While waiting for the men’s NCAA Tournament championship finale to tip off, I am pondering two questions:
1. Has there ever been a more exciting and well-played women’s Final Four?
2. Did Arike Ogunbowale’s two-game performances eclipse Sheryl Swoopes’ 47-point effort in Texas Tech’s victory over Ohio State in the 1993 title game?
Feel free to jump in, but my answers are “no” and “yes.”
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First, two of the games last weekend went into overtime and two were decided in the final seconds, capped off by Ogunbowale’s off-balance, high-arching buzzer-beater from the near sideline that gave Notre Dame the 61-58 victory over Mississippi State.
Yes, the referees easily could have – and probably should have – tagged Notre Dame's Marina Mabrey with a foul for her cross-body block on Morgan William as the Bulldogs’ senior took off in transition on the previous possession. William would have been at the line with 0:03 left and a chance for the Bulldogs’ first championship.
That said, Mississippi State center Teaira McCowan missed five free throws in the deciding moments and a wide-open layup with 27 seconds left. The victory usually goes to the teams with the poise and the presence to make plays at the end, so congrats to the Irish.
Now on to the Swoopes. Her performance 15 years ago before a sellout crowd at the Omni in Atlanta was spectacular. Scoring on a variety of deep jumpers, drives, floaters and transition baskets, the future WNBA standout and Hall of Fame inductee recorded the most points ever scored in a Division I men’s or women’s championship. UCLA center Bill Walton held the previous distinction with his 44-point eruption (on 21 of 22 field goal attempts) in the Bruins’ title game against Memphis State in 1973.
But we give the edge to Ogunbowale because of her dramatic flair, her spectacular sense of timing – buzzer-beaters in consecutive games – and the degree of difficulty, particularly on the clincher.
Earlier today, former Connecticut standout Rebecca Lobo, who was paired with former Monarch and current Washington Wizards analyst Kara Lawson for TNT’s telecast, tweeted out her thoughts on the weekend: “I feel so lucky to have witnessed the most epic Final Four the women’s game has ever seen.”
So when are the Kings and the city of Sacramento going to bid for a women’s Final Four? If it can be a smash in Columbus, Ohio, it can be a blast at Golden 1 Center. We’re waiting.