Women's NCAA Tournament Championship Breakdown
And so, five months after over 300 women’s basketball teams began their Division I schedules, we are down to the last two.
It should come as no surprise that these two elite powerhouses have already seen each other this season, and it shouldn’t be a shock that two of the most powerful players in the country will face off for the right to hold the trophy aloft at the end of the night.
Here is a look at the final game of the season:
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 1 Notre Dame (8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado)
The key word for this game is big. It is not only big as in Big East vs. Big 12, but also big as in two of the best players in the country showing off their skills.
Much has been written about Brittney Griner and what destruction she is capable of wreaking on a basketball court. She’s the first women’s college basketball player to dunk twice in a season, she’s not afraid to get into the scrum if it means defending her teammates… oh, and did we mention she’s got some terrific stats? Griner has an average of 23.2 points per game to go with 9.4 rebounds. Of her 366 total boards this season, one-third (128) are offensive. She has 201 of the team’s 304 blocked shots. The stats and intangibles do add up to make Griner one fearsome player.
Lost in all the hoopla, however, is the fact Griner doesn’t get it done alone. Odyssey Sims (14.7 points, 40.1 percent from 3-point range) is an expert ballhandler with a solid assist-to-turnover ratio (170 assists, 103 TO’s). Destiny Williams nearly averages a double-double thanks to her 10.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Together these three have wreaked havoc on 39 opponents and would like to become the first in NCAA history to record 40 wins in one year. That’s male or female. What an accomplishment that would be if Baylor pulled it off.
The Bears (39-0) began their tournament run with an 81-40 victory over UC-Santa Barbara and a 76-57 win over Florida. Once action reached the Des Moines regional Baylor proved just as potent with victories over Georgia Tech (83-68) and Tennessee (77-58). Baylor then beat Stanford 59-47 in the national semifinals.
As for Notre Dame (35-3), you can’t think Irish basketball without thinking Skylar Diggins. Diggins is a master at promoting her basketball team off the court (if you don’t believe me, check her Twitter and Facebook pages) and playing a mean game on the court. Diggins averages 16.8 points per game to go with 35.2 percent shooting from 3-point range. Her rebounding skills aren’t as sharp as Griner (3.3 per game) but her intangibles of 219 assists and 100 steals make up for the lack of boarding.
Like Griner, Diggins also gets a lot of help. Natalie Novosel (15.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 41.9 percent 3-point shooting), Devereaux Peters (11.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 141 offensive boards) and Kayla McBride (11.6 points, 4.6 rebounds) have been dominant all season long for the Irish.
Notre Dame started its tournament run with wins over Liberty (74-43) and California (73-62) before destroying St. Bonaventure (79-35) and Maryland (80-49) in the regional semifinals and finals. The Irish needed overtime to top Connecticut 83-75 in the national semifinals.
Much has been said about these teams facing each other once this year. Baylor beat the Irish 94-81 in a November game at Waco, Texas as part of the Preseason WNIT. Don’t be surprised to see an outcome similar to that this time around, with maybe a tad less scoring. The bottom line is Baylor is pumped, Griner is ready and the Bears want nothing more than 40 wins, an undefeated season and the school’s first championship since 2005. Look for Baylor to win by a few points and deny Notre Dame its first title since 2001.