I don’t really follow college basketball, but I do get intrigued by the NCAA final four championship games. Most of you know that I follow women’s sports more closely than men’s, so I’m drawn to the women’s bracket. UConn has long dominated, with typically undefeated regular season teams blowing through the championship rounds and claiming the title without much effort.
The last two years have been different. UConn entered the NCAA competition with undefeated regular seasons both times, and both times they’ve lost the final four game on a stunning buzzer beater. Louise and I watched on Friday night as 5’8″ Notre Dame player Arike Ogunbowale delivered the kill shot with a second to go in overtime.
Notre Dame will face Mississippi State in the championship game on Sunday night. Apparently Mississippi State has a considerable height advantage over Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have also suffered the loss of four key players during the regular season due to ACL injuries. But, here they are in the final. And, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw is crafty and strategic, one of the best in the college sport.
In the women’s game at the college level, 5’8″ players can excel — there aren’t that many young women over 6 feet. But in the WNBA, all the six footers are the ones who go on to play professional basketball. In a head-on-head matchup, a really great 5’8″ player isn’t typically going to prevail over a really great 6’5″ player. The size difference is just too overwhelming.
But Arike Ogunbowale, at this point in her young life, is the star of the show — and she deserves to be. She was the original Cool Hand Luke, holding onto the ball while the seconds ticked down, evading UConn players trying to foul her, and delivering an all-net shot at the last tick of the overtime clock.
The game was thrilling. I can hardly imagine that the final will be as good.