Honestly, if you'd suggested a month ago that only one women's one-seed would survive to April, you'd have been laughed at. The stratification of the women's game is such that the top teams -- even aside from UConn -- routinely drub even the next tier. So you'll forgive the women's basketball world for actually being shocked that Baylor came up short in their effort to join Connecticut in the Final Four tonight. After all, Oregon State was a mere two seed.
It was a tight game, though, which is always a welcome surprise. The Beavers got out to a decent lead, up by nine at the half, but Baylor stormed back in the third quarter and the final ten minutes began with the Bears only trailing by one. They still trailed by one 9 minutes and 49 seconds later. An Alexis Jones jumper rattled out of the rim, and when OSU's Ruth Hamblin grabbed the rebound it was all but over. Two Sydney Weise free throws sealed the win.
Meanwhile, UConn drilled Texas, although we should give the Longhorns credit for actually managing to score three points to every four the Huskies tallied. The end result is that three women's teams who have never before played in the Final Four are heading to Indianapolis, where an unstoppable force awaits.
This sets up a grossly imbalanced final four next weekend, as UConn and Oregon State will face one another while the other game will feature a four (Syracuse) against a seven (Washington). It's probably safe to suggest that the national title game will really be on Sunday night, as the only team left with any real hope of stopping Connecticut is the Beavers.
The final four of the WNIT is also set after last night. Each semifinal will feature a power-five squad visiting a feisty mid-major, and this is basically the result of attendance. To wit, people actually pay money to go watch women's basketball at South Dakota and Florida Gulf Coast, whereas they don't in Ann Arbor and Eugene.
Dunk City had no trouble whatsoever sealing their advance, posting a 15-point win over Hofstra. Michigan and Oregon had more difficulty. Temple crawled all over the Wolverines early, leading 23-9 at the end of the first quarter. But strong second and third frames from Big Blue pulled the game even, and the fourth quarter was a street fight. Even the ending sequence was chaotic; with eight seconds to go, Hallie Thome put Michigan ahead by one and an offensive foul on Temple appeared to have locked the game up. But a turnover afforded the Owls one last gasp; the shot from behind the arc missed, and now Michigan's on their way to Fort Myers.
Oregon, on the other hand, controlled everything after the first quarter in El Paso despite yet another massive throng (over 9,000) in the Don Haskins Center. The Ducks will head to South Dakota next.
On the men's side, the Vegas 16 got underway; none of the games were particularly startling, and the expected victors all advanced. In the CBI championship, Morehead State claimed game one with a narrow victory at home. The problem for the Eagles is that the next game is in Reno -- as is game three, if necessary.
|COLLEGE BASKETBALL INVITATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES|
|GAME 1||Morehead State 86, Nevada 83||Tyron Criswell (UNR), 31|
|QF||Old Dominion 75, Tennessee Tech 59||Torrance Rowe (TTU), 19|
|QF||Cal-Santa Barbara 70, Northern Illinois 63||Gabe Vincent (UCSB), 20|
|QF||Oakland 90, Towson 72||Kay Felder (OAK), 27|
|QF||East Tennessee State 85, Louisiana Tech 81||Ge'Lawn Guyn (ETSU), 32|
|NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT|
|BRP FINAL||(1) Connecticut 86, (2) Texas 65||Morgan Tuck (CONN), 22|
|DAL FINAL||(2) Oregon State 60, (1) Baylor 57||Alexis Jones (BAY), 19|
|WOMEN'S NATIONAL INVITATION TOURNAMENT|
|QF||Florida Gulf Coast 61, Hofstra 46||Kaneisha Atwater (FGCU), 19|
|QF||Michigan 77, Temple 76||Donnaizha Fountain (TEM), 25|
|QF||Oregon 71, Texas-El Paso 67||Cameasha Turner (UTEP), 19|
It's all men tonight, it's all mid-major madness, and it's all televised. Technically, the marquee game tonight is the CIT championship between Columbia and Cal-Irvine. Realistically, the NIT semifinals will get more attention. And in Vegas, four teams with interesting post-season histories line up for a shot at the championship there.
|NATIONAL INVITATION TOURNAMENT|
|NATL SF||6:00pm||(SBU2) Brigham Young||(VAL1) Valparaiso||New York City NY||ESPN|
|8:00pm||(MON 4) George Washington||(SC 2) San Diego State|
|CHAMPIONSHIP||6:00pm||Cal-Irvine||at||Columbia||New York City NY||CBSSN|
|SF||8:00pm||Cal-Santa Barbara||Old Dominion||Las Vegas NV||CBSSN|
|SF||10.30pm||Oakland||East Tennessee State|