Women's NCAA Tournament A Great Advertisement For The Sport

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 3: Skylar Diggins #4 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish puts a shot up over Kelly Faris #34 of the Connecticut Huskies during the 2011 NCAA Women's Final Four at Conseco Fieldhouse on April 3, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Diggins had 28 points to pace Notre Dame's 72-63 win over Connecticut. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Women's basketball is a polarizing sport, but I wondered why. Instead of ignoring it, I sat down and soaked in the 2011 Women's NCAA Tournament, and found a new appreciation for the game.

I've never been a fan of women's basketball, but I've always appreciated what the athletes do. But it's been surprising to see just how polarizing women's basketball is to the general public. Fans are either die-hards that follow women's basketball extensively, or can't stand the game and will let anyone within earshot know.

I sat down with a goal in mind this March. I wanted to know what the fuss was about women's basketball, and figured the best way to find out came in the form of the women's NCAA Tournament. After all, with wall-to-wall games and some of the best teams gathered together in one place, March Madness should be as good an advertisement as any for the sport.

So I watched, and watched, and then watched even more. It wasn't pretty at times, but is basketball always a beautiful game? Those of us that watched Butler and UConn flail away in the men's NCAA championship would argue no.

There were outstanding individual performances, thrilling finishes and even those kinds of upsets the other March Madness is known for. No. 1 seeds fell, a reign of dominance ended and stars were born. If this sounds familiar, it should. These are many of the same story-lines we see in the men's tournament year-in and year-out.

Here's what you missed.

  • Courtney Vandersloot is a magician and made the most of Gonzaga's NCAA Tournament run. Vandersloot was outstanding, filling up and electrifying the crowd in Spokane. She can score, create for her teammates and had a knack for the ball on the defensive end. Vandersloot's quick first step and ability to get into the lane and finish in traffic made her a joy to watch, and made a fan out of me.
  • Maya Moore's outstanding college career ended at the hands of Notre Dame, but not before she put on one final show for UConn fans. Every time Moore stepped on the floor, she was, hands down, the best player, and I suspect it will continue in the WNBA. Moore is a special talent, and watching her compete in the NCAA Tournament was a treat.
  • Women's basketball has plenty of coaching heroes and villians to build story-lines around. Geno Auriemma, Pat Summit and Kim Mulkey have a rough-and-tumble way about them. They're outspoken, brash and just as flashy as their men's basketball counterparts. Auriemma, for example, is the head of the dominant force in women's college basketball, a UConn team that's been untouchable for the last three years. Until...
  • Upsets do, in fact, happen. One of the knocks on the women's game is the lack of parity. The best teams are the best teams and upsets just don't happen. Yet here we are, without a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Championship after Stanford and UConn, the prohibitive favorites heading into the tournament, fell in the Final Four. It's not quite on the same level as Butler and VCU, but Sunday's Final Four games were surprising, nonetheless.
  • Need a reason to watch the NCAA Championship? How about Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame's rising star. Diggins scored 28 points in the Fighting Irish's upset win over UConn on Sunday, and caught the attention of mainstream artists Chris Brown and Lil Wayne on Twitter.
Women's basketball isn't for everyone, and I'm not here to chastise those who don't enjoy the sport. But with an open-mind, you may just find the women's NCAA Tournament to be an entertaining alternative option in your sports viewing portfolio.

If you haven't been watching, why not give Tuesday night's NCAA Championship a try? You may just find a new appreciation for the game.

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