Women’s basketball is worth it

The word is that women’s basketball is boring. That’s a common thought every March when the NCAA Tournament rolls around and it’s usually blared all over social media from the opening tip of the women’s tourney to the final horn of the title game.

The typical complaints out there are there is no dunking, there are only a few good teams, there’s not enough points scored and it’s just not “exciting.”

The list goes on and on and it’s gotten so repetitive that you get accustomed to it. Sportswriters just roll our eyes, shake our heads and just pretend that we didn’t hear that.

The hype during March is naturally all around the Division I men’s tournament with its notorious reputation for huge upsets, buzzer-beating shots and other memorable moments.

People all over the country devote their time at work to filling out brackets and watching the day games from the safety of their cubicles.

It’s even got its own theme song with “One Shining Moment” played after the national championship game every year, entrancing people with its emotion and game highlights. Many purposefully suffer through the lengthy postgame show just to listen to the song as it’s the perfect way to cap everything off.

With all of that, it’s not surprising that the women’s tournament is heavily overshadowed.

However, it’s still there, providing its own brand of entertainment and let’s be honest, the last three games of the women’s event were a lot more exciting than what happened on the men’s side.

The men’s Final Four was interesting in that Loyola Chicago was trying to replicate its famous national championship 55 years ago and Michigan was energizing the Upper Peninsula with their long run as the Wolverines tried to give head coach John Beilein his first championship.

However, it ended up being a big letdown. Michigan topped Loyola in a “meh” game, while Villanova obliterated Kansas in the other semifinal. As us Michiganders are well aware of, the Wolverines just couldn’t keep up with ‘Nova and Michigan ended its season on a sour note.

In contrast to that, the last three women’s games were thrillers, and if you didn’t enjoy them, you might want to contact your physician because you may have a vision problem.

In the first semifinal, two No. 1 seeds in Louisville and Mississippi State played a back-and-forth game where you weren’t sure who would come out on top.

The Cardinals led by three points late in the fourth quarter, but MSU knocked down a long trey to force overtime. In the extra session, the Bulldogs fought their way to victory and back to the national title game.

The opener was fun, but the nightcap was even more insane. In one corner, there was mighty Connecticut with its 11 national championships and a 111-game winning streak that lasted until last season’s Final Four when the Huskies lost to Mississippi State on a buzzer-beater.

In the other corner was Notre Dame, another national powerhouse that had been snakebit its last few times to the Final Four. That combined with UConn’s uncanny ability to shut good teams down made few people think that the Fighting Irish could topple the Huskies.

Yet somehow, ND held a five-point lead with 21 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Then UConn did what UConn does and the Huskies tied it up with 11 seconds remaining. By this point, the Irish’s serious chance at upsetting UConn had registered all over social media and even nonbasketball fans started to turn their channels to watch the overtime.

With one second left, Arike Ogunbowale did her best Kobe Bryant impression and took down UConn with a cold-blooded jumper from the corner to send the Irish on to the title game.

Both the Bulldogs and the Irish had now eliminated UConn at the final horn the past two seasons and the question going in was if magic was going to strike again.

It did, and it was Ogunbowale who did it. After a disastrous first half, the Irish clawed their way back and tied the game with 44 seconds left. Then with three seconds to go, Ogunbowale heaved an off-balance triple at the hoop while flying sideways. Despite that, it swished through the net and sent the arena into pandemonium.

Seriously, after all three of those games, how can anyone say that women’s basketball is boring? UConn’s excellence combined with other teams stepping up their games has created some great moments for not only women’s athletics, but for basketball itself.

Both of Ogunbowale’s buzzer-beaters will live on in lore just as much as Loyola’s two last-second shots and Jordan Poole’s flailing trey and crazy celebration for Michigan.

So the next time the NCAA women’s tournament comes around and someone complains, show them this year’s highlights and see if that changes their tune. If not, suggest they make an eye exam as soon as possible.

They don’t know what they’re missing.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.