Thursday, March 15, 2012
Weekly Women's Sports Pitch: March Madness Musings
I delayed the posting of this column this week for a day so that it would coincide with the actual beginning of March Madness, my favorite sports holiday. I will have another post later tonight on some reproductive rights issues, as requested by my friend Emily O'Donnell. Enjoy the tournaments!
This week we focus on basketball. With March Madness well and truly underway, it shouldn’t be a surprise. As opposed to 99% of Americans, I hope that readers of this blog will realize that I’m talking about the third major basketball tournament being played this March, the women’s NCAA tournament. And it’s no surprise that most people don’t take the time to see the women’s tourney, as it’s set up in such a way as to make it difficult to watch. The first round women’s matches this year, as with years previous, will be played at the same time as the men’s second round match-ups, and the women’s second round games will be played on Monday and Tuesday evening, while most people are trying to catch up on their sleep loss from the weekend. Even if you happen to be in a city that’s hosting the tournament, you’ll find there are far less tickets available. This year’s women’s final will be played in the Pepsi Center in Denver (capacity: 19,155). Correspondingly, the men’s final this year will be played in the Superdome (capacity: 55.675). Enough griping, already. I’m here to tell you why to watch and what to watch.
One of the main reasons why people love the men’s college game is that there is a large chance of upsets. The women’s tournament features less upsets, especially in the first and second rounds, but when they happen, they are outstanding. In 1998, Harvard, the 16-seed with a 23-4 record, defeated Stanford, the 1-seed, 71-67. At the time, Stanford was 21-5 and on a fifteen game win streak. Not before and not since has any number one seed fallen in the first round in either the men’s or women’s tournament. And it could happen again. This year, Stanford finds itself the number one seed again, this time against the 26-4 Hampton Pirates. To add to the drama, the Pirates will be playing about 15 miles from campus, close enough for the student body to pack the arena. Although I won’t go so far as to predict that Hampton will upset the number one seed, the similarities are eerie.
There are plenty of other storylines to follow. The Baylor Bears enter the NCAA tournament undefeated (34-0). Teams entering the tournament undefeated have won six times, but have lost five times, including three times in the first round. Although consensus is that this is Baylor’s tournament to win, they’re going to have to push past either the number 2-seed, eight-time champion Tennessee, or the number 3-seed, the 30-1 Delaware Blue Hens (insert Delaware joke here).
Next up, we have Notre Dame. Notre Dame is 30-3 on the season, which has earned them a number one seed. Notre Dame may have the easiest road to the final four, with relatively weak two, three, and four seeds in its regional bracket, and its first two games in its home arena. Notre Dame’s only losses are to Baylor, Connecticut, and West Virginia, all three of whom made the tournament field, and two of which received number one seeds.
Since this is a Pittsburgh blog, it’s important to note that the only women’s team from the Yinzer area is the WVU Mountaineers. The Mountaineers will be making their third straight appearance in the tournament. Though they only earned an 8-seed from their regular season performance, and thus, the difficult schedule that goes with it, they will be looking to avenge some very poor performances the past two years. In addition, they have the advantage of playing relatively close to home in their first round match-up versus Texas.
So that’s what’s going on. There’s a lot of exciting stuff to watch, and I’d recommend catching as much of it as you can. All the games will be played on ESPN2 on Saturday and Sunday, as well as Monday and Tuesday nights. Hopefully you’ll get the chance to enjoy some of the action.
ADDENDUM: I attended the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame Pittsburgh chapter awards dinner this past Sunday. The athlete of the year was Robert Morris Colonials goaltender Kristen DiCiocco. My congratulations go out to Ms. DiCiocco, and I wish her much success in the rest of her collegiate career.