Last night was such a beautiful day for women's basketball, truly wonderful. Santa Clara went on the road and beat #10 Stanford.
No, that is not a title or misprint, SANTA CLARA WENT ON THE ROAD AND BEAT #10 STANFORD.
The reason I say that was beautiful, because for our game to show its growth, to showcase the copious talent around the basketball landscape, which displays the incremental parity across the country, games like yesterday have to happen. Now I'm not engaging in hyperbole in thinking that by the time the NCAA Tournament happens, this type of result will frequently occur, but it could, and that's the beautiful thing about it.
The only thing that was unfortunate -- for me anyway -- was that I was asleep, because in my mind, I honestly didn't think it would happen -- especially at Palo Alto.
With so many naysayers, and some myopic pessimists, on the outside that snarl and snicker at women's basketball, basically implying that it's always going to be the "chalk" teams that will win, that the game will never grow like the men, etc., etc., yesterday was for YOU.
Because the gap between the "Haves" and "Have-nots" isn't as wide as they used to be in the past, outside of the UConn Huskies, who just have a machine going. There are more girls playing, and because of that, they are going to other universities for playing times. The quality of coaching is stronger on the mid-major level, much stronger than in year's past.
But let's look at this week, in general, in the Bluegrass State, then No. 16 Louisville lost to the lil ole Lady Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky. However, those Lady Hilltoppers were anything but little that day, as a matter of fact, I could argue that the BEST player on the floor that day was Kendall Noble, who had 22 points and 7 rebounds. And because Western won the game, we paid more attention to Noble's performance -- who was a finalist for National Defensive Player of the Year last year.
Another major upset is when in-state North Carolina school, Gardner-Webb, went up to Chapel Hill and beat then #20 North Carolina. Now I know there's been a lot of turnover in Chapel Hill, but the Tar Heels' roster, on paper, is more talented than the Bulldogs.
Moments like these are so great not only for the game and its fans, but honestly, it teaches some of the student-athletes at these programs many life lessons: never think anything is going to be handed to you, never assume that because you have more talent, that someone won't outwork you to get the result you've wanted.
Because let's be brutally honest, some players from the elite schools have to lose in order for them to win. Not all of them, but a good amount have been entitled by so many sycophants (AAU coaches mainly), who constantly have praised them for dribbling/shooting a basketball really well, that they don't teach them some of the lessons they need before they hit the college campus.
And sometimes a loss brings out the very best in them, because many of these coaches can use it as a "teaching moment."
This month have been full of shake your head, do a double take, shocking upsets. But that's what's so beautiful about our game, it's growing, players are getting better, and it's a trickle-down effect where teams who do not have the fanciest facilities, the packed arenas, or even the strong brand name can win these games.
So kudos to the Santa Clara Broncos for shocking the women's college basketball world and channeling their inner Kevin Garnett: "Anything is Possible!"
Remember those life lessons that I alluded to earlier, let's look at what Santa Coach JR Payne said after the game:
"Big does not even begin to describe the enormity of being able to come in and compete with such a great team," said Santa Clara head coach JR Payne. "A lot of our success came from our toughness. Our goal was to win the 50-50 balls and really compete on the glass. Against a team like this with so much talent and that is so well coached, we didn't want to go individual-to-individual, so we focused on playing a great team game.
"Everybody had each other's back. This is a huge step for us. We're just trying to inch our way up to be a strong team in this area with a lot of great teams and in a great conference."
Exactly, coach, exactly!