No upsets in Women’s College Basketball, huh?

Ole Miss Rebels players celebrate their win during the second round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament between the Ole Miss Rebels and the Stanford Cardinal.

For those still clinging by their fingertips to the argument that their lack of interest in Women’s College Basketball is due to a lack of competitive balance, just let go and fall into the sea of bad takes. You folks can join the crowds who believe that Mens’ College Basketball is more fundamentally sound than the NBA and that stationary quarterbacks are more effective than mobile ones. Unfortunately for Tara VanDerveer and her Stanford Cardinal, they were, again. the program to take a major upset on the chin that highlighted the strength of competition in Women’s College Basketball.

Going into the 2023 tournament, Stanford was a No. 1 seed for the third consecutive season. The program won a National Championship in 2021 and was in the Final Four last season. However, on Sunday night Stanford’s 2023 run came to a startlingly abrupt end. VanDerveer’s team was knocked out of the tournament in the second round by No. 8-seed Ole Miss, 54-49.

Stanford has been here before

This loss makes Stanford the only No. 1 seed to not advance to at least the Sweet 16 since 2009. Also, while Virginia’s Men’s Basketball Team shocked America by being a No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in 2017, the Stanford Women’s Basketball Team was actually the first Division I basketball team to suffer that defeat. In 1998 Stanford — reeling from injury — lost in the first-round loss to 16th-seed Harvard.

When Geno Auriemma and Pat Summit were coaching dominant programs to multiple NCAA Championships, there were people who would argue that level of dominance was not good for the sport. Connecticut winning 90 consecutive games throughout the course of three seasons was “boring,” even though the UCLA men winning 88 in a row in the early 1970s was “legendary.” It’s the lazy argument that frequent wrong-side-of-history dweller Darren Rovell made last March.

Buick aired a commercial highlighting the lack of coverage that women’s college sports receives in comparison to men’s. Rovell decided to quickly publish his opinion about it. He posted the commercial in its entirety and added his thoughts on why he believes that the Women’s Division I Tournament does not receive the same media coverage as the men’s.

Rovell tweeted this out just prior to the start of the 2022 NCAA Basketball Tournaments. In 2021, three double-digit seeds in the women’s tourney won their first-round matchups. During the first-round in the women’s tourney following Rovell’s tweet, Caitlin Clark’s Iowa Hawkeyes were a two-seed just like they are this season. Unfortunately for Iowa, she didn’t score or assist on 27 consecutive points last season like she did on Sunday. In 2022, the Hawkeyes lost against Creighton in the second round. This season they are headed to the Sweet 16.

The fact that a highly recruited player like Clark elected to stay near home and play at Iowa instead of UConn, South Carolina, Notre Dame, or Stanford, is evidence that women’s college basketball these days is far from a race that only features a few standout competitors.

March is a wild time in college basketball. In a one-game sample, a higher seed getting upset by a lower seed is almost always a realistic possibility. For those who believed that Cinderella ignored the women’s game, here is a reminder from Stanford that not only has she always been around, but she is making her presence felt more frequently these days.

So for those who don’t care to watch Women’s College Basketball, you all have been warned that the “lack of competition,” argument is asinine. For those who don’t like today’s game and also didn’t appreciate the UConn and Tennessee dominance of the past, the problem is in the mirror. Not on the T.V.

South Carolina women’s basketball team is the best in the NCAA Tournament — regardless of gender

South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston holds up the championship trophy after defeating Tennessee 74-58 to win the SEC Tournament.

Whether you call it irony or coincidence, the best team playing during college basketball’s biggest moment during a month that’s dedicated to the history of women makes too much sense. Yes, we all think of the men’s game when we think of March Madness. And yes, the men’s game brings in all the money. But, commerce and attention can’t get you what Dawn Staley’s team has — domination.

James Brown’s lyrics have materialized on a basketball court.

Sporting a perfect 32-0 record and led by the only Black coach in the history of the game to ever win multiple NCAA Tournaments, Staley’s Lady Gamecocks will be the best team you see on TV this month.

When No. 1 South Carolina takes on No. 16 Norfolk State on Friday afternoon, the Spartans will just be the latest team to exit the floor with a loss on their record. They don’t have a chance. And that’s no disrespect to their program, it’s just that no one has had one of late against South Carolina.

South Carolina’s résumé speaks for itself

Since 2015, this is the Lady Gamecocks’ résumé: Final Four (2015), Sweet Sixteen (2016), National Championship (2017), Elite Eight (2018), Sweet Sixteen (2019), Final Four (2021), National Championship (2022). South Carolina has lost a total of two games the past two seasons, as they were 36-2 last year.

And it’s not like they’re feeling the pressure of entering the tournament undefeated.

“I just talked to our players about this today,” Staley said last month. “We don’t need a loss to make a push. Last year did we need it? Maybe. I don’t know. But it happened. And it was a push that helped us.

“They’re not coming into practice thinking, ‘Oh, we’re undefeated,” Staley explained about her team. “It’s not something in the forefront of their minds. Even when we played as close as we did in the overtime game at Ole Miss, they never flinched. They didn’t think about it. They just went into the mode of, ‘We’ve just got to do whatever it takes to win, however many minutes that is.’”

Only four programs have completed undefeated seasons

According to ESPN, nine teams from four programs in NCAA women’s basketball history have finished a season undefeated: the Texas Longhorns (1986), UConn Huskies (1995, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2016), Tennessee (1998) and the Baylor Bears (2012). South Carolina is looking to turn that nine into a 10 and put its program into the history books.

In college basketball, especially in the women’s game, the best programs have always been led by the best coaches. Yes, star players matter, but the play callers have been the ones that have survived the test of time. Tennessee had Pat Summit. UConn has Geno Auriemma. Notre Dame had Muffet McGraw. And LSU and Baylor have had Kim Mulkey. In Staley, South Carolina not only has a coach that will take a stand and has made history, but they also have someone who should have already broken down a barrier as the first female coach in the NBA — not Becky Hammon.

“I come with a lot of credentials,” Staley told the New York Times in 2021 when she was interviewed for the Portland Trail Blazers head coaching job. “I surely have the confidence. I surely can stand in front of men and lead them. First-team All-Stars. MVPs. I’m OK with that.

“I haven’t coached in the league,” Staley explained. “But you know what? I’m a quick learn. I’m a quick learn.”

March is a month that guarantees uncertainty. But when it comes to the 2023 NCAA Tournament, the South Carolina women’s basketball team is the safest pick.