Men’s basketball will always receive more attention than women’s basketball. That’s how the current world operates, but each day, leaders of female collegiate sports fight for equal appreciation for both sides of the sport. Most everyone saw the theatrics of the men’s Final Four, but March Madness was just as crazy in the women’s Tournament, as Baylor defeated last year’s champions Notre Dame 82-81 to capture their third championship.
Just like every kind of athletic tournament, there are upsets. The closest to a Cinderella team was No.11 Missouri State. In the first round, the Bears defeated No.6 Depaul 89-78, and in the second round, they upset No. 3 Iowa State, 69-60. Due to the Bears’ success, their head coach, Kellie Harper, announced that she will be accepting the head coaching position at the University of Tennessee. The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats also had their first ever NCAA appearance this year after winning the MEAC Conference Tournament. However, the Wildcats had to face UCONN in the first round and went home with a 110-61 loss.
From 2012-2016, UCONN won the NCAA Tournament every year. UCONN’s head coach, Geno Auriemma, implored the rest of the nation to step up their game. Everyone listened and acted accordingly. Despite making it to 12 straight Final Fours, the Huskies have not seen the national championship stage since 2016.
Five games in this year’s tournament were decided by one basket, including the National Championship Game. Baylor had the lead for over 90% of the game, but the final ten minutes were what March Madness is truly about.
Led by last year’s hero Arike Ogunbowale, Notre Dame made a furious comeback to get within two points with seconds left. Ogunbowale was inexplicably fouled, but she missed the first free throw and made the second. It essentially sealed the win for the Lady Bears.
Baylor hadn’t won the national title since 2012 when Brittney Griner was the star of women’s college basketball. This year’s Most Outstanding Player was Chloe Jackson, who recorded 26 points in the championship game. She scored or assisted on the last six points for the Lady Bears to clinch the win. Her teammate, Kalani Brown, helped Baylor reach the title by recording 20 points and 13 rebounds in the National Semifinal against Oregon.
The Lady Bears had another reason to fight for the title: the falling of Lauren Cox. In National Semifinal, Cox was a primary factor in their victory over Oregon. She notched 21 points and 11 rebounds. The world was expecting her to give another stellar performance in the National Championship Game, but halfway through the second quarter, she went down with a knee injury and was unable to return.
There were many other stars in the tournament that got overlooked. Katie Lou Samuelson, who missed part of the season due to an ankle injury, helped the UCONN Huskies get to the Final Four once again. She recorded 29 points, including 7 three-pointers, in the Elite 8. Teaira McCowna, the SEC Player of the Year and SEC Tournament MOP, helped the Mississippi State Bulldogs reach the Elite Eight. McCowna was the catalyst behind the Bulldogs’ back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2018.
Asia Durr, the two-time ACC Player of the Year, was the primary reason why Louisville was a No.1 seed this year, as she averaged 21.2 points this season. Sabrina Ionescu, known as the “triple-double machine”, led the Oregon Ducks to their first ever Final Four. In the Elite Eight game, she recorded 31 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.