In a fans-on-their-feet finish to a tight battle between even tighter Big East basketball rivals, the #2 Notre Dame women edged #3 Connecticut Tuesday night 61-59 at UConn for the Irish’ first ever Big East tournament title and a confirmed bid to the women’s NCAA tourney.
What’s that you say? Oh yeah. The ladies have a tournament, too, and you’ll see not only Notre Dame, but longtime #1 Baylor, Stanford, and Tennessee, which is playing its first season since 1974 without head coach Pat Summitt, the all-time winningest coach of a men’s or women’s NCAA basketball team.
The men’s Division I tourney begins March 19, with the championship game on April 8 in Atlanta. The women will play more or less simultaneously, starting on March 23 and wrapping up on April 9 in New Orleans. So don’t put away the popcorn just because the guys have cut down the nets; you have a whole other night of high-stakes hoops waiting 24 hours later.
Actually there are already several other highly-respectable tournaments already occurring in Divisions II and III and the NAIA. You probably won’t see these games on TV, but like the NCAA commercials say, most college student-athletes will go pro in something besides sports. These are your future leaders right here.
By the way, there is another tournament that will launch after Selection Sunday that is every bit as honorable and esteemed as the NCAAs…OK. Actually, it’s kind of like taking your brother to the prom, but the National Invitation Tournament, or “NIT,” predates the NCAA tourney by a year. Originally launched in 1938 by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association, the event was for many years on par with the NCAA.
Today, being selected for the NIT–if for example, you have a .500 record but did not win your conference championship–is considered more of a consolation (or, some of the tournament’s many nicknames: “Not Invited Tournament,” “Nobody’s Interested Tournament,” etc.) But it’s a great chance for more playing time, TV coverage, and what sports should be all about anyway–a good and grateful spirit for having the health and opportunity to play in the first place.
This year the men’s NIT championship plays at New York’s Madison Square Garden on April 4; the women will play April 6.