For some people, watching women’s basketball is about as exciting as watching stalactites grow and as unpredictable as Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation. For the past few years, it has been easy to see why. After all, Stanford and Connecticut have made it to the Final Four for each of the past four seasons, and Connecticut has won six titles since 2000. This year, nobody expected anything but a matchup of those teams — both number one seeds — in what would have been a rematch of last year’s title game. However, Notre Dame’s upset of Connecticut and Texas A&M’s upset of Stanford in the national semifinals set up a final with no number one seeds for just the second time in women’s tournament history, and resulted in Texas A&M’s first NCAA championship — for either the men or the women — in the school’s history.
Arguably the best thing about both Notre Dame and Texas A&M is their decided lack of tournament appearances. Since the creation of the NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament in 1982, four schools have dominated the tournament and the recruitment of top players. These four schools — Connecticut, Stanford, Tennessee, and Louisiana Tech — have won 19 of the 30 women’s championships, and coaches like Pat Summitt of Tennessee and Geno Auriemma of Connecticut have managed to amass 8 and 7 titles, respectively, in a time span surpassed only by John Wooden and the UCLA men’s team in the late ’60s and early ’70s. In fact, midway through this year’s regular season, the Connecticut women achieved 90 consecutive wins, surpassing UCLA’s unthinkable 88-game winning streak from 1971 to 1974, before losing to Stanford. While this was an amazing achievement, it didn’t make for very exciting games, as it was always clear who was going to win. Texas A&M and Notre Dame, on the other hand, are not perennial powerhouses or high-profile recruitment destinations.
The championship game on Tuesday night was, for that reason, that much more rewarding and exciting to watch. The Texas A&M team, despite being down by two at the half, rallied in the second half under the leadership of senior Danielle Adams, who scored 22 of her 30 total points in the second half — the second most for any player in tournament history. Texas A&M gained and then maintained the lead for most of the second half, but then a Notre Dame rally tied the game at 66 with 3:56 to play. Adams, however, responded with two layups, and then a three-pointer by Tyra White sealed the deal, with Texas A&M cruising the rest of the way to the victory.
Despite the loss, Notre Dame has a lot to look forward to next season. Sophomore Skylar Diggins is proving to be a star, playing a pivotal role in helping the team reach the final. She is also garnering a great deal of celebrity attention for both her playing skills and looks, including receiving a shout out from Lil Wayne who tweeted “Kongrats to @skydigg4, my wife. Now bring it home baby” before Tuesday’s final.
Overall, the performances by both Texas A&M and Notre Dame this season were the best thing that could have happened to women’s basketball. They proved that the sport is not dominated by perennial powerhouses, and players like Skylar Diggins are proving that female basketball players deserve just as much admiration as the men.
The women’s final Tuesday reminded me why women’s college basketball is worth watching. Instead of watching sweaty dudes manhandle each other to the point where they are shooting 18.8 percent of their field goals, why not watch basketball the way it was meant to be played, with solid fundamentals? So the next time you’re watching paint dry in your living room, consider turning on the TV and watching some women’s basketball instead. You just might find it’s a lot more like quantum tunneling than planetary motion.