Many felt Tuesday night’s NCAA women’s college basketball championship game between unbeaten powerhouses would attract male fans to the sport because of fiery competition and surprising skill.
There was plenty of skill on the court, all right, so much that the University of Connecticut women made short work of the fiery competition.
Still, the excellence of play must surely have convinced unfamiliar viewers that the women’s game is a genuine spectacle and a pleasure to watch.
For the first time in the history of the NCAA, women or men, the basketball championship was going to be decided by a game between two unbeaten teams: UConn, which was 39-0, and Notre Dame, 37-0.
SUNY Plattsburgh is familiar with championship-caliber play, having won national titles in both men’s and women’s Division III hockey.
This past season, the Plattsburgh women celebrated that distinction again. And they worked their way through their schedule and tournaments before growing home crowds. People are at last appreciating the women’s achievements as much as the men’s.
And so it seems to be nationally. UConn stands alone as the only school to have won both the men’s and women’s national championships in the same year, now having done it twice.
And the audience, both on their home court and across the nation, appeared to be as enthusiastic for the women as for the men. In Storrs, Conn., basketball is queen as well as king.
Women’s coach Geno Auriema is as iconic as now-retired men’s coach Jim Calhoun was and is on a pedestal several lengths ahead of Calhoun successor Kevin Ollie.
Auriema has now won a record nine NCAA titles in 20 years, a pace behind only venerable UCLA men’s coach John Wooden, who won 10 titles in an unbelievable 12 years.