(March 29, 2013) Hear the audio version

So, how are your March Madness brackets looking this week? A little wobbly? Mine are good: Stanford and Cal are still standing. So are Baylor, UConn and Notre Dame. “Ohhh,” you say. “You’re talking about the women.”

You bet! I’m always amazed when women who promote women’s causes all year ‘round and also like basketball often ignore the NCAA women’s tournament. This is not the basketball I played in high school pre-Title IX, wearing a ridiculous red jumper over a long-sleeved white blouse and not crossing the center line, as I was a forward and not allowed to play the entire court. (Only “rovers” could do that.)

Take the undisputed star of women’s college basketball, 6-foot-8 Baylor senior center Brittney Griner, with a 7-foot-4-inch wingspan and a 60.8 percent field-goal percentage. She ranks first in the NCAA among women and men in blocking shots.

Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike, a junior forward and Pac-12 Player of the Year, helped hand Brittney’s Bears their only defeat of the season. Layshia Clarendon, a senior at Cal, led her Golden Bears in scoring and earned Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year honors. Perhaps she’s why President Obama picked Cal to make it to the Final Four.

These young women and their teammates are actual student-athletes. According to ESPN, the 64 schools in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament combined to graduate 90 percent of their players. The men’s teams? Only 70 percent. Women don’t jump ship after a year or two to play for the NBA, as many students at elite university men’s programs do. Less turnover means athletes have more time to grow together as a team. It’s also fun for fans to see players mature through their college careers. And though I bleed Cardinal red, I’ve loved watching the emerging success of women’s basketball in Berkeley.

So if you’re fine with a crapshoot, go ahead and stay in the men’s pool. But my (imaginary) bets are on the teams on the way to the Women’s Final Four in New Orleans. You’re welcome to join me.

With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan.

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