Mad about March Madness

I realize that spring is a
time of change, but this year, I’m not liking it. A person I love working
with is changing jobs. Two of my closest friends are moving away. Couples
I’m invested in are breaking up. One and only one thing will get me
through this iffy time: March Madness.

I hear that men play basketball
this time of year, too, but I don’t pay much attention. In fact, I think
I’m something of an enigma to my basketball-loving friends because I
am not a "basketball fan," I am a "women’s basketball
fan." I have no clue what the top men’s teams are. And I don’t
care. I also don’t care much about statistics or analysis. I just love
watching women play the game. Moments like this are why.

Lest you not appreciate the
beauty of this play, I should tell you that Nicky Anosike, No.
55, is 6’4″ without her arms fully extended. I do believe Ms. Myia
McCurdy
has a helluva jump.

The bottom line for me is that
I find inspiration in watching talented women doing something they are
passionate about. It makes me passionate, too. I cry like a baby at
the buzzer of the championship game.

If one of the teams of my heart,
like Tennessee, wins the championship, I cry straight through to the
net cutting.

This championship moved me
to tears for days afterward. As a matter of fact, I got teary-eyed when
I saw this picture today, three years later.

I went to Baylor, and we didn’t
have much of a women’s basketball team before Kim Mulkey went
to Waco.

In 2005, she took the team
to the school’s first ever Final Four. And they won.

I know, I know. I’m fawning
over Kim. But the woman personifies everything I love about basketball:
talent, passion and, well, hotness. Oh, did I not mention that I think
women’s basketball players are hot? Oops. The thing is, though, that
I think players are hot while they’re playing, regardless of what I
might think otherwise. But enough about me.

This year, the No. 1 seeds
are pretty standard: UConn, Maryland, Tennessee and North Carolina.
The only moderate surprise was Maryland; Stanford expected a No.1 because
they were Pac-10 champs and beat Tennessee, Rutgers and Baylor during
the season. But both Maryland and Stanford have seniors who want a championship.
Crystal Langhorne
of Maryland, ACC player of the year, is the fastest
post player in the country and shoots at 60 percent.

I have no idea why they punished
her.

Stanford guard Candice Wiggins

hasn’t been to a Final Four yet, and this is her last chance to take
Stanford there. She scored 21 points against Tennessee — no easy feat.
And, at the risk of being trite, she is a wonder to behold.

If Wiggins plays her best game,
we may see Maryland and Stanford duke it out in the Elite Eight. (Of
course, Stanford would have to beat Baylor along the way, which I simply
will not concede.)

Other outstanding seniors with
their eyes on the prize:

Sylvia Fowles of LSU,
who is in contention for the No. 1 draft pick in the WNBA, is the SEC
Player of the Year. Yes, she is dunking here — only the sixth woman
to do so in a college game.

Erlana Larkins and
Latoya Pringle
are two of UNC’s greatest forwards. Both are All-ACC.
If one of them is heavily defended, the other one will score. That’s
how UNC won the ACC tournament and that’s why I think they will be in
the Final Four.

Not technically a senior, but
in her last year nevertheless, is Candace Parker of Tennessee, ESPN.com’s
Player of the Year and the other contender for No. 1 WNBA draft pick.
Parker is one of the best players in the college game, period. Yet,
every year, she gets better.

Parker plays forward, center
and
guard. She was the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tourney and
first to dunk twice in the same game. She led the Lady Vols to the SEC
championship this year and the national championship last year. She
wants another one. So does her coach.

That brings me to another great
basketball woman — the game’s winningest coach, Pat Summitt.
Most wins, period, men or women. By this time next year, she probably
will have 1,000. Her teams have won seven national championships and have been to the Final Four 21
times (including AIAW and NCAA) in her 33 years as UT coach. She’s also
the first women’s coach to be on a Wheaties box.

The cameras tend to focus on
Summitt when she’s yelling or in a player’s face. But she doesn’t just
randomly fly off the handle. She is always coaching, always pressing
the team to be better, always telling a player how to improve. To me,
she’s a joy to watch.

If the women’s playoffs make
you as happy as they make me, you may be interested in checking out
the AfterEllen.com
forum thread
about
a bracket contest team that some readers have cooked up. It’s not affiliated
with this site, of course, but it looks like fun.

Will you be watching the NCAA
Women’s Playoffs? Who are your Final Four teams and players to watch?
Any predictions? I’m looking for UConn and Tennessee in the championship
game with the Lady Vols taking home the gold. Again.

Your turn.

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