This year I was in Denver for the Women's Final Four and I have to say that it was a pleasure to watch a Final Four in a basketball arena rather than in a football stadium.
Rarely will you see two players who don't possess great offensive skill sets dominating games but that's what happened during the Final Four. In the men's championship game Anthony Davis had zero points at halftime yet Kentucky had a 14-point lead over Kansas. Davis didn't hit his first field goal until midway through the second half and only shot 1-of-10 for the game. However, Davis dominated all other aspects of the contest grabbing 16 rebounds, blocking six shots, altering a host of others, while dishing out five assists. Bill Russell, anyone?
Brittney Griner only scored 13 points on 3-of-9 from the field in the Lady Bears 59-47 semifinal win over Stanford. However, Griner, with her 88-inch wingspan, completely altered Stanford's offensive game plan. On many occasions Stanford penetrated only to dribble back outside after confronting Griner. Griner made Stanford's Ogwumike sisters look small. Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 22 points and pulled down nine rebounds but needed 23 shots to score her points. Her sister Chiney scored only four points before fouling out. Griner, with her height, length and skill is unlike any other women's player ever. She can be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft if she elects to come out after her junior year, and would likely be offered over $2 million per year when considering endorsements and overseas pay. That would be tough to turn down.
After beating Notre Dame 80-61, Baylor became the first men's or women's team to go 40-0 in a season. No team shot over 50 percent against Baylor all season. In the final, Griner had 26 pounts, 13 rebounds and five blocks. She went 8-of-9 from the field in the second half as Baylor out-rebounded Notre Dame 45-24 in the game. Any chance Notre Dame had was lost when Natalie Novosel shot 0-for-11 from the field and Devereaux Peters was limited to 15 minutes because of foul trouble.
Kentucky was clearly the most talented team on the men's side. If all their top players declare for the NBA Draft they'll have six draft picks including possibly the top two picks in Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and another possible lottery pick in Terrence Jones. However, Kansas was the team that improved the most during the season. After watching the Jayhawks play Kentucky at Madison Square Garden in November it was obvious that Kentucky was a solid Final Four candidate but Kansas looked to be far from competing at that level. You have to give Bill Self credit for developing the Jayhawks and having them reach the championship game.
The best Final Four game was the UConn-Notre Dame women's game in which the Fighting Irish prevailed in overtime. The final minute of regulation went back-and-forth with steals on each end. It was a great game to watch.
Now that the college season is over we will start concentrating on the NBA Draft. Tomorrow I am off to Portland for the Nike Hoop Summit.