I’m late to the party. I didn’t RSVP. I heard how good the party was, but didn’t show up until the DJ was spinning and the dance floor was jampacked. When it come to women’s basketball, I have just recently hopped on board. I didn’t show up to the party willingly. It wasn’t until my daughters got old enough that I could take them to a few games that I even paid attention to women’s sports. When it came to women’s basketball, I thought that if there’s no dunking or action above the rim, how fun could it be?
As it turns out, a lot of fun.
The 2018 Women’s Final Four will go down as one of the most exciting Final Fours ever, men’s or women’s. One National SemiFinal went to overtime and the next was decided by a buzzer beater… in overtime. Then the championship game was won on another buzzer beater by the same exact person. You cannot come up with a better season ending scenario if executives at ESPN (which televised the women’s Final Four) and the NCAA conspired to make the end of year event procude as much drama as this event did. All four participants showed why they were deserving of reaching the sport’s ultimate stage.
With Louisville, head coach Jeff Walz reached his third Final Four with the Cardinals. And the Cards were spectacular all year. Their play became a huge bright spot for a fan base needing some sun. For those folks in Red that didn’t pay attention, they missed out because senior Myisha Hines-Allen and Asia Durr led the Cards to one of the best seasons of basketball the Commonwealth has seen, finishing 36-3. Walz’s group won the ACC regular season and post season tournament titles this season, setting themselves up as a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Once they arrived in Columbus for the Final Four, the Cardinals played tough defense (as usual), but fell in overtime to Mississippi State 73-63 thanks in part to the Bulldogs’ Tearira McCowan’s insane 21 point, 25 rebound performance.
The Connecticut Huskies were undefeated heading into the Final Four. Head coach Geno Auriemma has guided the Huskies to 11 consecutive Final Four appearances and to 11 total NCAA titles. The Huskies have to separate winning streaks of at least 90 wins, including an all time NCAA record of 111. Geno and the ladies from Storrs are the gold standard in women’s college basketball. Former players are a who’s who of ballplayers: Rebecca Lobo, Sue Bird, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, players that not only excelled in college, but in the professional ranks as well. The 2017-18 Huskies were just as dominant as the predecessors, but like the 16-17 Huskies fell in the Final Four on a last second shot. Last year to Mississippi State and this year to the Fight Irish of Notre Dame.
Mississippi State ended the longest winning streak in NCAA history when they defeated UConn at the 2017 Final Four. The Bulldogs then fell in the NCAA title game to fellow SEC member South Carolina. The Bulldogs arrived in Columbus looking for redemption, to complete the task they failed to close last year. Against Louisville, MSU was relentless on the boards, again led by McCowan’s Final Four record 25, 13 on the offensive end. The Cards and Bulldogs played a close contest throughout, with neither team leading by more that 6 points during regulation. In overtime, Mississippi State and McCowan were able to create enough distance for the Bulldogs 73-63 win.
The Big Blue Nation will tell you all about Aaron Harrison’s three consecutive clutch three point shots during the Wildcats’ run to the 2014 NCAA title game. He may have been outdone by Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale. The Irish’s star guard hit a clutch three in overtime against Connecticut to send Notre Dame to the title game against Mississippi State. And what does Ogunbowale do for an encore to what ND associate coach Niele Ivey called “the shot of a lifetime?” 48 hours later, she does it again. Ogunbowale’s three with .1 seconds left on the game clock gave Notre Dame the 61-58 win over MSU and deliver the Irish’s second NCAA Women’s title. Oh, and to cap it all off, he was tweeted at by Kobe Bryant.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) March 31, 2018
Yes, I’m really late to the party when it comes to women’s basketball. I’ve been able to cover and attend a lot of Kentucky’s women’s hoops over the past few years and I can attest that those head coach Matthew Mitchell and ladies work just as Coach Calipari and the men do. If you’re not paying attention to women’s hoops, you’re missing out on an exciting brand of basketball. It’s a fun party and you’ve officially been invited.