Years ago, a movie came out called "The Day After." It was about what would happen after a nuclear bomb went off. Well, for all practical purposes, four bombs went off last night in the women's NCAA tournament. Number 1 seeds South Carolina and Notre Dame went down, to teams no one picked to beat them. The other upsets were shocking as well, as Washington took down Kentucky in Lexington, and Tennessee took out favored Ohio State in a landslide.
Much has been said from would be fans of women's basketball, that why watch because Uconn should be in the WNBA and has about a .01 percent chance of not winning the national championship. I get that. After all, the three best players in the country all start for the Uconn Huskies. The only teams thought capable of taking down the Huskies, no matter how slim the odds, were Notre Dame or South Carolina. As we know now, that is history for this year.
Stanford coach Tara VanDeVeer, a mainstay in the NCAA tournament since, well a very long time ago, made an astute observation: "I think that for years and years and years, we've kind of wanted this," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "I don't know that the Kentucky fans want this right now. But I think it points to more parity. I think it points to more quality players and programs, universities recognizing, 'Wow, women's basketball is a great thing' and supporting women's basketball at a higher level."
How can she talk about parity in a sport so dominated by one team? Because the rest of the women's game has a lot of upset potential, as was on display like perhaps no other evening in recent memory, other than the take down of Baylor and Brittany Griner by a smoking hot shooting Louisville team just a few short years ago.
One interesting aspect of the Stanford upset of Notre Dame is that Purdue was within a 10 foot jumper missed by April Wilson in the final seconds of regulation of beating Stanford down in the tropics. Stanford ended up prevailing, but had to go to extra time to do it against an unheralded Purdue team. Of course Stanford is playing much better these days, even though they have no seniors. Somehow, Notre Dame simply forgot how to play defense, giving up 90 points to such a young Stanford team. But give Stanford credit. They executed a masterful game plan, made the shots, and played up to their ultimate potential and then some. It was a joy to watch. I missed most of the second half of the Syracuse upset of South Carolina while watching other basketball games. That upset was also quite shocking. Everyone seems to be focusing on upsets in the men's tournament this year, and they have broken just about every bracket in the country. But for one night, yes it was great to see the IU men's team get pummeled by an unbelievable North Carolina team that has underachieved for much of the season, but that did not take away from the significance of the 4 upsets in the women's game.
Another great take from these games was the other worldly play of Kelsey Plum of Washington. I don't think anyone picked them to make any waves in this tournament, as they are the team with the least depth still standing. Another player scored more points, but watching Plum play in Lexington was a thing of beauty. She has got to be the best player in the country who doesn't play for Uconn. One of her teammates put down 30 points and got the game ball, but it was Plum who controlled the entire game. Against a very good team on their home floor. And oh, if you didn't notice that, Washington took down Maryland in College Station earlier, something no one could have imagined. It reminded me of the Geno Auriemma quote of years ago: "We have Diana and they don't" when asked how Uconn won NCAA championships with at least one year in which it was pretty much all Diana Taurasi winning it all. If Kelsey Plum is not a first team All-American, then something is wrong. She played the ultimate point guard kind of game, while also shooting lights out for "only" 23 points. Commentators compared her to Stephan Curry, the ultimate complement these days when he is the best basketball player in the world for now. And one other thing, Plum will be back next year for her senior season.
For decades, women's basketball has been dominated by teams east of the Mississippi River. However, this season the Pac-12 is really making a statement, with Oregon State, UCLA, Washington and Stanford still in the running for now. Of course none of these teams have a prayer against Uconn. But they have definitely had a statement kind of tournament.
I know most basketball fans are only into the men's game, and understandably as men are taller, stronger, and more coordinated than women in the sport of basketball. Some even think it is sacrilegious to even allow women to play basketball. My handle says it all as I just simply prefer on most days to watch the women's game. They use more teamwork, do less hot dogging, and gobs of them can dribble, shoot, and jump very well. As I always say, loving women's basketball is an acquired taste and state of mind.
So what now? The only team with a one in a million chance of beating Uconn left in the tournament is Baylor. So if you don't want to watch any more of a foregone conclusion, that is up to you. I for one am enjoying this year's women's NCAA tournament. See you after Uconn hoists up the trophy for the 4th straight year.