The Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament has been must-watch television for at least the last five years. Now that they’re donning the March Madness name, their tournament feels like it’s on its way to being looked at in the same way as the men’s tournament. Every year we get more iconic moments and viewership increases. The players are more popular nowadays thanks in large part to social media, and the game is more fast-paced and exciting. 

Photo from @MarchMadnessWBB/ Twitter

The turn really happened in 2017, when powerhouse UConn got upset on a buzzer-beating game-winner in the Final Four by Morgan William of Mississippi State. Before that shot, UConn had won 111 straight games and four consecutive National Championships. The lack of parity, in a way, was hurting the game from growing because everyone knew who would win, and for the most part, the games were blowouts. Dawn Staley and A’ja Wilson led South Carolina past Mississippi State in the National Title game in 2017, which opened up opportunity and gave every other top program confidence that they could win a championship. 

Another shocking, memorable, classic moment happened in the 2018 Final Four when Arike Ogunbowale of Notre Dame hit a game-winning jumper with one second left to beat UConn. She didn’t stop there; the National Championship game ended with an unbelievable, off-balanced, fall-away three at the buzzer. Notable mention that late great Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were at the Final Four (Gianna was a UConn fan). Arike’s favorite player? Kobe. She hit two of the clutchest shots in women’s college basketball history and in front of her idol. 

The 2019 Elite Eight was stacked with WNBA talents like Kalani Brown, Lauren Cox, Arike Ogunbowale, Napheesa Collier, Dijonai Carrington, DiDi Richards, Satou Sabally, and Sabrina Ionescu. The list could go on and on, but it became clear that the landscape of women’s basketball had changed. Baylor beat Notre Dame 82-80 on a game-winning layup from Chloe Jackson with 3.9 seconds left. Just a year after hitting two game-winning shots, Arike experienced heartbreak, missing the front end of two free throws that could’ve tied it and sent the game to OT. 

As we all know, COVID took the fun out of a multitude of things. One of those was the 2020 Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. It would have featured; 32-1 South Carolina, who had won 26 straight, 31-2 Oregon, who had won 19 straight, 28-2 Baylor, 28-4 Maryland, who had won 17 straight, and 29-3 UConn. To this day, there are arguments from each fan base about whose team would’ve hoisted the trophy. Whether Baylor would’ve repeated, or if the trio of Ruthy Hebard, Satou Sabally, and Sabrina Ionescu would’ve beat Ty Harris, Aliyah Boston, Kiki Herbert Harrigan, and Zia Cooke. I know one thing for sure, we were robbed of exciting, and entertaining basketball full of memorable moments. 

Last year’s tournament was the most-watched and talked about in years. Social media played a huge part in that polarizing talents like; Paige Bueckers, NaLyssa Smith, Aliyah Boston, Haley Jones, Caitlin Clark, Naz Hillmon, Aari McDonald, and Cameron Brink. Those players were able to bring in the casual fan, not just with their name, but because of their play. The Paige Bueckers-Caitlin Clark Sweet 16 didn’t fully live up to the hype. Iowa was just simply outmatched. 

The Elite 8 game between UConn and Baylor was one of the highest-rated and best games of the entire tourney. It came down to a missed call on a DiJonai Carrington jumper with a few seconds left in the game. However, Paige Bueckers was absolutely electric for UConn on a 19-0 run that put them back in the lead. The game was an all-time great, but it was muddied by bad calls throughout, to be completely honest.

We got an instant classic in the final four with another game coming down to the last shot. South Carolina-Stanford was back and forth the entire game. Haley Jones came through with 32 seconds left, hitting a mid-range jumper out of a loose ball scramble which turned out to be the game-winner. As most know, Boston missed a tip-in, and Stanford went onto the championship game. Arizona shocked the world with an upset over UConn in the other Final Four game, thanks to Aari McDonald. 

The National Championship game was an all PAC-12 showing, and once again, Haley Jones came through in the clutch. A tough, and-1, spinning layup with 2:24 left to put Stanford up 54-50. After three free throws from McDonald cut the lead to 1, she got one final chance. They trapped her and forced a tough fadeaway jumper that was just off. Stanford was not one of the teams that the casual fan or media members were picking, but they came through in the toughest moments, which is what March Madness is all about. 

The last five years have been filled with amazing, both heartwarming and heartbreaking moments, players leaving their legacy, and just flat out great basketball. All eyes should be on the 2022 Women’s March Madness Tournament. Selection Sunday has passed, the First Four games will be played on March 16th and 17th, and the First Round will start Friday, March 18th. These young women deserve the same attention, adulation, and opportunities that the men get. They will show you just how talented the women’s game is. Just, give them a chance.