Baylor's Griner A Star Of NCAA Women's Sweet 16

David Greene speaks with USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan about the NCAA women's basketball tournament, which is down to the Sweet Sixteen. One of the stars of the sport is Brittney Griner of Baylor University.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's talk women's March Madness now. The NCAA women's basketball tournament has reached its Sweet Sixteen this week. And USA Today columnist Christine Brennan has been following all the action and joined us in the studio to talk about it.

Good to see you, Christine.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Great to see you, David.

GREENE: So the biggest name in women's college basketball right now is Brittney Griner. She is an incredible athlete. She plays for Baylor University. They're doing well. I mean, tell us about her and tell us about how Baylor's doing.

BRENNAN: You know, we've heard a lot about game change in the last few weeks. Well, this is the game changer in women's sports even, not just women's basketball. Six foot eight, junior center. She - in most games she's four inches taller than the tallest opponent she's facing. And she's blocking shots. And the other day she dunked. She was only the second player ever to dunk in the women's tournament.

GREENE: The second player ever in women's college basketball tournament?

BRENNAN: Right. Candace Parker did it back in 2006 and now Brittney Griner, just the other day in the second round, and moving ahead now to the Sweet Sixteen, she is a superstar in sports. It's a wonderful byproduct, I think, of Title Nine.

GREENE: So Baylor is still going. And their region also includes really a sentimental favorite - Tennessee. I mean such a rich women's basketball tradition. But it hasn't been an entirely happy story for them this year.

BRENNAN: No, not all stories are happy ones in this tournament. And Pat Summitt - you're right, David...

GREENE: Their coach.

BRENNAN: Yes, the coach. Winner of eight national titles with Tennessee, 59 years old, but she is battling early onset dementia. And it is tough to watch when you see her sitting on the bench watching a game and you have one of her longtime assistant coaches, Holly Warlock, a former star at Tennessee, actually coaching the team. And Pat is sitting there coaching one-on-one a little bit, but otherwise watching.

This is the fiery Pat Summitt that everyone knows, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history - men's or women's. And you can start to see this disease have its effects on this incredible icon in the sport.

GREENE: Is this her last season?

BRENNAN: That's the question. And I know there's a lot of people who'd like to see Tennessee make the Final Four for that reason. But we don't know the answer to that. But it certainly could be.

GREENE: Let's go to another bracket. A number two seed you've been keeping your eye on is Maryland.

BRENNAN: That's correct. Maryland is coached by Brenda Frese, who won the national title in 2006 with a young Maryland team back then, upstart team, a second seed then. And this team looks exactly the same. Very young, led by a sophomore and other young players.

And Brenda Frese also has a back story. One of her 4-year-old twin sons has leukemia. And for the last year and a half they've been battling that. So again, the storylines here, it's the court, but it's also the family stories behind the players, or the coaches in this case with Brenda Frese.

GREENE: And given that drama and some of these stories that you're talking about on and off the court, I mean one thing I've always wondered is whether there's a way to get more focus on the women's tournament when so much attention is paid to the men and the women seem to play in the shadow.

BRENNAN: It's a great question. And yeah, the men, it's not just sports. It's a cultural event in our country, March Madness, on the men's side. And yet you hear the word bracket all the time. Well, it should be plural. There are two going on at the same time - the men's and the women's.

And there's conversation about whether they should move the women's tournament up several weeks, so it comes in advance of the men's tournament, which I think would give it a lot more attention. Or even playing the women's Final Four at the same time in the same city as the men's Final Four. I do think they have to do something, because all these great stories and they're basically ignored in the mainstream sports media.

GREENE: All right. Well, they will certainly not be ignored by you. You'll be following all the action as it plays out. Enjoy the rest of the tournament. Thanks so much for being here, Christine.

BRENNAN: Thank you very much, David.

GREENE: That's USA Today's sports columnist Christine Brennan.

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