It’s 2019 Women’s Final Four Time — Who You Got?

It’s not hyperbole to say last year’s Women’s Final was one of the most exciting weekends in sports history. In the semis, a last-minute three pushed the Mississippi State/Louisville game into overtime, with the Bulldogs eventually pulling away and advancing; and Arike Ogunbowale’s OT three with one second left on the clock in overtime pushed Notre Dame past UConn. Almost unbelievably, Ogunbowale hit another off-balance buzzer-beating three during the finals and secured the Fighting Irish’s second National Championship. (It marked head coach Muffet McGraw’s 800th win, and the deficit the Irish fought back from in the second half made theirs the biggest comeback in Women’s Final Four history).

This year’s NCAA tournament seemed flush with possibility — UConn a two-seed, Tennessee almost not even making the tournament and then getting ousted in the first round for the first time in school history — but this weekend in Tampa has shaped up to be a familiar scene, with one notable exception. Baylor, UConn and Notre Dame have wom six of the last seven National Championships, while Oregon is making its Final Four debut. Those recognizable faces don’t mean we’re in for boring match-ups, though! UConn, the team everyone loves or loves to hate, has a chip on their shoulder about that two seed and an axe to grind over last year’s loss. And the Ducks are out to prove the one thing that can touch the most untouchable team in the country is the NCAA’s best player.

Baylor vs. Oregon, 7pm. EST Friday, April 5 on ESPN2

Much criticism was made of the play-calling and the fact that Oregon essentially had a home court advantage in the Elite 8, all of which is valid, but watching Sabrina Ionescu lead her team past Mississippi State was almost like watching Breanna Stewart reincarnated. There was absolutely no indication that the Ducks were intimidated by the weight of the game or the history of their opponent, or by the fact that five years ago Oregon was playing in the WNIT. They have believed, all season, that they belong at the Big Dance and it showed. Ionescu had ice in her veins. Did they even miss a shot in the fourth quarter? I can’t remember one!

But will the projected #1 WNBA draft pick’s skill and swagger be enough? Baylor has absolutely wiped the floor with nearly everyone this season, more than ever in the NCAA tournament, winning every game by almost 40 points. And while Ionescu may be an elite offensive threat, neither she nor her teammates have faced off against anything like Baylor’s post game. Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox stand at 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-4, respectively, and they completely dominate the paint. It’s a bit of an odd match-up, but it promises to be as intense as Kim Mulkey’s infamous Pat Summitt-esque glare.

Notre Dame-UConn, 9pm EST Friday, April 5 on ESPN2

If you’re a women’s basketball fan, you’ve probably watched UConn and Notre Dame face off more times than you can count, and while we can expect to see a lot of the same things we’ve grown accustomed to over their last 50(!) match-ups, there’s plenty to be excited for this weekend. UConn routed Notre Dame earlier this year and has won eight of their last nine head-to-heads, but when it counted in last year’s tournament, Muffet McGraw’s Irish came through.

Of course, McGraw and Geno Auriemma always make as many headlines as their teams in the Final Four. This year, Geno raised eyebrows when he said at a Final Four press conference that coaches are afraid of their players because they can’t just yell at them with impunity anymore. While McGraw took a minute to let everyone know she’s done hiring men. (You know Geno had plenty to say about that too.) But big coaching personalities aside, this is going to be a great game on the floor. Notre Dame boasts four seniors — Marina Mabrey, Arike Ogunbowale, Jessica Shepard, and Brianna Turnert — who don’t care about UConn’s historic legacy. And UConn is out to prove that they don’t care about that two seed. When they’re hitting their shots, they feel unstoppable.

As my beloved Lady Vols scramble to find a new coach to rebuild their legacy in their longest off-season ever, I’m predicting a Baylor-Notre Dame final and one more Irish National Championship. Mostly, though, I’m just grateful to bask in the glow of powerful, talented women do what they love. Who you got?

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 855 articles for us.

20 Comments

  1. YESSSS thanks for writing about this! I can’t wait for it.

    As for me I have Baylor winning it. There can be a case made for all four teams, but Baylor has just been dominant all tournament long. Should be a fun weekend either way!

    • Same. And also the good thing about the WNBA is that many of the people who come in thinking they are straight end up with women within a few years. Just like at womxn’s colleges (I went to one in Massachusetts)

  2. I’m for anyone but Geno. As long as he doesn’t win, I don’t care who does.

    While I probably would’ve guessed it’d be Baylor, now I’m not so sure. I was really impressed by Oregon’s performance vs. Mississippi State…not just the sharp shooting from Sabrina but the interior defense against Tierra McCowan. It was really impressive so I’m looking forward to that match-up.

    But, yeah, anyone but Geno.

  3. The Final Four is always exciting! But to hear the NCAA, CBS, and most of the media talk, “the” Final Four is the Men’s Final Four, because men are the default. Please join me in telling the NCAA to use the word “men’s” when they talk about college basketball and the MEN’S Final Four! Sign my change dot org petition and share it on your social medias, please? https://change.org/p/ncaa-use-the-word-men-s-in-the-final-four-logo-just-like-you-use-women-s

    • This drives me nuts every freaking time ALL season. “College Basketball” and “Women’s College Basketball” in the listings and promos. “The NCAA Tournament” and “The NCAA Women’s Tournament.” It drives me NUTS.

    • One of my biggest pet peeves! There’s a men’s tournament and a women’s tournament and it drives me nuts when commentators/journalists/media don’t distinguish who they’re talking about. I’ve found that being very pedantic about it and repeatedly asking “Men’s or Women’s?” when discussing March Madness either forces people to make it a habit or frustrates them into ending the conversation (a win either way really).

      It’s the worst with soccer. The USMNT played a few games recently and multiple times a commentator remarked that one guy was getting close to being the most capped player ever for the US.

      I FLIPPED MY LID.

      Maybe we have different definitions of “close” but you could literally field an entire soccer team with USWNT players who already have more caps than that jabroni. Either you specify that you’re only talking about MALE PLAYERS or you don’t speak at all.

    • THANK YOU FOR THIS!

      This sort of stuff is so, so common and I think that it does actually make a big difference in women’s sports being treated as inherently second-tier or as a niche thing that only women should be interested in. Just signed the petition and I’m passing it on to a few other people who I know will as well.

    • I was a pretty huge huskies fan growing up too. I didn’t live close enough to go to games but watched their games on t.v. when I could. I even put UConn stickers on my school folders. And now I’m gay too!

  4. I always root for the underdogs, so I would like Oregon to win. I would like to see my crush Arike Ogunbowale in action in 2 games, and I do not like Geno, so for both of these reasons I would be happy for ND to win their first game.

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