Tonight’s Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship is already a surprise

When both University of Tennessee and Baylor were eliminated from Women’s Final Four contention during the playoffs, much of my enthusiasm for the contest went, too. For someone who loves women’s basketball as much as I do, being apathetic about the championship games is not natural.

So, Sunday night, I channel flipped between the Texas A&M/Stanford and UConn/Notre Dame games and other shows. Since I was certain — along with most of the rest of WBB fandom — that the final game would be Stanford vs. UConn, I didn’t see much point in spending four-plus hours watching.

I was wrong. Both games were examples of what makes the women’s game so exciting. The Aggie/Cardinal game came down to Tyra White and the very last shot.

Then Notre Dame accomplished something that no team has done since Maya Moore started college — they knocked UConn out of the championship game. Somebody apparently forgot to remind the Irish that they had lost to the Huskies three times already this season.

There went my apathy.

Tonight’s championship game (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) between two No. 2 seeds is hard to predict because the two teams have such different styles of play.

A&M is physical and intimidating, largely due to two guards named Sydney: point guard Sydney Carter and shooting guard Sydney Colson.

As an avid non-fan of A&M, I hadn’t noticed how deadly the duo could be until they took down Baylor last week. They seemed to be everywhere – if one Sydney wasn’t in the Lady Bears’ way, the other Sydney was. They are aggressive, confident and know the game.

But tonight, the pair will have to contend with a point guard who is not easily intimidated — Skylar Diggins. She not only sees plays, she makes them — and she can make them from anywhere.

The frontcourt is a toss-up (no pun intended). The Aggies’ Danielle Adams gets a lot of hype, but I’ve seen nothing all that impressive from her during the playoffs. Sports analysts say she seems tired. Whatever is going on with her, she gives off a negative vibe. I’d like to see a good game from her, simply because she seems to be a contender for the WNBA draft.

Notre Dame has no “stars” up front, but all three of the bigs — Devereaux Peters, Becca Bruszewski and Natalie Achonwa — are persistent and consistent. And they are quite effective at setting the screen for Diggins, which is critical to the team’s game.

I have a feeling Notre Dame will win, mostly because they have the poise and confidence to play their game despite the Final Four atmosphere. But honestly, it could go either way. And that’s what makes it essential viewing.

No one who knows me is surprised that I’m glad UConn isn’t playing tonight. But I have to acknowledge, again, the greatness that is 2011 Naismith Trophy winner Maya Moore. As one of the Sports Center anchors noted, she leaves UConn with exactly the same number of game losses as she has Championships. Moore would be the last to take credit for the Huskies’ accomplishments, but without her, we would not be so shocked that UConn is not playing tonight’s game.

So, in the spirit of giving praise where it’s due, here’s ESPN’s tribute to Maya Moore. I can’t wait to see what she does in the pros. I have a feeling Minneapolis will never be the same.

Who’s your pick for the Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship? Who will be MVP?

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