Four Pursue NCAA Women's Hoops Title
HANSEN: It's the Lady Vols versus the Tar Heels and Lady Tigers versus the Scarlet Knights tonight when Cleveland, Ohio plays host to the NCAA Women's Final Four. The University of Tennessee, the University of North Carolina, Rutgers, and Louisiana State University outplayed all their rivals to make it to this point in college basketball's prestigious tournament. To set up the action on the court, we're joined by Nancy Lieberman. She's a former Olympic and professional basketball player and is a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. She's also an analyst at ESPN for both men's and women's college basketball. Welcome to the program, Nancy.
Ms. NANCY LIEBERMAN (ESPN Men's and Women's College Basketball Analyst; Member, Woman's Basketball Hall of Fame): Oh, it's my pleasure. Thanks for doing this.
HANSEN: First of all, look back a little. What are some of the moments that stand out in the tournament to you so far?
Ms. LIEBERMAN: Well, I think the fact that this is the 17th time that Tennessee has been to the Final Four. It's just pretty remarkable, their consistency of what they've done.
HANSEN: And so just seeing them do it again, huh?
Ms. LIEBERMAN: Well, you know what? All we could hope for in life is to have consistency, and Pat Summitt's done this better than anybody else. And the only one you could compare it to is what John Wooden did at UCLA.
HANSEN: I want to ask you a little bit about something that Pat Summitt said in an article in The Washington Post. Although tonight's games are sold out, she was very concerned about low attendance at the women's basketball games. Why do you think this is?
Ms. LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, this is a new part of the business of basketball for us, and we've gone to neutral sites the last couple of years. And in women's basketball, for the most part, our stands are fans of their teams. And I think they'll have to get to another stage where if their team gets eliminated or their team is not playing in a specific area, that they'll still pay the money to come out and support the game and support the other athletes that are there. And I have to be honest with you; that's just going to be a growth period for us in understanding what the big picture is.
HANSEN: Do you think interest in women's basketball is waning?
Ms. LIEBERMAN: Oh, no. I mean, interest in women's basketball is only growing. There's no chance that it's waning. But this is a new growth area for us, the fact that not only do you have to support your team, but you have to support other teams.
HANSEN: What will you be watching for on the court?
LIEBERMAN: Well, it depends in what game. In the Tennessee-North Carolina game, this will be a rematch of December 6 when they played earlier. And I look for it to be more of an up-tempo game. Carolina is the leading team in the nation in scoring at 85 points a game. It has certainly - there's a lot of star power. Both Candice Parker and Ivory Latta with North Carolina, are two of the most recognized names in the collegiate game right now. So I just think it's going to be a very athletic, very enjoyable game to watch.
Now, with Rutgers and LSU, it's a little bit different because they're two of the finest defensive teams in the nation. They give up 47-48 points a game in that area, and these guys get after you. They make you do things that you really don't want to do. They just force you to get into your second, third and fourth option. So that would be a defensive battle, in my opinion.
HANSEN: Sounds exciting.
LIEBERMAN: It is. This is the best time of the year for women's basketball.
HANSEN: Care to make any predictions?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I'm going to go with Tennessee only because I never bet against Pat Summitt. You know, she's my Olympic teammate; I played with her, against her, for her, and I don't bet against her.
HANSEN: Nancy Lieberman is a former professional and Olympic basketball player and a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. She currently works as a fulltime analyst with ESPN for men's and women's college basketball. And we reached her in Cleveland, Ohio. Nancy, thanks a lot for your time.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you.
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