other Final Four game was a little less of a nail-biter than the first. Just two points separated Stanford and Baylor at the half, but the Lady Bears would hold their lead and eventually defeat Stanford by 12 points. Griner and Terran Condrey led the scoring for Baylor with 13 points each, and Nnemkadi Ogwumike led the Cardinal with 22 points. Stanford just couldn’t stop the force of Baylor and missed out on a spot in the National Championship game.
On Tuesday night, the Lady Bears took on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. They won in a landslide, 80-61. Baylor became the first team in men or women’s NCAA basketball to go 40-0 in a season. The Most Outstanding Player of the tournament went to Griner, who scored 23 points in the championship game. She also added 13 rebounds and five blocks. So, a big congratulations goes out to Griner and the Lady Bears on a very impressive win.