Often times, women's college basketball feels an awful lot like men's or women's tennis during eras where there are one or two truly dominant players. The undercard is competitive and fun to follow, but everyone following along is also doing so with the full awareness that each one of these teams is merely playing for second or third place.
Such was the case on Sunday night when Louisville faced Baylor in the Sweet 16. The Baylor team which was the No. 1 overall seed and overwhelming favorite to win its second straight national title. The Baylor team that had lost just once in its last 75 games. The Baylor team which laid claim to perhaps the single most dominating player in the history of the sport. The Baylor team which was playing close to home in Oklahoma City. The Baylor team that was favored to beat Louisville by 24 points.
The Baylor team whose season was ended by Jeff Walz and his Cardinals.
In one of the more improbable performances in the history of the women's NCAA Tournament, U of L held three-time All-American and reigning national Player of the Year Brittney Griner without a field goal in the first half to build a 17-point lead over her Bears. That lead was officially squandered over the game's final seven and-a-half minutes when Baylor went ahead 81-80 with less than 10 seconds to play.
This is where the upset bid is supposed to end, where the game is supposed to wind up being just another addition to the legendary story of the prohibitive favorite.
Instead, Cardinal senior Monique Reid coaxed Griner into a foul with 2.9 seconds to play and then calmly sank both free-throws to send Louisville to the Elite 8.
U of L pulled the upset in large part because of a record-setting performance from beyond the arc. The Cards hit 16-of-25 three-point attempts, including seven from Antonita Slaughter and five from Shoni Schimmel.
"Our goal was to score, score and score. I told our kids if we had to take 40 to 50 3s we would," Walz said. "I don't know if we could go out there right now 5-on-0 and go 16 of 25, but we did it in the biggest game of the year for us and now we're going to hopefully keep our momentum going and see what we can do on Tuesday."
It's Tuesday when the Cards will square off against perennial powerhouse Tennessee for a spot in the Final Four.
As improbable as the U of L men's run to the Final Four was a season ago, I think this one - even if the ladies lose tomorrow - has it topped. This team has been ravaged by injuries and had to go through what most people believed to be (and with good reason) an unstoppable force. Now they're just two wins away from playing for a national title.
If you're a talented high school athlete in any sport who enjoys winning a lot of games and playing for championships, you should seriously consider the University of Louisville.