By Laura Pappano
When Stanford went down 63-62 last night to Texas A & M, it took several minutes to sink in. And when TV cameras showed the UConn Huskies in the stands, well, you felt that they had been forewarned: Watch out, things can happen.
It didn’t matter. Notre Dame didn’t care that they weren’t supposed to (really) win, that the script was for them to play well, but then give way to the anointed Huskies.
In sports, as in life, underdogs are delightfully dangerous – and even though Maya Moore scored 36 points, it wasn’t enough for a team determined to dog and harass – and score their own buckets. They took it 72-63, in a stunning upset that – yes – heralds a new era for women’s college basketball.
OK, this is not the first time there have been upsets (remember 2006 when Maryland’s Kristi Toliver won it with a 3-point shot at the buzzer in overtime against Duke?)
But this is the first year there have been enough upsets (Gonzaga over UCLA and then Louisville. Texas A&M over Baylor. Tennessee out to Notre Dame) – to throw our once easy-to-complete brackets out of whack. (No one in my pool predicted a Texas A&M-Notre Dame championship game. Did anyone in America?)
We now have it –March Madness instead of the March Mandate.
Yes, you feel for Maya Moore ending her UConn career without another championship. But that failure does not diminish her as a player or what she’s accomplished at UConn. Yes, there are new names on people’s lips this morning: Skylar Diggins, Natalie Novosel, Brittany Mallory; and for Texas A & M, Sydney Colson and Tyra White.
Maya may be leaving, but don’t expect her to disappear. This woman has a future on and off the court.
But there is more reason than ever to tune in and not just “follow” women’s college basketball, but watch. Carefully. Because anything can happen.