Growing Buzz for NCAA Women's Final Four
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.
A major upset today in NCAA basketball: upstart George Mason University beat powerhouse Connecticut, 86 to 84. George Mason makes it into the final four. LSU and UCLA have also made the cut. We're still awaiting the outcome of the Florida-Villanova game. The national championship is a week from Monday in Indianapolis. With so much attention on the men, we've decided tonight to focus on the women's college tournament, now in its 25th year.
Joining us is our regular sports commentator, Tandaleya Wilder. Welcome.
TANDALEYA WILDER reporting:
ELLIOTT: So they must be having a pretty big party down at the bayou in Baton Rouge. LSU fans have to be extremely happy with their men going to the final four. And now their women's team just beat DePaul. How ready are the Lady Tigers for the big show?
WILDER: Oh, I think they're very ready. You know, what I love about the Lady Tigers is they're scrappy, they never give up. They have 6'-5" Cynthia Fowls(ph), who's a monster on the boards. They're gonna have their hands full with Stamford's Brooke Smith, known for her skillful hook shot and excellent defense. She actually had a career high 35 points in that game against Oklahoma. And then they'll have to deal with Candice Wiggins, one of the biggest scorers in the nation. But you know what? The Lady Tigers are up for the challenge and clearly they're going to be one of the sentimental favorites.
ELLIOTT: Now another Southeastern Conference team, Tennessee, advancing, eliminating Rutgers this afternoon, 70 to 59. The Lady Volunteers have really helped generate interest in college women's basketball over the years. And this year, in particular, because of Candice Parker and her famous double dunk.
WILDER: No question. I mean, what was so magical about her dunks was how effortless they were. That's because Parker does it all the time in practice. I mean, if you recall, she dunked in high school. She won the slam-dunk contest at an all-star game a few years back. Will her dunk inspire others? Of course.
I mean, Cynthia Fowls actually thought about throwing one down in the game against DePaul. She had a really good look and just decided to lay it up. But contrary to popular belief, there are quite a few women who can throw down the dunk, they do it often in practice, just haven't done it in a game. Definitely Candice Parker is going to spark even more women throwing down the dunk.
ELLIOTT: I understand you actually had a bit of a dunk of your own back in the day.
WILDER: Yeah, but I better qualify this: I was about 14, it wasn't a real hoop, it was a milk crate nailed to my neighbor's garage...
(Soundbite of laughter)
WILDER: ...and it wasn't exactly regulation size. But you know what? You couldn't tell me I wasn't Dr. Jay and I was the only girl on my block who could do it. But I say hats off to young women like Candice Parker who are throwing it down for real. They are truly an inspiration.
ELLIOTT: Now the women's national championship game will be played not this week, but the following week on a Tuesday night in Boston. Who are your picks for the final four?
WILDER: Well, I'm going to go out on a limb here and I'm going to say, of course North Carolina, no surprise there. Yukon, I believe, will be there in the final four. Coach Gino Auriemma very experienced. Maryland and LSU, the sentimental favorite.
ELLIOTT: Tandaleya, before I let you go, do you think there will ever be a point where the women's NCAA tournament gets the same primetime treatment as the men?
WILDER: You know, I think we will see that eventually. The television coverage has improved. I mean, the last time the women's NCAA championships were on network TV, it was back in 1994 and '95, when CBS carried the women's championship games. Of course, these were very dramatic games. I mean, these were the games where UNC won on a last-second shot and Yukon finished the perfect season at 35-0; and after that, ESPN picked up the slack and has provided most of the coverage.
Yes, I do think we will get to a time where we see even more coverage of the women's games on television. Right now, the local news coverage has been a bit lacking and some of the sports Web sites, you kinda have to look and find the women's coverage. But ESPN is doing a really great job.
ELLIOTT: Tandaleya Wilder is host of the Internet sports show She Got Game. She joined us from New York. Thank you, Tandaleya.
WILDER: Thank you, Debbie.
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