It’s March, and that means it’s almost time for March Madness, the big college basketball tournaments. Before everyone goes crazy trying to figure out the brackets for the men’s tournament, let’s take a look at women’s college hoops.
In the past two years, the women’s NCAA tournament has been easy to predict. The University of Connecticut dominated women’s basketball by winning a record 90 games in a row and the championships in 2009 and 2010.
This year might not be so simple. The Huskies, led by three-time all-American Maya Moore, are still ranked No. 1 in the country. But they have some serious challengers.
Stanford: The Cardinal snapped Connecticut’s winning streak back in December when they beat the Huskies, 71-59. Stanford lost two games early in the season but stormed through PAC-10 Conference play undefeated. Led by senior do-everything guard Jeanette Pohlen and junior forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Stanford should be tough.
Baylor: The Lady Bears have a game-changer in 6-foot-8-inch center Brittney Griner. The All-American sophomore scores more than 22 points a game and grabs almost eight rebounds. But where Griner makes the biggest difference is on defense. With her amazing 88-inch wingspan (the measurement of fingertip to fingertip when your arms are extended), Griner blocks almost five shots a game and intimidates anyone who comes close to the Baylor basket. As long as Baylor has Griner, the team has a chance to beat anyone.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols ripped through the regular season in the Southeastern Conference undefeated, beating their opponents by an average of 24 points a game. Tennessee has plenty of on-court talent. But their not-so-secret weapon is Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt. Now in her 37th season coaching, Summitt has won more than 1,000 games and eight NCAA championships. She would love to win her ninth this year.
Local teams: Maryland and Georgetown have been ranked in the Top 20 most of the year, so they should be invited to play in the NCAA tournament even if they don’t win their conference tournaments. Maryland knocked off Duke recently, and Georgetown upset Tennessee earlier in the season, so they are the real deal.
Still, I don’t expect either of the local favorites to get to the Final Four. Maryland is a bit young; there are no seniors on the roster. Georgetown doesn’t have enough good players to make a long tournament run. That’s too bad, because I love the name of Georgetown’s leading scorer: Sugar Rodgers.
Still, don’t hand the NCAA trophy to Connecticut just yet. The NCAA women’s tournament will be very interesting.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost’s sports opinion column and is the author of 16 sports books for kids. Six are about basketball, including his latest, “Real Hoops.”