Prime time showtime in Spokane

The closest thing to a Cinderella matchup in the NCAA women’s tournament has caught ESPN’s attention to become Saturday night prime time fare on the mother ship.

While I’m typing this, Tennessee and Ohio State are engaged in a doozy to kick off Sweet 16 games, but the Louisville vs. Gonzaga contest in Spokane is full of intriguing storylines:

Can the homestanding Zags use home court advantage to get all the way to the Final Four? Dazzling point guard Courtney Vandersloot became the first Division I player, male or female, to score 2,000 points and dish out 1,000 assists, which prompted some interesting numbers-crunching by The Wall Street Journal.

Gonzaga, the No. 11 seed, has played the most crowd-pleasing style of the women’s tourney, but in No. 7 seed Louisville is facing the hottest individual hand in the tournament in freshman sensation Shoni Schimmel, whose high maintenance presence is paying off.

In Tuesday’s stunning upset of No. 2 seed Xavier, she knocked down 33 points. She was an unlikely figure to land at Louisville, the 2009 NCAA runnerup, signing late in the spring and making the very long trip from the Umatilla reservation in Oregon.

The location in Spokane is the same that electrified hoops lovers because that’s where Jackie Stiles led Southwest Missouri State to the 2001 Women’s Final Four, the last time a mid-major program has gotten that far. I’m not sure the comparison to Vandersloot is entirely precise, but it’s hard to ignore the parallels.

For those continuing to complain about the supposed invisibility of the women’s tournament: enough.

I’ve been grousing in the early rounds about how difficult ESPN has made it to see some of these games. The Gonzaga-Iowa OT thriller in the first round was best seen online unless you were in Iowa or eastern Washington.

But to drone on endlessly, as Christine Brennan does year after year, parlaying this meme into other appearances as a pundit about a subject she rarely covers herself, is both inaccurate and disingenuous. It takes away from the fun and enjoyment of basketball lovers’ favorite weekend of the year: Sweet 16 weekend, both for the men and women.

Stop with this nonsense, and simply tune in.

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