Cinderella Was A Woman

By Jeff Lippman - March 11, 2007


For more proof on just how far women's college basketball has come from the days when if you weren't sporting a Connecticut or Tennessee jersey you weren't players on a national level, just look at the Missouri Valley Conference championship game.

The conference that brought you such men's sweethearts as Creighton, Southern Illinois, Bradley, Northern Iowa and Wichita State now takes an interesting turn in the women's game.

Southern Illinois was the No. 1 seed, Illinois State the No. 2. The Salukis were whipped in the second round, their first due to a bye, by the eventual title game participants who hold the No. 8 seed in the tournament, coming in with a 10-18 overall record.

Drake is now 13-18 and is one game away from gaining entry to their 10th NCAA Tournament. And their MVC opponent is even less NCAA experienced.

Creighton was the tourney's six seed. They received the first round bye but had to face the three seed, 19-10 Indiana State and the No. 2 Illinois State, at 21-9, to advance to meet the Bulldogs in the first-ever six vs. eight MVC final.

The Blue Jays, also at 13-18, would be making their fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament.

So either way the wind the blows, there will be a team with an overall losing record from the MVC in the tournament come Selection Monday. And what do they win? A first-round matchup with No. 1 Duke. No one said it would be easy.

With the MVC situation and the fact that four of the major conference No. 1 seeds failed to win their conference championship, it is apparent that ever more increasingly anything can happen come tournament time. And that suspense is exactly what the sport needs.

Duke was undefeated and looked untouchable when they met N.C. State in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament. The Wolfpack's emotion and resolve got the better of the Blue Devils. On that day they were the better team.

Tennessee expects great games from sophomore Candace Parker. When she finishes in the SEC Tournament semifinals with just four points you know they are in trouble. And a now-devastated LSU team managed to get the better of the SEC's regular season undefeated champion.

Connecticut also went through the regular Big East season without a blemish. But come Tournament finale and Rutgers just seemed to want it more. The Huskies also went down.

Even George Washington, Top 10 for most of the season and also undefeated in conference play, faltered down the stretch in the A-10 tourney. St. Joseph's got the better of the Colonials in the semifinals.

It just goes to show that there is less and less certainty in an evolving and ever-changing game that is getting faster-paced and more athletic all the time. Better athletes are being recruited each year at all levels of the game and it is making for a lot less parity between the elite and the rest of the pack.

And you can expect that as the tournament rolls on there will be more upsets and more improbable and suspenseful finishes in a tournament that is becoming less and less predictable by the day.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 03:28 PM on March 11, 2007
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