This year’s NCAA women’s tournament proved that there are other powers in women’s basketball besides UConn, as Mississippi State took down the Huskies in what will go down in history as one of the biggest upsets in sports history.
(2) Stanford vs. (1) South Carolina
On Friday night, Stanford took on South Carolina after scraping by Notre Dame 76-75. Both teams struggled to score at their usual rates in what turned out to be a defensive game. Stanford contained South Carolina through the first half, leading 29-20 at halftime, and were successful in the first half by double teaming the Gamecock’s dominant inside scorer A’ja Wilson. Despite constant double, triple teams, and many uncalled fouls Wilson recorded a double-double by hitting the boards and grabbing 19 rebounds, allowing for second chance points and finishing with 13 points. Stanford’s third leading scorer Karlie Samuelson (12.6 points per game) twisted her ankle just before halftime, and despite her best efforts to contribute later in the game Samuelson went scoreless in her 25 minutes of play. South Carolina outlasted Stanford 62-53 to give SC’s head coach Dawn Staley her first victory over Stanford’s head coach Tara VanDerveer (after going 0-5 against her).
(1) Miss. State vs. (1) UConn
If you didn’t watch this game, you missed the biggest upset in sports history. UConn dominates women’s basketball and has won 111 straight games with 10 consecutive Final Four appearances and four consecutive national titles from 2012-2016. No one thought that Mississippi State, who embarrassingly lost to UConn 98-38 in the Sweet 16 last year, could take down the Huskies. However, the Bulldogs jumped out ahead first and took control of the game. Mississippi State played its style of basketball and forced UConn out of its usual faced paced rhythm. Slowing down the tempo on offense, the Bulldogs were able to keep UConn’s offense at bay and as a result didn’t have to defend the Huskies high-powered offense for as long. At halftime the Bulldogs led 36-28, a position the Huskies have only found themselves in a couple times during their 111 win streak. Despite Mississippi State’s first half success, it seemed like UConn would go on a run and leave the Bulldogs in the dust. But this never happened, and the two teams battled through regulation and an overtime. Mississippi State’s point guard Morgan William “Itty Bitty” hit the game winning shot in overtime to beat the buzzer and go down in sports history as an underdog hero.
UConn will be back next year with young talented players, which could become an even scarier Huskies team. Without the experience of playing in close games, UConn didn’t know what to do late in the game against Mississippi State. But don’t doubt for a second that UConn won’t use this loss to fuel its fire to break more records in the future. However, moving forward Mississippi State has opened the door for other teams who now know that the Huskies aren’t immortal.
National Championship: Mississippi State vs. South Carolina
Miss. State was unable to continue its magical journey and lost to South Carolina 67-55 in the Championship game. Despite wanting to see the Bulldogs win the title after dethroning the Huskies, the Gamecocks victory still resulted in a feel-good story. South Carolina’s head coach Dawn Staley, unable to win a NCAA championship as a player at University of Virginia, finally won a championship as South Carolina won its first national championship in program history. No one gave South Carolina a chance to win when its star center, Alania Coates (12.9 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game), went out with an ankle injury before the tournament. However A’ja Wilson of Hopkins, SC, who could have played at any school in the country, stepped up for the Gamecocks and became a hometown hero. Despite the feel-good win for the Gamecocks, there was drama surrounding the Bulldogs. Mississippi State’s head coach Vic Schaefer sat his star point guard William for the entire fourth quarter of the championship game, and William finished the game with 8 points in 23 minutes. Without taking anything away from the Gamecocks, South Carolina must be thankful for Itty Bitty and the Bulldogs for taking down the Huskies.
This weekend’s Final Four proved to be extremely important for women’s basketball. Friday’s game between UConn and Mississippi State had 2.763 million viewers on ESPN2, more than the Rockets vs. Warriors game (2.213 million) televised on ESPN (I won’t get into the fact the Final Four games should have been on ESPN). Viewers were exposed to the greatest upset in sports history on Friday, and on Sunday basketball fans got to see a great basketball game between two teams that had never won a national title. Women’s college basketball will be very interesting next season, and now people who said there is no reason to watch because UConn will never lose should change their tone and tune into a few games.