Women's Sweet 16: Beyond The Usual Suspects

In the NCAA women's college basketball tournament, the field is down to the Sweet Sixteen — and it's not all the usual suspects. Steve Inskeep talks to USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan about the competition.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Ok, plenty of people gamble on sporting events, but few people have so much riding on a game as a woman named Courtney Paris, who is essentially betting against herself. The Oklahoma center has said if her team does not win the national college basketball title she's going to give back her scholarship money, tens of thousands of dollars. USA Today columnist Christine Brennan is following this and other developments in the NCAA Women's tourney.

Christine, good morning once again.

Ms. CHRISTINE BRENNAN (Columnist, USA Today): Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So how's Oklahoma doing with all that money on the line?

Ms. BRENNAN: Well, they're in the Sweet 16. Oklahoma plays Pittsburgh on Sunday, and if they win that game it'll be the winner of Rutgers or Purdue to get to the Final Four. So Courtney Paris, right now, they're on pace to probably get to the Final Four, I would think. And then they might run into UConn, the best team in the country. And that could be a problem for Courtney Paris.

INSKEEP: Was she aware when she made this promise that hardly anybody wins the national championship except for UConn, maybe one or two other teams?

Ms. BRENNAN: Yeah, I think she was. I mean, she's a senior center. She's six foot four. And she's the daughter of a great San Francisco 49er, Bubba Paris, who won three Super Bowl rings. So she knows sports.

And frankly she's getting a lot of publicity and a lot of compliments, Steve, as I think she should. It's a bit of a stunt, but I kind of like the fact she did it. It's different and it shows that these women are understanding of the meaning of a scholarship, what it's worth, and they're appreciative of it.

INSKEEP: Is she playing up to her own promise here?

Ms. BRENNAN: You know, right now she's playing great. But it could be tough. Here's the problem for them. Connecticut Huskies and Oklahoma have met once before. And in November Oklahoma lost 106-78. So even though Courtney Paris is a terrific player…

(Soundbite of laughter)

…the reality is…

INSKEEP: Well, she just has to add 28 more points onto her game.

Ms. BRENNAN: Right. And she's got a sister playing, too, Ashley, her twin. So, you know, between them maybe the Paris family can get going. But it's - this is not going to be an easy one, but it certainly made for a lot of discussion. And for a sport, women's basketball, it doesn't get a lot of attention at this time - totally overwhelmed by the men's game - it's a breath of fresh air and kind of fun to talk about.

INSKEEP: I understand you're a little upset about a particular basketball fan who's only paying attention to the men or said to be.

Ms. BRENNAN: Well, you know, Barack Obama, the president of the United States, you know, doesn't have to listen to me. But I think when he did his - he called it his bracket - of course, it was the men's bracket, very well publicized event on ESPN about a week ago. Why didn't he, as the father of two daughters -and the two daughters also play sports and his wife who's played sports - why didn't he do a women's bracket as well?

There are two tournaments going on right now. And even if one completely overshadows the other, wouldn't be nice if the president showed some interest in that one that's a bit smaller. And for those littler girls who are playing basketball in the driveway, maybe say to them I care about your tournament, too. So hopefully next year the president will do the women's tournament bracket.

INSKEEP: Christine, if you're doing your own bracket, there is Connecticut, the perennial favorite. Anybody else you'd expect to see definitely in the Final Four or almost definitely?

Ms. BRENNAN: I think Maryland. Won three years ago, now those freshmen that won are seniors and they would love to get a second national title. I think we could see Maryland against UConn in the final. Oklahoma, and we've talked about Courtney Paris. They think they could certainly be in the Final Four. Maybe Stanford, because, of course, now Duke is out, Tennessee is out.

So there could be - there's a little bit more balance actually, which is nice to see. I think that's Title 9 working its magic, 37 years old, the law that changed the playing field and the basketball courts in America. And I think we're seeing more balance.

Having said that, I think UConn's going to win it and I think they're going to win it with ease this year. But more teams are bubbling to the surface and newer names, and that makes it more fun and a little bit more difficult to pick - except not this year because of UConn.

INSKEEP: Christine Brennan of USA Today. Thanks very much.

Ms. BRENNAN: Thank you, Steve.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: